Shopper Marketing Coming To A Produce Department Near You

By Bill Bishop, Chief Architect, Brick Meets Click, & Founder, Willard Bishop LLC

Big consumer goods companies such as Procter & Gamble and General Mills pioneered the use of shopper marketing by translating their understanding of what catches customers’ attention into programs to get them to buy. These manufacturers have used shopper marketing to help retailers sell more product and, at the same time, improve the shopper experience. There are now signs that shopper marketing is coming to produce and, at least for early adopters, this could create some significant competitive advantage.

Shopper marketing has proven to be effective in-store and is now being extended to digital. Today, for example, with most shoppers carrying a cell phone and shopper marketing is driven promotional texts are being used to cost-effectively alert customers to special promotions, there’s a good chance that within the next year or two shoppers will actually be getting their personal circular via text.

To better understand where shopper marketing is going, Brick Meets Click completed some research last fall looking at what’s next. From the study results and other work recently done, it’s clear that shopper marketing is no longer limited to consumer packaged goods suppliers and is already being used in perishables. For example, Cargill recently introduced a website to help improve shopper experience buying and using ground beef, which shows that even suppliers of unbranded perishable products are now using digital shopper marketing. This is just one of the reasons we expect to see shopper marketing used more in produce.

There’s a lot to shopper marketing, but one aspect with application to produce is solution-selling, and this is a tool that’s gaining traction.

Shopper marketing practitioners are using solutions to increase collaboration with retailers and to drive higher sales. Over two-thirds (68 percent) of those surveyed agreed that solutions are getting more focus and that this tactic is producing significant benefits including:

  • Producing measurable sales increases.
  • Strengthening the relationship between supplier and retail customers.

While shopper solutions can take more effort to develop and execute, compared to traditional merchandising, these solutions also tend to create greater value so they represent a good investment.

Proof Of Concept

The power of shopper marketing solutions in produce can be seen in a test that showed strong sales increases by selling berries and yogurt/cheese together.

We conducted this study, Dairy Meal Solutions, Merchandising Works with the Retail Advisory Board of The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy. The study was carried out in the stores of five retailers: Brookshire’s, K-VA-T, Roche Bros., Save Mart, and Weis Markets. It was designed to develop and test different meal solutions, including one for snacking.

The motivation for the snacking solution came from the realization that healthy snacking is very popular; i.e., 51 percent of snack occasions involved nutritious snacks such as fruit, nuts, and yogurt.  This selling solution was called Perfect Pairings. It was executed on-shelf in the produce department and gave shoppers “new ideas, new tastes, and new twists on old favorite snacks.”  The Perfect Pairings solution combined different types of berries with yogurt and snack cheeses.  The sales increases from this snacking solution were the highest of any of those tested.

Next Steps

Shopper marketing will not be for all produce suppliers, but for those who want to learn more so they can decide if it can help them grow the sales of their product, here are three things to do:

1. Look at the “dairy meal solutions study” report.  It’s available at www.usdairy. com/retailers under the Meal Solution Merchandising tab on the left.  While the focus is mainly on dairy, it provides detailed examples and shows where and how there is an opportunity for produce.

2. Think through what things you have learned about why shoppers are buying your product and then see if there is an insight that can be used to build a shopper marketing solution or themed message.

3. Approach a retailer who already does a good job supporting and selling your product and offer to work together to create a shopper marketing solution or themed message that can be tested. As you move forward, be sure that the plan supports the retailer’s marketing strategy while selling more of your products.

Shopper marketing won’t be a replacement for “good ole” mass merchandising, but it will be a way to drive additional sales and increase consumption by better meeting shopper needs.