Shopper Marketing Trends in 2020

This is a year of transformation for shopper marketing.

Although foot traffic at grocery stores improved month over month from a 19.7% decline year over year in April to a 10.1% decline year over year in May, overall foot traffic is still lower than it was in 2019, according to In preparation for this to continue, brands must look for additional shopper marketing opportunities that aren’t inside the store. Many stores will reopen with curbside pickup, as 59% of shoppers are more likely to use the service post-COVID-19 pandemic, according to Coresight Research.

On-platform retail opportunities, meaning advertising opportunities within a retailer’s e-commerce site, like sponsored listings or online-only coupons, have already surged and will continue to do so. Plus, retailers are leveraging their power to require brands to put money behind marketing efforts in order to maintain position and inventory with the retailer. Since shelf space and placement in store may not hold the same level of importance to brands, retailers will focus on offering opportunities in search rankings and carousel positioning on web pages, which have maximum capacities and may be even more competitive for brands than in-store.

As max capacity is reached on-platform on retailer sites, brands will begin to look for effective off-platform ways to drive shoppers into the purchase funnel. Two trends will emerge. Because consumers are still anxious about the COVID-19 pandemic and personal safety and are also looking for meal inspiration as they’re cooking at home more often, they’ll turn to their favorite influencers for comfort and guidance. Influencer marketing will see a new resurgence as consumers trust their favorite online personalities. Influencer marketing also offers brands a channel for building out “safe” collateral as the country is engulfed in sensitive news and display campaigns require extensive keyword blacklists.

Simultaneously, as we approach this shift in the back half of 2020, the imminent elimination of cookies on Google will cause a conversation around privacy and behavioral data. This is similar to what we saw in the beginning of 2020, when the California Consumer Privacy Act was enacted. We’re seeing a slow shift toward the use of contextual data and advertising. But we’ll see a surge when coinciding timing causes brands to both search for off-platform opportunities to reach shoppers in contextually relevant, endemic environments and behavioral data once again makes consumers wary.

The Importance of Retailer Data
Retailer data will continue to be the most sought-after key to success for shopper marketers. Large brands with the biggest budgets will get the most access, leaving emerging brands looking for grassroots efforts to try and get a seat at the large retailer table. This is typically where a tactic like sampling would play a huge role, but this and many other tactics may be eliminated for safety reasons in 2020. As a result, emerging brands will need to become resourceful with digital tactics for both awareness and lower-funnel efforts.

While retailers may choose to bring emerging and disruptor brands into the mix for variety, it will also be much harder for these brands to compete with legacy brands. They'll be required to do more out of store to get the awareness required to have a meaningful launch. As such, emerging brands with smaller budgets will need to determine whether shopper marketing works for them in a post-COVID-19 world.

Some ways we may see this play out is more emerging brands joining Amazon, using social media self-service platforms more than ever before and partnering with micro-influencers. Building shoppability into social media and influencer content essentially creates more affordable shopper marketing solutions for emerging brands while hypertargeting to what often are niche audiences. These tactics will be key for emerging brands when negotiating with retailers for placement, as they’ll demonstrate proof of support — a must-have to win with retailers.

To make their data even more valuable, retailer shopper marketing teams are increasingly partnering with companies that typically offer higher-funnel marketing activations to more accurately link ad spend and campaign performance to both in-store and online sales. For instance, Kroger Precision Marketing, the supermarket giant’s cross-channel media solution, announced a partnership with over-the-top media company Roku. As more consumers move online from linear TV, streaming services offer brands the chance to reach a younger audience, and their partnerships with retailers offer the first-party consumer data needed to effectively target certain consumer categories and measure campaign results.

Although many are calling this time the “new normal,” it’s anything but. All of the external factors impacting brands are forcing them to get creative when connecting with consumers and driving sales at retail. Retailers will also need to get creative and allow non-traditional tactics to play more of a key role in negotiations with brands. All in all, 2020 is set to be a year of radical transformation in shopper marketing.

About the Author
A proven sales leader and digital media expert, Meghan Howard is vice president of sales at Chicory, a leading shoppability provider for CPG and grocery brands. In her role, she strategically leverages industry insights to drive ideas, recommendations and solutions for shopper marketers.