Dale Elwell: How to be outstanding at shopper marketing

Imagine a potential customer walking into a retailer such as an automotive parts store, home improvement center, etc. Now, the customer walks in the door feeling excited, anxious and a bit overwhelmed by the bombardment of information. He or she may need guidance from an associate to help make sense of it all in order to make the best decision possible. Will your start-to-finish shopper marketing seal the deal? Will you gain one more loyal customer for your brand?

Today, customers are dictating when, where and how they buy. The traditional sales process has become complex, with shoppers bouncing back and forth between the Internet, stores, family, friends and customer reviews. Brands need to engage and listen to their customers. Think about the shopper’s needs first and then see where the brand can be inserted along the path to purchase.

Doing so will help improve conversion rates, accelerate the buying process and reduce customer service requests. Ultimately, these benefits will lead to what we’re all after — customer loyalty, positive brand image and advocacy.

Gain an understanding

Understanding shopper wants, needs and motivations is critical to shopper marketing success. In order to put the shopper first, the brand must first understand that there isn’t just one path to purchase.

Shoppers will research, plan and shop all before they set foot in the store. Making the brand not only accessible via every medium, but consistent across all channels will help the brand fare well in the eyes of the shopper.

Work hard to collaborate with the retailer for maximum impact on shopper experience. Create packaging and point of sale that is easier to understand, not only for the shopper but for the retailer and sales associates. Use QR codes, concise information and helpful resources for easily accessible information. The point of sale system should be easy for both the shopper and sales associate. 

Envision a scenario

Again, imagine customers walking into that store. This time, you have thought about their needs first, you know their motivations and have been available to them on all channels of media.

You have taken into account the whole shopping experience and have made it easy for them to make a decision by providing comprehensive, accurate and consistent information. The necessary collaboration between manufacturer and retailer has been made and you have tested, measured and optimized your resources for the best shopper experience possible.

One of Hitchcock, Fleming & Associates’ automotive clients, for example, was seeking guidance on how to improve shopper marketing ROI and better educate sales associates. We implemented a plan for sales associates to carry tablets to enhance the in-store buying experience. The tablet was a simple way for both the associate and shopper to answer a series of qualifying questions and pick the best product.

As a result, more associates began requesting tablets, content offering increased by 70 percent and nearly 80 percent of tablets distributed are actively used each month. We made the decision process easier by understanding the shopper’s perspective.

Inserting your brand into the shopping path will help keep the brand in the shopper’s mind, ultimately creating the sought-after effect — customer loyalty, positive brand image and advocacy. This process can be challenging but done properly can be beneficial to the sustainability of an entire brand. ●

Dale Elwell is vice president, account service, at Hitchcock, Fleming & Associates. From product launches to brand positioning, he has a broad experience base that allows him to be versatile and adaptable in helping clients reach their marketing and communications goals. For more information, visit www.teamhfa.com.