Suzy Bashford
Jun 1, 2011

INSIGHT: A golden retail opportunity overlooked

Both clients and agencies are unclear about what shopper marketing is, what it can achieve, and how to implement it into campaigns. But they’ll have to learn.

Shopper marketing: confusion and disconnection reigns
Shopper marketing: confusion and disconnection reigns

When agencies rush to set up dedicated shopper marketing divisions, it’s clear that there’s money to be made. But with confusion shrouding the discipline, clients are loathe to commit their budgets and the potential of shopper marketing is far from being met.

As Nick Williams, regional sales director Asia-Pacific at Sara Lee explains, “There is a complete disconnect between agencies and clients for the simple reason that both parties are not clear on what it really is, what it should achieve, the KPIs and the best approach for any piece of work.”

One of the biggest reasons for the disunity is where shopper marketing should sit in a brand organisation is unclear. Consequently, trade marketers, sales people and brand managers all dabble in it and it remains at a junior level, not receiving the strategic clout some say it merits.

The good news for agencies is that there’s a huge opportunity for them to become the glue that holds the various stakeholders together. Some, like Proximity Shop, are encouraging clients to form multi-disciplinary teams. The agency brings together marcoms, sales and trade teams to apply a ‘matched agenda marketing’ model to ensure campaigns hit each stakeholder’s objectives.

But holding agencies back from becoming this ‘glue’ is a lack of talent. As Christopher Lyons, regional retail and shopper marketing director, Leo Burnett & Arc Asia-Pacific, says, “You have to recruit someone with planning skills, who’s financially oriented, practical with solid retail experience. It’s easier to find
a unicorn.”

Louis Cacciuttolo, CEO South China M&C Saatchi is candid about agencies’ shortcomings, “Most people coming from the advertising industry have absolutely no clue what is going on in-store, they don’t talk the right language when they meet clients or retailers and they are, basically, not inspired by the concept of shopper marketing.”

But agencies are going to have to get their heads around shopper marketing. Mike Anthony, CEO of shopper marketing consultancy Engage predicts the emerging discipline will “revolutionise” the whole of marketing.

To plug the retail skills gap, most agencies are looking to poach from clients, which is what Ogilvy Action has done with the appointment of Manita Khuller - formerly at Unilever - as planning and strategy director in the region. While Khuller says there is a need to reframe the whole discussion, she argues these debates should not be rushed. “Brand marketing has been around since the ’50s and people are still getting to grips with metrics and ROI. Shopper marketing is less than five-years-old. There is impatience about defining it, but we need to be open and let it evolve. There is no doubt that this is where the money will flow, but what is required is a paradigm shift and that will not happen overnight.”

This article was originally published in the May issue of Campaign Asia-Pacific.

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