Creating a Lean Shopper Marketing Machine

Major advancements are being made in collaborative technology, marketing automation and data-driven marketing, yet oddly the processes that drive shopper marketing remain antiquated.

Shopper marketers carry brilliant ideas, market intelligence and customer insights, yet struggle to actualize their ideas due to the intense manual labor required of their jobs and lack of workflow technology. With numerous programs to plan each week across a portfolio of customers, products and brands, and with each program employing a unique set of tactics, offers and creative assets, shopper marketing planning can be exhaustive work. Program plans continuously change and associated assets require constant revising in order to adapt to different offers, customers and conditions. Add to this the need to plan against a multitude of budgets, with often limited transparency into spending activity across them, and you have shopper marketers operating blindly—with their hands tied behind their backs.

While some CPGs attempt to develop a shopper marketing add-on function to their existing trade promotion management systems in order to solve shopper marketing inefficiency, TPM is not designed to address the unique aspects of shopper marketing work. A TMP technology provider’s expertise of the shopper marketing function will also be limited, hindering them from designing the specific modules needed to empower shopper marketers. In turn, the system add-on will most likely become just another place for shopper marketers to enter data into, rather than a tool that empowers them to plan and measure their programs more intelligently, quickly and efficiently.

A shopper marketing-specific Software-as-a-Service (SAAS) solution, however, can deliver the custom functionality shopper marketers require and offers the flexibility to integrate with other systems to support seamless data exchange. Many CPGs flee from the idea of employing a custom shopper marketing system though, because they fear they do not have the IT budget or the available IT resource to oversee integration and training. In reality, such SAAS solutions can be up and running in days, at minimal expense and without the need for internal IT assistance due to highly user-friendly interfaces that incorporate the ideas and expressed functionality of fields sales.

By integrating a shopper marketing optimization (SMO) system, CPGs can address the three following key issues that hinder shopper marketing innovation and growth:

1. Lack of Collaboration
From field sales teams to retail customers and agency partners, shopper marketing must collaborate with a variety of partners in order to effectively design, sell-in, plan and execute a program. They also must work in coordination with trade promotions and merchandising to ensure shopper marketing programs are profitably layered with these activities. In addition, they often have a variety of different budgets funding their programs, from a variety of sources, making it hard to keep straight. This makes new shopper marketing ideas difficult to get off the ground and emerging customer co-marketing opportunities slow to act on. It also creates a maze of touch points shopper marketers must navigate in order to communicate a program plan update, and often results in lack of clarity among field sales on program objectives and go-to-market strategies. A collaborative, online environment can get things done drastically faster and more efficiently, reducing the need for meetings and conference calls, and allowing departments to have 24/7 access to program activity across customers.

2. Lack of Real-Time Data
Shopper marketers rely on Excel, PowerPoint and email to communicate and share data. They must constantly update an array of disconnected spreadsheets and slides, draining productivity and disallowing insights development. Because of this lack of reporting automation, only a fraction of shopper marketing truly gets measured, and shopper marketers are forced to make critical customer decisions based on expired or partial data. In addition, without automated reporting, program performance forecasting is near-impossible, as one cannot change the view or display of the data as needed to answer different questions and drill-down or drill-up as needed. Most significantly however, is shopper marketers inability to measure ROI due to lack of data. Without performance data that can easily be shared and displayed, shopper marketing value cannot be demonstrated and budgets cannot be justified. With real-time data at your fingertips, shopper marketers can better understand the financial and incremental sales lift impact of programs, empowering team members to make confident decisions that support program optimization.

3. Lack of Standardization
Shopper marketing team members often each design their own unique ways to build and share program plans with customers and field sales due to lack of planning standardization. They communicate plan and program creative changes with shopper marketing agency partners via scattered emails, rather than a centralized system all parties can refer to as a common source of truth. This often results in discrepancies and duplicate work, with lack of clarity into program plan status and intent. With a standardized planning process, the guesswork is taken out of the process and all team members must adhere to the same parameters, metrics and language conventions when planning and executing a program.

A shopper marketing program optimization (SMO) system can address these three issues and allow CPGs to capture the full value of their shopper marketing efforts. Even more importantly during a time when CPG sales are in decline, budgets are shrinking, and layoffs are occurring, an SMO system supports corporate waste reduction and cost-cutting initiatives—creating a lean, highly agile shopper marketing machine that requires far less time, resource and overhead dollars to operate.

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