New report: the ‘missing link’ in shopper marketing

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 19th August 2010

Mother shopping with childA new report by consumer research company The Hartman Group investigates the myths of ‘shopper marketing’, a popular marketing strategy aimed at the people who purchase goods, particularly during the actual shopping process.

Shopper marketing is a major factor in food marketing, with large numbers of food consumers having their food purchased for them by others, and many decisions on food purchases being made on impulse, or by comparison in-store.

The new white paper examines three of the industry’s major shopper marketing myths; first, that shopper marketing is a guaranteed way to bring consumer packaged goods (CPG) manufacturers and retailers onto the same page.

“Buried within the phrase ‘shopper marketing’ is a glimmer of hope that fruitful collaboration between retailers and CPG manufacturers finally may be on the horizon,’ says the report.

“Yet, underneath the surface, there is a fundamental, well-known tension occurring at all sales and shopper marketing meetings between retailers and their CPG suppliers, especially in the crowded food category.”

The report also examines another idea: that mothers are the ‘most valuable shoppers’ in the shopper marketing hierarchy. While mothers do the largest share of purchasing, and make large numbers of purchases for other people, they are the least susceptible to impulse purchases, suggests the report.

“Aside from hard-core health and wellness moms, we have found that the majority of moms serve as mere proxies for their household members’ food preferences. They buy exactly what their family members prefer to eat and ensure that they are up to date on these preferences. Not only do they actually enjoy buying what their husbands, children or other relatives want to eat, they have all the social incentive in the world to get this right. It prevents needless fights and squabbles once the grocery bags arrive home, not to mention wasted money.”

Instead, Hartman says that shopper marketing would do better focussing on a more non-traditional, consumer-culture oriented shopper.

“The most likely folks to switch brands, even whole catego­ries, at the last minute are the same folks who are least likely to be involved in extensive pre-planning of their trips, least likely to have well-stocked pantries, the most open to emerg­ing food trends and the most open to challenging notions of the traditional food shopping experience,” the report states.

“These are Millennials living their pre-family existence.”

Finally, the white paper looks at the need for more sophisticated models of shopper behaviour. Rather than just focussing on hard demographics and basic lifestyles, the report suggests that the CPG industry needs to look at the way people actually eat their meals.

The Hartman Group has identified three main types of meal, or ‘occasions’, in their trademarked Culture of Food taxonomy. There are instrumental occasions – food as fuel, savoring occasions – food for the sake of pleasure and enjoyment, and inspirational occasions – an epicentre of trends, an ‘incubator of things to savour in future’.

“Twenty years of ethnography on American food culture has revealed what we call the Culture of Food™—three distinct kinds of eating occasions that food marketers unwittingly sell to all the time. Looking simply at day parts fails to recognize this critical aspect to everyday eating behavior and also fails to make visible, very valuable, profit­able sources of incremental growth.”

By looking at more traditional demographics in conjunction with styles of eating, both retailers and CPG manufacturers can more effectively target shoppers. Someone looking for a late-night snack just to stave off hunger will make different shopping choices to one looking for an edible mood-enhancer before bed.

The Hartman Group white paper, Missing Link Shopper Marketing, is available from the Hartman Group website.