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Shopper marketing: What’s happening in digital?

hand working on a digital tabletIn our last article reviewing shopper marketing activations we mentioned that the top five most frequently used techniques and touchpoints are still the traditional ones, point of sale, off location displays, catalogues, sampling and demonstrations, and websites.

In this article, we’re going to look further at what our Shopper Marketing Industry Survey participants told us is and isn’t happening in the digital space as it relates to shopper marketing practice.

Since the last Shopper Marketing Industry Survey in 2011, there has been a small increase in the industry’s usage of various types of digital touchpoints, and the touchpoints employed most frequently including, websites, social media, and email offers are traditional in digital terms.

There are some differences between digital touchpoints employed by retailers and those employed by manufacturers, as Fig 1 below demonstrates. Activities in bold italics are areas of particular over index.

Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 9.10.59 AM

As more manufacturers start to sell direct we would expect the nature of the digital techniques employed will gradually shift toward transaction-based, more reflective of the retailers. Retailers appear to be missing a trick with social media.

Penetration of digital touchpoint use drops to below 25 per cent of participants past the top five. Only nine per cent of survey participants were using augmented or virtual reality and none of these were retailers.

Given the use of augmented reality by retailers in other markets, equal to or more so than manufacturers and particularly for linking to online catalogues, this feels like an area of real opportunity.

In the Australian market there are isolated examples of augmented reality use – the Ikea catalogue comes to mind – but they are few and far between.We would expect that as Near Field Communication (NFC) technology rolls out that the use of location-based apps will increase.

In the UK, Tesco, for instance, in October 2014 announced the rollout of iBeacon in its stores in order to ‘push’ relevant promotions to shoppers instore.

A recent GfK study into mobile shopping behaviour (February 2015) indicated 13 per cent of Australian shoppers are using their mobile phones instore to scan QR and other codes for information, but this percentage can only ever be as high as the number of value add codes actually activated.

A surprisingly high one in seven survey participants were using no digital touchpoints to activate shopper marketing programs. Of those employing digital touchpoints in their shopper marketing programs, their use is not constant.

Forty seven per cent of the total sample said they use digital, social, and mobile elements in their shopper marketing campaigns more than half the time, but 15 per cent of retailers said they never use them.

In 2011, the forecast impact of digital/mobile marketing on shopper marketing was that 73 per cent said “lots/huge”, but we haven’t seen this play out in what is activated digitally.

Given the high penetrations of smartphones and tablets in Australia, according to GfK Futurebuy 2014, among 18+ year olds 71 per cent for smartphones and 43 per cent for tablets, and their increasing use for shopping, mobile is one of the larger activation opportunities for shopper marketers.

There is industry recognition that digital and mobile are shifting the balance of power away from retailers and manufacturers and toward shoppers. Despite recognition of the importance of digital in shopping by two thirds of our sample, nearly half of survey participants said they lacked the resources, specialist expertise and strategic capability to capitalise on it.

Only half think they are prepared for the impact of digital on shopping, and more than half think the industry lacks best practice.

The key area of concern is around resourcing. Two thirds of retailers and nearly half of manufacturers don’t have dedicated digital/mobile functions in their organisation, and where there is digital it sits in marketing and is employed more often for branding purposes such as social media, and not necessarily integrated into shopper.

Digital is really a set of marketing tools that should reflect skills rather than individual roles or people. There is therefore an opportunity to build and embed these digital skills effectively to an industry standard for use in shopper, irrespective of job title.

To market to shoppers effectively now requires a holistic pre-shop,during shop,post-shop approach to marketing, irrespective of the shopper’s location out of store or instore. This necessitates a comprehensive understanding of the total path to purchase, and all the various touchpoints and effective tools, including digital, that can be used across it.

The industry’s slow take up of digital touchpoints for shopper marketing programs lags shoppers’ omni-channel behaviour and use of mobile devices for shopping, and is one of the bigger areas of opportunity for the future of shopper marketing.

Next week we’ll look at where the industry sees the future of shopper marketing, and what is required to get there.

The Unrealised Potential of Shopper Marketing Popai/GfK industry benchmark report is available from Popai for members for $395 and non-members for $995. More information

Norrelle Goldring  is head of shopper experience and retail performance at global retail research house GfK. Norrelle can be contacted on 0437 335 686 or email

Lee McClymont is GM of Popai Australia and New Zealand and has 15+ years’ industry experience in specialty retail, agency, and brand. Lee can be contacted on 0414 941 585 or email

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