Future-Proofing Your Brand at Retail

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Future-Proofing Your Brand at Retail

By Ed Finkel - 01/01/2020

A few decades ago, a brand could make a big media buy on a popular television show and reach millions of shoppers. But cable television, the internet and finally streaming has changed all of that and will continue to change how best to reach shoppers, according to a “Future Proofing Your Brand in the Retail Environment” discussion in November at the Path to Purchase Expo.

Brands are “working on their own custom-curated content, designed to filter out noise. Many brand marketing messages are presenting themselves as noise,” said Stefanie Detwiler, senior vice president, sales, News America Marketing. “We need to be thinking about how you break through all that noise. Instead of interrupting my regularly scheduled programming, how do you find an audience seeking brand content and open to purchase messages?”

Manufacturers like Procter & Gamble, with which News America works, focus on the massive amount of reach you can get in-store, said Detwiler, who shared the stage with P&G’s Stacey Andrade, senior brand manager, NA Fabric Care, and News America’s Tracey Koller, RVP, chief retail and merchandising officer.

“Our friends at Kroger talk about 11 million people going into their stores. That’s a lot of reach,” Detwiler said. “And it’s quality reach. ... And in-store is measurable; you’re able to tie it directly to sales KPI.”

Brands should use their in-store investments to help shoppers plan and execute. “I want you to help me put together beauty solutions – help me get it now, help me get it home. This is what the shopper is saying,” Detwiler said. “Over 100 million shoppers are using their mobile phone. They’re seeking discounts; they’re loading their cards; they’re seeking recipes.”

To connect to shoppers and convert sales, retailers and brands need to understand them by using data to customize and optimize campaigns, Detwiler said. “All of that is coming together when retail and CPG are being disrupted in a big way,” she said.

Andrade picked up that theme but noted that disruption needs to be constructive. “It doesn’t help if my shopper can’t identify where my products are in the store,” she said. “We want to fuel and grow the category, bring in new consumers, and grow the basket.”

Brands need to continuously learn and be flexible and agile to challenge and disrupt the status quo, Andrade said. To that end, in 2018, P&G partnered with News America to test 10 innovations based on the notion that, “What got us here, won’t get us there. What is the new thing that’s going to take our business to new heights?” she said.

These innovations included augmented reality, about which the partners shared a skepticism that it was just another “bright, shiny object.” But they found it didn’t disrupt the ability to deliver messages through a shelf talker and could serve as “icing on the cake, if we could get consumers to engage longer with us,” Andrade said.

They also examined the use of video in-store and found that it’s most effective if delivered on mobile devices. “This was our opportunity to leverage attention on the screens you are carrying around in your pocket all day,” Andrade said. “How can you deliver the benefits of video without necessarily incurring the costs?”

P&G and News America also partnered with Storyful to mine social media and see if there was a more effective way to communicate with consumers. They learned that people love Tide Pods, for example, because they make laundry easy; this resulted in shelf- and floor-talkers around the theme that, “Dads can do the wash, too. Teenagers can do the wash, too,” Andrade said. “All of our innovation doesn’t have to come in the form of flashy new technology.”

As Amazon celebrates its 25th anniversary, retailers and brands need to examine and speak to shoppers in all contexts, but that’s challenging in an age of little loyalty, Koller said. “Even the largest retailer today only sees a fraction of what shoppers are doing, and what’s influencing them to make shopping decisions and change habits,” she said. “Shoppers are screaming at us, please send me relevant messaging!”

A decade ago, broad segmentation might have worked, but going into the 2020s brands and retailers need to personalize their content, Koller said. “We need to be able to say the day has arrived where we know enough about shoppers and customers that we are able to weed through the noise and give them the right content, at the right length, in the right place, to influence their decisions,” she said.

For that to happen, the store needs to be connected, personalized and dynamic, providing relevant purchasing content, with screens placed in store that serve a distinct purpose, Koller said. “The store cannot turn into Times Square,” she said. “Given the cost equation – digital screens’ cost has come down, but they’re still more expensive – you need to blend hybrid solutions. You need interactive displays in high-touch, complicated areas. We believe that the connected store will deliver a personalized experience for the shopper.”

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