The Future Unfolding, Part 2

Insights from the industry’s leading practitioners

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For more extensive answers, as well as their insightful perspectives on three other questions about the current status and future potential for the shopper commerce industry, visit

The Path to Purchase Institute has assembled its most impressive collection of thought leaders ever to reflect on the impact the COVID-19 crisis will have on shopper engagement. As we did in our July issue of Path to Purchase IQ, the following article presents their answers to one of the four questions we posed. For more extensive answers, as well as their insightful perspectives on the three other questions about the current status and future potential for the shopper commerce industry, visit

Moving forward, what do you see as the greatest opportunity for achieving success with shoppers?


Neil Ackerman, Head of Advanced Technologies, Global Supply Chain, Middle East and Africa, Johnson & Johnson

   The greatest opportunity is going to be centered on a brand’s innovation and relevance to the changing expectations of society. Marketing matters. Enablement of these programs in the most innovative methods by a supply chain matters. Of course, human resources is the driver and ensuring you hire the best and let them grow will be the most important investment a company can make.

Keith Anderson, SVP Strategy & Insights, Profitero

   It’s essential to question every assumption and pay very close attention to recent or real-time data and forward-looking indicators of demand and purchase intent, like keywords trending in product searches and growth in traffic to product pages. Pay very close attention to replacement cycles, attachment rates, accessory or part sales – anything that gives you an early indication of how relationships to your brand may be evolving. 

Shaun Brown, SVP, Managing Director & Shopper Marketing Discipline Lead, Momentum

   Agility to meet shopper needs. The idea of everything having longer-term planning is dead. Brands will need to have a significant portion of their plans for responsive, shorter-term activation. Brands that were not able to respond or were out of stock created opportunities for other brands to get trial and purchase – and many of those shoppers won’t come back.

Vanessa Bueno, Marketing Director

   Shoppers are looking for differentiation. Products that can deliver on specific consumer needs with a story and functional benefits will rise to the top. Shoppers are also looking for authenticity and an emotional connection to brands and products. Those that deliver will win. I also believe that, with the increase in unemployment, providing affordable food options is key for a large portion of the consumer base.

Rich Butwinick, President, MarketingLab

   Truly providing shoppers a frictionless opportunity to buy your brand in the way they want. To get there, we need to understand that the point of decision is not necessarily the point of transaction, and that shoppers decide how they’ll transact based on what’s convenient to them to meet their needs now. Shopper marketers need to have a deep understanding of the shopper journey.

April Carlisle, Vice President NRS, Shopper Marketing, Coca-Cola Co.

   Agility! Shoppers are agile, and retailers and brands can be, too. How can we best work together to meet shopper needs, remove purchase barriers, and build equities for brands and retailers at the same time (which of course is the true definition of shopper marketing)?

Marta Cyhan, Chief Marketing Officer, Catalina

   In times of crisis, cementing loyalty is not a slow, long-term process. It’s about speed and real-time responsiveness. Winning or losing shopper loyalty comes down to a matter of days and months, not years.

Sandeep Dadlani, Chief Digital Officer, Mars Incorporated

   The biggest opportunity remains our ability to listen deeply and empathize with consumers, to understand their unmet needs and to leverage digital capabilities in response to those needs. We continue to hope that such creative new routes to market – and our resourcefulness and speed in pivoting to them – will continue so we can meet consumer needs wherever they arise.

Kelly Downey, Consultant, OxfordSM

   Think about how to strengthen and even reset your customer relationships by showing flexibility and compassion. Use the opportunity to revise your customer plans, build your customer-facing skills, review your customer-facing organization, and learn new virtual selling techniques.

Craig Elston, Global Chief Strategy Officer, Integer

   We need to be more intentional and less opportunistic with shoppers. We also need to adopt more agile planning, to be able to adapt to new risks as they arise. That agility is a key to success now and in the future. Real-time data collection and the ability to interpret signals, gain insight and act swiftly matters now more than ever.

Kerry Farrell, SVP Sales & Customer Success, Eversight

   Shoppers are real people – they are dynamic, diverse, complicated individual consumers who are subject to change. But this industry has long treated consumers as predictable, segmented groups. To achieve success with shoppers moving forward, approach them on an individual basis, actively engage in understanding them today, and then do it again tomorrow. There isn’t going to be a steady-state, predictable, “new normal” at the end of this crisis – and if your organization is sitting around waiting for it, you’ve missed the opportunity put in front of you.

Michael Forhez, Global Managing Director, Consumer Markets, Oracle

   The simple answer, in an increasingly technology-enabled world, is not to lose sight of what our industry is in the business of – namely, that we are here to serve consumers better by creating the products and services they need, when they need them … sometimes even before they know!

Carlos Garcia, Industry Manager, CPG-Retail, Facebook

   After the crisis ends, most people will still go into stores and put your brands into physical shopping carts, but the number of people that will want to continue to order online and pick up curbside, or from a locker in the store, or have it delivered straight to their home, has dramatically increased. If you aren’t serving people in an omnichannel way that reduces friction, and your competitors are, you will lose share.

Jason Goldberg, Chief Commerce Strategy Officer, Publicis Communications

   We’ve spent a century growing retail sales by increasing store traffic. Now we’ll need to seek growth while limiting store traffic. This will be a major shift in emphasis from traffic generation to conversion and basket size. We’re going to need new digital experiences to facilitate product discovery and impulse purchases.

Elizabeth Harris, Chief Strategy Officer, Arc

   Now that new e-commerce tools have been so widely adopted, how do we lean into these new behaviors to make the experience even better, simpler and more delightful? What enhanced content would be valuable? What surprises can we bring people at curbside or with delivery? We’re just scratching the surface of what’s possible now that we’ve overcome the hurdle of adoption.

Nick Jones, Chief Growth Officer, Geometry

   The answer is right in front of us: the shopper. It’s no longer about shelf-back, not about the category, not the channel, not the technology … it’s all about the shopper. We want to know the shopper better than anyone – using data, research and observation. And then bring creativity to the party. Commerce is the next frontier of marketing, and the intersection of creativity and commerce is where the action will be.

Brian Kittelson, SVP, Managing Director of Commercialization and Shopper Services, Match Marketing Group

   No one knows what the “new normal” will be post-pandemic in how we approach daily life and interact as a society. Regardless of where this nets out, the greatest opportunity for achieving success with shoppers pre-pandemic remains the same post-pandemic: understanding shopper motivations, appropriately sizing them and determining how best to capitalize upon them to amplify the growth of our brands and the categories we operate in.

Wendy Liebmann, CEO & Chief Shopper, WSL Strategic Retail

   The greatest opportunity – and challenge – will be recognizing that this crisis, the repercussions from it and the fast-emerging “Black Lives Matter” movement have created what we call a new breed of “shopper activists” who are taking control of their lives in new and dramatic ways. That impacts how they spend, on what, and who they trust to do business with. Understanding this growing population in deep and meaningful ways is the key to success.

Sheila Lukaszewski, Senior Director, Shopper Engagement, Kimberly-Clark

   Continuing to optimize shopping experiences. Offering shoppers simple options that span their need states, and delighting them with experiential retail and convenient service, are essential to achieving success.

Tina Manikas, President, FCB/RED

   Moving forward, the greatest opportunity for achieving success with shoppers is in value reframing. We know that shoppers have been moving from non-essential purchases to more solution-based purchases. Consider that the more essential purchases now have an increased emotional value that represents an opportunity for brands to get out of the price game and get back to shopper resonance and relevance.

Laura Moser, Director, Business Leadership & Client Development, HMT Associates

Developing new approaches to creating and delivering brand value that are integrated into the expanded way that shoppers are approaching trips (Shipt, Instacart, emerging services), lists, stock-up/immediate needs – and helping retailers evolve their shopper offerings. Building transformed and virtual experiences for shoppers that will replace many of the one-on-one experiences in stores with solutions that are equally as informative and engaging.

Brady Noon, Director of Omnichannel Marketing,
SC Johnson

   Digital shelf management and optimization.

Chris Perry, Consultant

   Commercial innovation is always new, shiny and exciting. But often, the “simple” and much less sexy removal of friction from shopper-journey pain points to offer multiple ways to shop and fulfill orders is more effective to winning in-market. Amazon is one of the best role models here. They are innovative and disruptive, but much of their true innovation comes from a focus on friction-free experiences.

Rob Rivenburgh, Chief Executive Officer, North America, The Mars Agency

   Shoppers will be looking for the best deals. They will shop new retailers, prioritize needs versus wants, and seek new solutions and services. We need to revisit and adjust our strategies, from our channel strategy to retailer investment and product offerings, to revisiting coupon strategies, ensuring we are mobile ready, assessing our product mix and pack sizes, and exploring new partners.

Bryant Ross, VP, Brand Commercialization and Shopper Services, IN Connected Marketing

   As millions more consumers are now at home, retailers and brands have an opportunity to seamlessly implement purchase opportunities into the behaviors the crisis has forced us all to adopt. Recognizing different need groups, like college students and workers with children at home, can help determine what to prioritize in promotions, where to deploy marketing messages, and how to merchandise products online at retailers.

Dan Sabanosh, Director, Shopper Marketing, Great Northern InStore

These events have reiterated the need to understand the state of the shopper. Connecting with shoppers, on their terms to meet their needs, is what is going to drive success. These times have required extra agility to meet a very dynamic situation, and future success will continue to require close assessment of shopper needs, down to the local and personal levels.

Jonathan Schultz, Managing Director, TPN Retail

   I think there is an opportunity to create more of an “experience” within a BOPIS shopping [trip] where it is much more about discovery and solution-finding, going beyond just fulfilling functional needs. For instance, shoppers using BOPIS to purchase gifts and/or items for a special occasion, vacation needs, or their back-to-school shop – we can further enhance the online experience for them around these occasions.

Marlene Sidhu, Marketing Director, Shopper Marketing, Grupo Bimbo

   Truly listening to shoppers.

Steve Sigrist, VP, Customer Service & Customer Supply Chain, North America, Newell Brands

   Timely product availability across multiple business channels (omnichannel). Meet the customer in the manner in which they want.

Eric Szegda, EVP, Consumer Media, Bauer USA

   Because of the pandemic and corresponding recession, two concerns will be facing shoppers that were not present 12 months ago: safety/sanitation and value. These concerns, in addition to the accelerated adoption of e-commerce, are signaling dynamic shifts in shopping habits. With significant change comes significant opportunity for shopper marketers. Those most able to identify the evolving habits and pivot corresponding engagement tactics toward tomorrow’s shopper will be able to entrench themselves and/or tap into previously unidentified consumer priorities.

Ted Utoft, Vice President, BVA Nudge

   It’s really about understanding shopper behavior and defining your objectives in terms of behavior: What do you want shoppers to do? Not think, not feel, but do. Once you know that, you can observe their current behavior, uncovering the levers and barriers to what you want them to do. Then, think of interventions or nudges that affect that behavior.

Rodney Waights, Vice President, Shopper & Customer Marketing, Beiersdorf

   Remaining relevant and sensitive to the external environment. Tone deaf communication will not be received well and likely will result in lost shoppers to your brand (lasting well beyond the immediate transaction). On the other hand, communication that is sensitive to the current context and provides a relevant solution in an authentic way is likely to create an opportunity for growth.

Andy Walter, Principal/Founder, AJW Advisory

   More agile supply chain and fulfillment management. Retailers and brands missed an incredible opportunity to build deep loyalty with shoppers.

Mark Williamson, Vice President, Peapod Digital Labs

   Simply put: anticipating and meeting shopper needs. This has always been the key to winning with shoppers, but more than ever doing so requires speed, agility and a willingness to keep up with rapid changes in customer expectations and external factors.