How do brands break through the “cluttered” digital and “uncluttered” retail environment?
The concept of a “clean” store has been around for a decade. The idea suggests that consumers, in a desire to have a more pleasurable shopping experience, are a looking for uncluttered, clearly labeled aisles and products. They are looking for promotions and deals in store but not at the sacrifice of a manageable trek through the aisles.
We’ve seen this trend pushed to the brink of virtually no POP by Walmart a few years ago and more recently pulled back to a compromise but still the fact remains that brands have fewer opportunities to connect with the consumer due to a number of macro trends:
1. Clean Store policy – Retail brands are looking to own a branded store environment and keep aisles clean for consumers.
2. Digital disruption in-store – 75% – 90% of shoppers have used their phone while they shop in a retail environment (eMarketer and Internet Retailer)
3. Collapsed purchased funnel – The time from awareness to purchase to advocacy is short and growing shorter due to the dynamic of “always-on shopping” and the pervasive influence of digital shopping tools. In fact, digital tools will influence 90% of in-store retail sales by 2018 and already influence more than 65% of retail shopping decisions.
Given these realities, brands have to get smarter and think differently about how to reach the shopper in-aisle or anywhere where they are in a position to make an instant purchase decision. The rapid proliferation of mobile and in-store retail technologies that have infiltrated and disrupted the traditional shopper journey have forever enhanced, yet clouded the way in which marketers talk with and engage consumers and shoppers. In this type of environment the key question that marketers must consider is one of prioritization in order to reach shoppers at the point of purchase. So how do marketers go about prioritizing these digital opportunities?
It starts by applying the fundamentals of consumer research – understand the mindset of the consumer, the behavior of the shopper, and the surroundings of a person across the modal dialogue. So, in other words, we need to understand how the consumer moves from consumer to shopper to buyer to influencer mode not only behaviorally but in terms of what they think. At TPN, we call this the “Modal Dialogue”. By understanding the consumer you can better determine high-level focus areas around selection, timing and content. By determining these focus ares we know where our message be seen along the shopper journey (in-store, pre-shop, etc), what type content we should be developing (inspirational, instructional, etc) and the timing of our message based on behavior.
With a deep understanding of the consumer, we can reimagine how to effectively communicate with her across channels. As we look across channels at TPN, we look to marry traditional in-store channels with digital and emerging strategies. With more than thirty-five identified digital channels mapped at TPN, this proves to be a challenge to prioritize but offers the best opportunity to market in aisle when retailer based programs are inefficient, aren’t available, or simply aren’t differentiated.
At TPN, the way we do this is to of course, look at the objective of any particular marketing and / or activation campaign, but we also look at the opportunity to effectively reach the shopper in a way that is most relevant to her. As we look to find third-party strategies and tactics to reach a shopper in the aisle, we may find that she is responsive to push notifications that provide timely and relevant content, like recipes or dinner hacks, while she is in shopper mode. We may find that she is responsive to virtual reality experiences at the shelf that immerse her in the brand. We may find that she is browsing the web via apps or her web browser and is responsive to advertising and messaging during those experiences. The power of mapping out her digital preferences, channel reach, and the potential of those channels allow us to more efficiently develop the tactical mix to activate in aisle.
With many, but not all, of the tactics that we look at, we can now reach a level of precision targeting and efficiency in ad spend that really does thread the needle for the campaigns we run. For example, using data management platform partners, media partners, and emerging technologies, marketers can target specific consumer subsets in aisle. More and more we can message the consumer with personalized messages based on a variety of variables right in the aisle.
In essence, as brands look to find ways to better target consumers and shoppers in a crowded digital and increasingly clean store environment, they must look at intelligent, respectful, and calculated use that digital channels can provide the greatest ROI. Thoughtful planning can redefine how shopper marketing interacts with and engages the shopper in-store. The keys to remember are that relevant, efficient, activation-oriented campaigns can succeed but they must enhance, not detract, from the shopping experience.