Week 2 of the Smonday reflections already. Tonight, I’ll try to address one of the questions I get asked from time to time; why all this hype about the shopper, isn’t focusing on the consumer enough? Once again, I’d love to hear your thoughts builds and objections. Smonday is a good time to put one’s thoughts in order and get energised for the week ahead.

I was lucky enough to have been involved in shopper-focused insight generation pretty early on in my career. At the time it was largely driven by the development of trade marketing aiming to bridge the gap between manufacturers’ marketing and retailers’ buying teams. It has developed greatly since then and there are many distinguished academics and professionals that have written about the importance of focusing on the shopper.
I read Toby Desforges’ and Mike Anthony’s great book on “The shopper marketing revolution” after I had already been active in the field for a few years. It managed to summarise the essence of what shopper marketing is about, and to spark discussions in FMCG cross-functional teams about the right viewpoint to take when selling in the store. Most of the FMCGs I’ve worked for have already developed the mindset, structure and resource to deliver on the shopper agenda. Or have they?

The distinction between the consumer and the shopper in many cases is obvious. A dog owner buying food for his loved pet, or a mother considering baby products are clearly shoppers but not consumers (or at least not intended to be!). If your business is in any of these categories you’ll know all about it. These businesses are the ones where marketing is very clearly targeted to the shopper.

Then we have the in-between categories. Ones where some of the shoppers and also consumers but consumption is not limited to them. Many FMCGs, like paper products, some personal care and many food and drinks fall here. Most organisations will have Shopper Marketing, Category Management and Insights teams dedicated to ensuring the effective presence and communication of the products in the physical or virtual store.

Now, if you are still reading this, you’re probably thinking there’s nothing new here. You are right, the importance of the shopper is well documented and we’ve gone a long way in incorporating the shopper viewpoint in brand strategy. However, there are two things I believe we can still improve on:

  • Shopper should not be another silo! Quite often shopper and retailer inputs do not feed back to close the Innovation cycle.
  • They are limited to the shop floor and do not integrate with other functions (not even Key Accounts in many cases).

The same demographic (or even the same person) may display quite different behaviours when deciding on and consuming a product versus when they are in store (or in front of a screen or mobile phone) buying it. We need to look at all the facets of the individuals behaviour
I would argue that 2020 has amplified the distinctions between the consumer and the shopper. The Covid-19 crisis is pushing many people to make hard choices even for purchasing essential products. In 2021 we’re up for category resets, and most retailers are already working on them. Are you?

Consumer Products’ Experience