Build the Right Talent
A real struggle for manufacturers and retailers is building the talent base for shopper marketing. In fact, our survey respondents agree this is one of the most significant gaps in their organizations.
Among the skills reported missing by the study participants are two that were deemed the most critical across all phases of the lifecycle: collecting data/insights and applying shopper insights to programs. As a company advances through the shopper marketing lifecycle, other skill gaps come to the front. In the incubating stage, manufacturers need skills in selling the value of their shopper marketing programs to retailers. In the scaling stage, it becomes even more important to effectively measure results. Once an organization reaches the culturally embedding stage, skills in collaboration leap to the forefront.
Top Five Skillsets in Demand for Shopper Marketing
1. Applying shopper insights to programs
1. Applying shopper insights to programs
2. Collecting shopper insights 3. Collaborating with partners 4. Executing shopper marketing 5. Annual planning
2. Executing shopper marketing 3. Collecting shopper insights 4. Addressing consumer trends 5. Measuring results
Top Manufacturer Skillsets
Top Retailer Skillsets
Source: 2008 GMA/Shopper Marketing Study
Given the shortage of people trained in shopper marketing, companies need to educate their own internal staff, at minimum through formal training programs and conferences, but also through a culture and incentives that encourage on-the-job experimentation. An organization that expects its shopper marketing staff to have it all figured out on day one will miss opportunities to grow and enhance their shopper marketing capabilities.
Use Agencies Wisely
No organization can be good at every component of a shopper marketing effort. Third-par- ty agencies enhance the effectiveness of many organizations’ shopper marketing programs. They can provide experience on insight collection and analytics, program testing and evalua- tion, creative design, and execution. They fill key competency gaps in the pathway from insight development to in-store execution of programs.
However, too many companies skip the crucial step of defining their strategic positioning and platform, and jump directly into hiring agencies for tactical implementation. In effect, they abdicate their strategy – and at times, even their relationships with priority partners
to third-party agencies. Several of the retailers we spoke to expressed frustration with
manufacturers who use their agencies as a crutch, effectively turning over the presentation to a third-party vendor who may simply dish up the same tactical recommendations given to the rest of their clients.
Agencies’ views of shopper marketing are often (but certainly not always) limited to the in-store visual communications component of the solution versus the strategic alignment, commercial realities, and source of value creation. Over-reliance on agencies who seek to define shopper marketing according to their own capabilities can limit a manufacturer’s prospects for shopper marketing advantage.
The benefit of working with the right agencies should not be understated. The best agen- cies understand their client’s strategic platform, and use their specific knowledge base to help make shopper marketing programs more effective. However, companies need to use third parties carefully, focusing on where the agencies can fill skill gaps and enhance their own strengths, while holding onto areas of competitive advantage. For example, one manufacturer enhances its shopper marketing capabilities through a portfolio of agencies (program development, creative and execution), but retains its shopper insights and analyt- ics in house as a source of competitive advantage.
Align Your Organization
Most manufacturers still struggle with aligning their marketing plans to the retailer planning cycle. As a result, shopper marketing teams must submit their in-store proposals for ap- proval long before the full marketing plan is developed – meaning new marketing messag- ing and materials do not show up in in-store campaigns. Manufacturers must then attempt to quickly align in-store promotions through ad hoc tactical signage. Given limited time and resources, retailers are beginning to focus their efforts on manufacturers that align their internal planning to integrate in-store plans into larger 360-degree marketing efforts.
In the short-term, shopper marketing programs can continue to develop their plans inde- pendently of the larger marketing effort by focusing on regular seasonal campaigns, and orienting campaigns around their base value proposition. In order to lock in key relation- ships over the long-term, manufacturers must begin the long process of organizational change needed to realign and refocus marketing planning around retailer schedules.
Make the Most of Strategic Partnerships
Establishing close, committed collaborative relationships with the most important partners requires an advanced level of trust and transparency. This requires planning and ongoing, consistent interactions—and sometimes wholesale changes to existing systems.
From our discussions, we identified the following effective tactics that can help build the foundation of a successful collaborative relationship:
Signal interest in a more transparent relationship by openly sharing proprietary data and insights with target partners
Consider co-locating staff to deepen understanding of key partners and provide opportunities for feedback and collaboration
Relinquish control over ideas; some of most effective programs are those that evolve during the collaboration process
Invest in understanding partners’ segmentation models and platforms to bring forward ideas relevant to their objectives and positioning
Invest in measuring and demonstrating performance, both for manufacturer and retailer
In the end, success in shopper marketing does not involve just data and tools. It does not involve just clever communications or creative displays. In the end, success is about trans- parency, trust, and consistent performance that benefit manufacturers and retailers alike. Organizations that get execution right will be well positioned to build relationships and achieve performance that generates long-term growth and disproportionate returns.