Shopper Marketing in an Age of Confluence


We’re Going to Need a Better Boat

a small boat in a body of water

Seafaring explorers have always feared where two massive bodies of water come together (like Cape Horn). Today, shopper marketers and their agency partners find themselves involuntarily navigating these treacherous seas as two “money oceans” – retail/trade (below the line) and media (above the line) – converge. Navigating these waters will require a strong sense of where to go, the right crew and a read on the waves in the immediate future.

The Seascape: Where Are We Going?

COVID-19 is best described as a sudden, severe storm disrupting these oceans. The behavior changes brought on by the pandemic are well-documented elsewhere, but it is critical to note that, when people talk about “the new normal” or “new habits,” almost none of this is true.

As COVID-19 immunity becomes more commonplace, routines and time budgets will shift dramatically. Shopper marketers will lead the work to turn newly discovered attitudes into permanent preferences and new activities/behaviors into routines. But this is all work to be done in 2021 and 2022 – not work that has been accomplished yet. The direction of travel/prevailing winds are clear, though:

• The shopper’s time budget (work, kids, home, travel, entertainment) will be constantly recalibrating.

• E-commerce modality, reliability and profitability (home delivery/click-and-collect) is now a pillar of joint business plans.

• There are more digital touchpoints in the shopper journey, activated using tools from the “media ocean” (social and digital platforms) and converting segments into usable digital audiences.

• There is more commerce media and a massive overlap between media planning and retailer planning.

The Right Crew: Prepare for the ‘On’ Switch

The confluence of above and below-the-line marketing is symbolic of the “on” switch: moving from online marketing/selling to “no-line marketing/selling.” The no-line boat crew requires four attributes:

New “hire-archies” and skills: Digital/analytic talent must be hired and integrated, infusing every step of the work process with new skills.

New tools: “Person to person” marketing often fails because it is literally that – people trying to build personalized campaigns. Until machines do this work, personalization will be frustrating and impossible to scale.

New workflows: Restructure after you understand how the work should flow. Rebuild processes based on new tools and skills, not org charts.

Consistent measures: The greatest dissonance between media teams and shopper/retail teams is often around defining and describing success.

The Waves: Four steps to “Confluence Marketing”

1. Product Marketing: Packaging is content, and commerce content is packaging. Great brands will marry the engagement mindset of content with the effectiveness doctrine used to evaluate packaging.

2. “Shop-ching”: Retailer site search is more shopping than search. Paid search and in-store display are the same process/exercise. Interruption at the right moment is key to success for both, and winning retailer platform search as a result is very different work than general SEO. The budget/work battles over who owns retail search must be rooted in the desired outcome of site-specific retail search.

3. The Digital vs. Physical Shelf: Understanding the difference between “sought-out shelves” (going to a store or an e-commerce site) and “situational shelves” (a purchase opportunity in the course of other activity) will be more relevant than “in-store” vs. “e-commerce.”

4. Retailer “media” means building a “no-line” plan: Great brand organizations will bridge the gap between media teams claiming retailer media as their purview and shopper/retailer teams who know that spend is part of a broader, integrated plan. Without a rigorous, aligned view from both legacy siloes on how to steer through this wave, the boat will take on excess water quickly!

About the Author: Bryan Gildenberg is SVP, Commerce, for the Omnicom Commerce Group (Integer Group, TPN, TracyLocke and Haygarth). Prior to joining Omnicom, he spent 23 years leading global retail insight at Kantar and is a world-renowned retail/shopper thought leader.