expressed in this article are the personal opinion of the author)
shopper marketing will change the way we buy and are sold to.
of environmental psychologist Paco Underhill's famous theories is the
buttbrush. In his book Why We Buy, the man also known as a 'retail
anthropologist' and 'urbanist' explained why women are less likely to splurge
if they are "brushed" by not just unwelcome hands but even by
"We are a posterially-sensitive species, and the more likely we are to be
brushed, the less likely we are to convert from watcher to buyer (in a retail
environment)," wrote Underhill, christened by The San Francisco Chronicle
as the 'Sherlock Holmes for Retailers'.
Underhill wrote his bestselling tome more than a decade ago, but it's still
relevant - particularly in a still-fledgling organized retail sector in a
consumer-driven economy that's India. Drivers of organized retail like Kishore
Biyani of Big Bazaar and Noel Tata of Westside fame have been known to make
discreet visits to their respective retail formats on weekends to observe
consumer behaviour, but organized efforts at picking up nuances in buying
habits and quirks have been few and far between.
Perhaps not any more. Cut to Hindustan Unilever's (HUL)'s newly-opened Consumer
Insight and Innovation Centre (CiiC) in Mumbai, which is shrouded in a veil of
quiet secrecy. This is the nerve centre of the consumer products giant's
efforts to grow sales in collaboration with its retail partners. The
state-of-the-art centre houses a virtual reality lab that is capable of a 3D
simulation of a retail environment. It also has a modular retail lab that
replicates both traditional and modern trade milieus in a bid to gain insights
on what shoppers buy.
Come July a global chocolate brand - supposedly inspired by the triangular
shape of the Matterhorn in the Swiss Alps - is planning an India launch with a pure-play shopper communication initiative. There won't be the usual
print or TV campaign - not, at least, in the launch phase - just brand
communication and availability at the final point of reckoning, the retail
eastern India, on three busy streets of Kolkata, a leading cola brand has
embarked on a pilot project to step up consumption amongst street food buffs.
With plenty of help from a shopper marketing initiative, the beverage marketer
has hit upon the insight that Kolkatans are eager to wash down the snacks and
meals - often spicy, and on warm afternoons - with a chilled drink. A few
street food clusters have been identified, branded and are being supplied with
the beverage brand in returnable glass bottles.
Welcome to the little-known and intriguing world of shopper marketing that is
promising to come of age in India in tandem with organized retail. A number of
brands as well as the bigger communication groups are looking at beefing up
their presence in this fast growing vertical. While OgilvyAction and Saatchi
& Saatchi X have been around for a while, there have been a spate of new
specialist brand launches that include Tracy Locke (part of the DDB Mudra
group) and Integer (with TBWA).
People in the know say that by end of the year, the shopper marketing space is
going to be even more crowded with more global players setting up shop in India. And those already in are beefing up their presence. Says Ranjan Kapur, chairman,
Bates India and country head, WPP India: "The out-of-home business in
general has been growing at over 35%. Shopper marketing and activation are
relatively new revenue growth opportunities and we expect them to account for
almost 30% of all out-of-home spends in the next three years."
Shiv Sethuraman, CEO, TBWA\ India Group: "Many client organisations are
well versed in dealing with traditional retail but modern retail brings with it
a new set of opportunities and challenges - clients will need all the expert
help they can get."
In developed markets, shopper marketing is as mature as organized retail
formats are. Shares Amit Ajwani, managing director - India, Saatchi &
Saatchi X: "A separate budget exists for shopper marketing in these
markets. Companies like Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Diageo, PepsiCo and
Coca-Cola have a customer marketing division globally - and now in India as well."
In India, shopper marketing started as an extension of consumer marketing but,
over the years, the industry is realizing that this calls for some entirely new
capabilities related to understanding the shopper. Avers Suyash Chauhan,
general manager - customer marketing, HUL: "That includes understanding
the shopper's path to purchase and how different shopper types behave
differently in different retail environments."
marketing adds one more arrow to the quiver of conventional marketing. While
television and print advertising initiates the marketing loop by making
consumers aware of products and brands relevant to them, shopper marketing
tries to close that loop. Says Rahul Saigal, vice president - retail,
OgilvyAction: "Advertising makes a promise to consumers. Shopper marketing
delivers that promise at the critical point of purchase. It takes the brand
from a consumer's consideration set into the shopper's basket."
itself, shopper marketing with random in-store activity can do little. Says
Mark Ashman, CEO, Hypercity Retail: "Shopper marketing is not limited to
in-store marketing, a common and highly inaccurate assumption that impairs the
spread of any industry definition." Rather it has to be a part of an
overall integrated marketing approach that considers the opportunities to drive
consumption and then goes on to identify the relevant shopper. Like the example
of the beverage brand reaching out to a new consumer base in certain street
clusters of Kolkata.
For now, most brands are building a foundational understanding of shopper
behaviour, feels Rima Gupta, executive director, TNS India; the first step
towards gathering insights is to understand the path to purchase. In this
process, says Piyush Kumar Sinha, professor in retailing and marketing and
chairperson, centre for retailing, IIM-A, "Retail stores would have to be
used as laboratories for testing and experimenting with new ideas." This
helps to design strategies to meet shopper needs in terms of convenience and to
assist them in making choices.
Marketers recognise the benefits of shopper marketing. Says Shalin Desai, group
product manager, Parle Products: "Shopper marketing has definitely helped
us in getting better brand visibility in new/large format shops. Promoters help
to stack the product better and make it more presentable, so these branding
communication activities help us to talk to the right target audience at the
right time and right place."
For brands, shopper marketing has become an imperative in a crowded and
competitive market place. As Manita Khuller, the UK-based global strategy
development director of OgilvyAction says: "New-age shoppers, who make
channel, retailer and brand choices along the shopper journey, are savvier;
this makes it more and more difficult to be the brand that ends up in the
This article was
originally published in the Economic Times dated 6th June, 2012,
written by Amit Bapna, associated with the Economic Times Bureau.
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