Overcoming the barriers to implementing shopper

There are very few companies who don’t now recognise the importance of the shopper as a business stakeholder; yet despite their importance, a truly shopper focused business culture is still something of a rarity. So why is this? What are the barriers to shopper centricity and what needs to change to create this culture?

Barrier #1

Lack of shopper insight

In recent years, the shopper has become a more important stakeholder than ever. The shopper has the power to choose, and the fight for retailer loyalty is failing. Meeting shopper needs is therefore more important than ever, and we can’t do this if we don’t know what those needs are in the first place! Yet most organisations are still lacking in shopper data. Without the right insight, we can’t engage with customers and develop shopper orientated category, customer and brand plans. We should have 360 degree insight; covering everything from shopper confidence & macro retailing trends right through to the detail of how our packaging operates in a shopper context. If you truly understand how your shoppers think and behave along the journey, you will uncover new opportunities, and can use this for your own commercial gain.

Barrier #2

Shopper strategies have to be implemented into another business

The other difficulty with “shopper” in contrast to “consumer” is the challenge of the chain! We have to gain buy in from our retail partners, as well as our colleagues. We often have some great ideas, but struggle to get traction with retailers. The secret to this is early retailer engagement in the project process. Work in partnership with them, suggest shopper marketing initiatives that fall in line with their corporate calendar rather than your corporate agenda.  Design research programmes together, with agreement for testing from the outset. To truly drive top to tops, we should be working with retailers on initiatives that fall outside of our own category and brands (e.g. helping them with their on-line store design or creating a vision for a certain part of the store). The long term benefits of this will be a stronger voice at the table, which in turn will help you to drive your internal agenda.

Barrier # 3

Business Silos

Most businesses will work in silos to a greater or lesser degree. Marketing and Sales often work separately, and shopper will typically sit within the Sales function of an organisation. This means that shopper focused thinking rarely gets included in the marketing and brand planning process. Yet it’s essential that Brand Managers and Marketeers DO adopt shopper thinking. How can we develop NPD and packaging when we don’t know how it will stand out on-line or on shelf to shoppers? How can we advertise to shoppers through Shopper Marketing without understanding their mission and mindset when exposed to this material? Unfortunately, this way of working won’t change unless organisations drive shopper thinking from the top down. Shopper checkpoints should be built into all business processes; with clear KPI’s set for each function. This will require having more shopper experts within the organisation who understand this and help to drive

it within the business.  HR functions must implement shopper performance metrics into appraisal systems if business cultures are truly going to change towards this way of thinking.

Barrier #4

Benefits of shopper implementation are not widely understood

In many cases, the reasons why Marketing functions don’t implement shopper thinking into their planning is due to a lack of understanding as to HOW and WHY shoppers are an important stakeholder for them. Even if we DO have the insight at our finger tips, we need to educate and prove the value of ‘shopper’ to our colleagues through running training programmes and showcasing best practise case studies. This is a large undertaking, and will again require experts who have the back up from senior leadership to drive it.

In summary, having a shopper focused culture within our organisations will be crucial if we want to win with shoppers in the future. This will require investment into shopper insight, changes to how our businesses are structured and top down support to ensure it is embedded into the business culture.

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