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Shopper marketing is "understanding how one's target consumers behave as shoppers, in different channels and formats, and leveraging this intelligence to the benefit of all stakeholders, defined as brands, consumers, retailers and shoppers."
According to Chris Hoyt "Shopper marketing [is] brand marketing in retail environment." Since it includes category management, displays, sales, packaging, promotion, research and marketing "Shopper marketing is the elephant in the room that nobody sees the same way." ([Shopper Marketing book], Kogan Page 2009)
Shopper marketing is not limited to in-store marketing activities, a common and highly inaccurate assumption that impairs the spread of any industry definition. Shopper marketing must be part of an overall integrated marketing approach that considers the opportunities to drive consumption and identifies the shopper that would need to purchase a brand to enable that consumption. These shoppers need to be understood in terms of how well they interpret the needs of the consumer, what their own needs as a shopper are, where they are likely to shop, in which stores they can be influenced in, and what in-store activity influences them.
Unilever defines a shopper insight, an insight upon which shopper marketing is based - as a "focus on the process that takes place between that first thought the consumer has about purchasing an item, all the way through the selection of that item." -
Shopper marketing challenges the assumption that the shopper and the consumer are the same. Despite the fact that this is not always true (consider the consumer and shopper of pet food for a moment) it is clear that the industry still gets confused.
Shopper marketing is important for many reasons, but it is clearly of importance to manufacturers if for no other reason that they spend vast amounts of money on it, and that these amounts are increasing. Many organizations spend over 8% of total sales on in-store marketing; when total trade spend is added up it can often top 40% of total revenue.
In shopper marketing, manufacturers target portions of their marketing investment at specific retailers or retail environments. Such targeting is dependent on congruency of objectives, targets and strategies between the manufacturer and a given retailer or a given type of retail environment.
A significant factor in the rise of shopper marketing is the availability of high quality data from which insights may be gleaned to help shape strategic plans. According to recent industry studies, manufacturer investment in shopper marketing is growing more than 21% annually.
Procter & Gamble's Walmart/Sam's Club Customer Team and Sam's Club, are considered by many as the original pioneers in true Shopper Marketing in the US. Rhonda Harper, the top marketing officer for Sam's Club at the time, is credited with launching shopper marketing during a 2-day Bentonville strategic planning offsite in May 2001, attended by more than 300 vendor marketing and sales executives. Shopper marketing is also practiced by the leading European companies such as Unilever and Beiersdorf and the discipline is developed further by the likes of Phenomena Group, Europe's first shopper marketing agency.
The following statistics have caused the reapportionment of marketing investment from consumer marketing to shopper marketing. What follows is ultimately very misleading; each brand performs differently based on shopper need states, shopper trip types, retailer formats, brand importance, brand relevance and a host of other factors:
- 70% of brand selections are made at stores
- 68% of buying decisions are unplanned
- 5% are loyal to the brand of one product group
- Practitioners believe that effective shopper marketing is increasingly important to achieve success in the marketplace
Shopper marketing is rooted in consumer marketing and the principles of consumer marketing often apply to shopper marketing. For instance, shopper marketing refers to the marketing stimulus reaching the shopper, which is based on an understanding of the shopper’s buying behavior. Like the traditional marketing mix, shopper marketing can be divided into four P's: product; price; place; and promotion.
- Product: size, shape, color, material, packing, packing messages, and graphics.
- Price: discounts, bundled offers, price communication, and coupons.
- Place: store concept, lighting, shelves, and placing of special presentations.
- Promotion: packing promotions, store promotions, promotion communications, special presentations, in-store TV, floor stickers, as well as advertising on shopping carts and baskets
Buying behavior data
Several different data collection methods provide information on the shopper’s buying behavior of a given brand: observations, intercepts, focus groups, diaries, point-of-sale and other data.
Observations made before entering a store, in the store, and after exiting a store clarify when, what, where, why, who and how shopper behavior occurs.
Issues to be noted consist of, for example: the length of the buying process, the items the shopper noticed, touched, studied, the items the shopper bought, as well as the purchase methods influencing the process. Interviews help uncover motives guiding the buying behaviors. The matters commonly clarified are: the likelihood of product substitution and the identification of substitutes; values and attitudes; desires and motivational factors; as well as lifestyle and life situation. Point-of-sale data provide information on which products were bought, when and for how much (and sometimes by whom when a frequent shopper card can be used).
How other shoppers in a store can influence the shoppers in a target market are also of interest. For example, research by Martin (2012) in a retailing context found that male and female shoppers who were accidentally touched from behind by other shoppers left a store earlier than people who had not been touched and evaluated brands more negatively, resulting in the Accidental Interpersonal Touch effect 
When conducting shopper segmenting, the market is divided into essential and measurable groups, that is, segments on the basis of the buying behaviour data. Shopper segmenting makes it easier to answer the requirements of individual segments. For example, price-sensitive and traditional shoppers clearly differ from one another as far as their buying behaviour is concerned. Segmenting makes it possible to target marketing measures at the most profitable shoppers.
- Martin, Brett A. S. (2012), "A Stranger’s Touch: Effects of Accidental Interpersonal Touch on Consumer Evaluations and Shopping Time", Journal of Consumer Research, 39 (June), 174-184.