Shopper Marketing: Closing the gap between sales and category management

The rise of “shopper marketing” has seen many FMCG businesses focusing on building their competitive advantage by delivering improved category relevance, that addresses the needs of their customers. As part of this journey, more and more often, I’m asked by clients for my thoughts on successfully hiring talent to help them close the gap between traditional sales approaches and category management.

“When you are in the shower and using shampoo, you are a consumer. When the shampoo runs out, you go into shopping mode and become a shopper. That is when the emotional drivers of shopping kick in and you have the chance to connect with the shopper”. Dina Howel Worldwide CEO, Saatchi & Saatchi (source)

With the rise of social media that is changing consumer purchase consideration and intent, like Dina Howel, I think the key opportunity for businesses to win in their shopper marketing strategy is for the whole company to consider the differences between a ‘consumer and a ‘shopper’, and look at the role both their sales and brand teams play across the total  shopping journey. Linking the knowledge from these key shopper insights will help companies more efficiently match talent to category-led, business sales goals.

Bringing teams together

For many years, there has been (and possibly still is) a perception in the minds of many FMCG business and those working within them, that sales, marketing, and category teams yield the best result because of their individual area of specialisation. Sales teams were best placed to identify, qualify and convert prospects, marketing and brand teams focused on driving consumers into store or online through engaging communications, and category management delivered the best possible physical shopping experience to point-of-sale.

The Australian Retailers Association defines ‘shopper marketing’ as: “insights-driven marketing and merchandising initiatives that satisfy the needs of targeted shoppers, enhance the shopping experience and improve business results and brand equity for retailers…”. In essence, the new role of shopper marketing in the current retail environment, provides the perfect opportunity for once siloed teams to stop working towards a single dedicated business unit outcome and begin collaborating with other consumer-centric teams within their business, to drive an inclusive, successful and 360° shopping marketing agenda.

Maximising consumer touchpoint knowledge

Category Management is still a cornerstone foundation for retailing success. Ensuring shoppers can find what they’re looking for in-store, stocking current and well merchandised products and presenting consumers with a breadth of choice when then they visit a store, is the undisputed strategic expertise Category teams bring to the world of “demand teams”.

Understanding consumer behaviour and the needs driving those behaviours, is a keen skill that many seasoned Sales people can bring to the process of closing the gap between sales and category management.

Beyond just welcoming customers into the store, they have the skills, knowledge, and inclination to build strong relationships and loyalty with shoppers by connecting the brand with people at the coal face. Sales teams may present as having a generalist skill-set, but they cannot be underestimated when thinking about the potential for realising a profitable link between marketing objectives and customers across all sales channels.

While the naysayers might look at the sales function as only being consumed with hitting sales goals, stop for one moment and consider the benefit of having a productive salesperson part of the strategic thinking group. Top performers are well versed across their company’s entire product mix, they understand their brand’s consumer demographic, they likely have hands-on experience with optimising merchandise in store and are generally familiar with proximity competitor activity.

Capacity building to close the gap

A recent study undertaken by Deloitte in the US revealed that FMCG companies who built shopper marketing into their 360-degree integrated marketing campaigns, grew 50% faster than the categories they were operating in. Furthermore, 39% of respondents identified their roles had expanded to include the functions of both Category Management and Shopper Marketing responsibilities.

Building a shopper marketing “consumer-solutions” team requires a concerted effort for bringing together teams &/or individuals who truly understand shopping data, with the consumer themselves for the clear purpose of growing sales and profits, while also offering a dedicated shopper-first, retail experience. Whether their retail background is strategic and contextual or strictly sales driven, combining both skills and integrating a strong technological capacity will provide a refreshed and contemporary foundation for retailing success.

Build a modern-retail thinking team who are willing to collaborate not compete, who understand why and how big data is powerful, and who are open to innovation extending from retail occasions. Talent who understand these things will help your business connect to that shopper who will eventually need a new bottle of shampoo.

For further market insights or to help your organisation recruit your next talent, please get in touch with the Consumer & FMCG team.