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The most important shopper marketing trends to watch

The most important shopper marketing trends to watch Denise Zimmerman

Whether on our phones, tablets, or in-store, our fundamental shopping and buying needs, expectations, and behaviors have changed. Historically, digital marketing efforts to actively engage shopping and buying behavior have largely been focused on driving online sales or in-store traffic. However, there is an increasing opportunity to reach and engage shoppers while in-store to drive sales with digital shopper marketing.

What exactly is shopper marketing? Wikipedia defines it as "understanding how one's target consumers behave as shoppers, in different channels and formats, and leveraging this intelligence to the benefit of all stakeholders, defined as brands, consumers, retailers and shoppers."

The most important shopper marketing trends to watch

While shopping behavior increasingly starts online, it often still ends in the store. It is true that e-commerce has grown significantly over the past decade, but brick-and-mortar stores still rule. According to the National Retail Federation's Stores.org, most shopping and buying still gets done at Walmart, Target, Macy's, supermarkets, and home improvement chain stores. The organization reports that online transactions account for less than 15 percent of total retail sales. However, our online experiences and interactions across devices have changed our fundamental expectations and shopping behavior. This includes how we shop and make purchase decisions in-store.

In order to realize the latest opportunities in shopper marketing, we must gain better insight into current digital shopper expectations, purchase influencers (reviews, pins, etc.), and behaviors such as swiping, tapping, and price comparisons. More importantly, we must understand how these elements connect with the in-store shopper and trigger buying behavior.

Consumer packaged goods (CPG) manufacturers and retailers with brick-and-mortar locations are starting to plan, experiment, and test how to engage and activate the in-store shopper with digital shopper marketing programs, messaging, and engagement vehicles. Based on these experiments to date, let's take a look at the most promising trends you need to know.


Rather than deliver a coupon at the register when a person is ready to leave the store, wouldn't it be more effective to deliver a relevant offer to that person while in-store? There's an app for that.

Mobile offers one of the largest, most immediate opportunities in shopper marketing, and there is increasing interest and deployment in this area. People use their phones in store while shopping more than most marketers might realize. Millennial Media and comScore reported that, over a three-month period, 40 percent of women and 47 percent of men used their phones in stores to find coupons or deals, while 29 percent of men and 41 percent of women used their phones to research consumer-product details.

Significant percentages of people are also texting or taking pictures of the product to send to friends and family. Mobile shopper marketing tends take the form of shopping apps, scanners, and mobile websites offering functionality that ranges from paperless coupons, GPS-enabled location-based services, shopping lists, and the ability to transact payment.

Based on a Nielsen and PriceGrabber study, 31 percent of consumers have downloaded a third-party shopping app, 41 percent of them have used mobile coupons at grocery stores, and 26 percent have scanned QR codes for product information. There are apps that use in-store Bluetooth sensors to track shoppers' locations within the store and send them personalized offers and recommendations. It has been reported that the mobile coupon redemption rate is 10 percent versus 1 percent for traditional coupons.

While shopping apps have been in market for a few years, apps that offer deals and incentives when customers enter a store are proliferating, as is their usage. Shopkick, one of the veterans in the pack, is a good example of the marketing opportunity related to these apps. Shopkick uses your GPS to determine your shopping location and serves up relevant coupons and offers to your phone when you enter the store.

In addition to third-party apps, a number of retailers have also launched their own shopping apps. Sephora, Target, Ikea, and Home Depot have mobile apps that help navigate store locations, get location-specific deals, check inventory, and scan barcodes to see product reviews

Retailers and CPGs are starting to introduce mobile applications and better-developed, more-functional mobile sites to drive in-store traffic and help facilitate the in-store buying process. Mobile at the point of sale is officially big business.

In-store digital kiosks and displays

While traditional shopper marketing executions such as end-caps or in-store displays can be effective, they miss the opportunity to connect more meaningfully with customers at key points in their purchase decision-making. In-store technologies and applications that are showing promise include e-commerce kiosks, touch-screen displays, and on-packaging promotions and in-store signage that promote social cred.

Kiosks and in-store touch-screen displays have seen a number of different types of deployments. Some even provide the ability to access full inventory from an in-store kiosk. A number of retailers are establishing a ship-from-store kiosk option to address inventory that might not be available in that exact store but is available across the retailer's broader inventory. Self-checkouts, which appeal to a shopper's desire for the most efficient experience possible, also fall in this category.

Expect to see more large touch-screen display innovations and applications as well. The recent launch by eBay and Kate Spade is worth noting. Using a large touch screen built into the store window at four pop-up stores, shoppers can select a product and schedule one-hour delivery via text message. As reported in TechCrunch, a shopper steps up to the touch screen at the store window and navigates through the products available, which are on display behind the glass. To buy, you enter a cell phone number and receive a text asking to schedule delivery. In one hour, a courier drops off the purchase and takes the payment through PayPal. This single example brings together touch technology, mobile messaging, warehouse logistics, delivery, and mobile payments!

In-store signage

Finally, what about trends with traditional in-store signage? It's pretty common now to see a local restaurant post Yelp reviews on their storefront windows -- but what about in stores?

These days, even plain old paper signs are being socialized. Nordstrom recently rolled out signage that highlights the popularity of certain products by reflecting how many pins they got on Pinterest. By doing so, the company is extending social cred to facilitate purchase decision-making in-store. 

The most important shopper marketing trends to watch

Shoes for sale in Nordstrom, identified by Pinterest popularity. Photo courtesy of Nordstrom.

The most successful in-store digital shopper marketing innovations and applications are focused on providing shopper value, facilitating decision-making, and improving the ease of shopping. In time, CPGs and retailers will start investing more in this area. In many cases, deployment of new technologies will require mutual cooperation and collaboration among CPGs and their retail distribution partners to meet the growing needs of everyone -- including the shopper.

Denise Zimmerman is president and CSO of NetPlus.

On Twitter? Follow Zimmerman at @dzimmerman. Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

"Young business woman select goods on interactive display" image via Shutterstock. 

Denise is President and Chief Strategy Officer at Netplus, a top 25 iMedia Agency. She and the broader team at Netplus, consistently delight and amaze clients with a partnership approach that delivers jaw dropping results and measurable business...

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