I keep hearing the term ‘shopper marketing’. What does it mean?

It’s only relatively recently that there has been an emergence of agencies and client teams specialising in ‘shopper marketing’ as a discipline. “For those of us in retail marketing, it isn’t surprising given the enormous value it brings to a retailer,” says Gordon Bethell, managing partner at advertising agency Gratterpalm.

Ultimately, he says, the aim is to help retailers understand the direct motivators of purchase, with the view to growing sales.

Perhaps what is surprising, though, is the mystery surrounding the term ‘shopper marketing’. This is because it is actually based on an old-fashioned principle. “Put simply, it describes what retailers have been doing for decades; observing their shoppers.”

Shopper behaviour can be studied in sophisticated ways, from mystery shopping to eye-tracking software, exit interviews to focus groups and from shopper omnibus surveys to social media monitoring and analytics.

“With masses of data, we can then build detailed maps of shopper journeys or missions with interesting results,” says Bethell.

Everyone involved in retail is fully aware of the fact that shoppers can switch brand loyalty at a moment’s notice. “But we are also aware of the huge success that has been driven by retail brands that have embraced consumer advertising campaigns,” he adds.

“Shopper marketing sets out to establish a link between these two approaches and looks for connections or disconnections in the retail environment. The result is retailers making more effective use of marketing budgets and protecting their investment in brand building, by defending their position at point of purchase.”

There may well be a new term around the corner that starts to describe the true integration of today’s digital living and retailing, but whatever the term, it will be based on a tried and trusted principle of listening and watching your shoppers.