In the aisle of the beholder:

In February, the NZ Herald quoted associate professor Jonathan Elms, lead researcher of a survey into the issues facing retail in Australasia, as saying: “Despite all the rhetoric around internet and multichannel retailers, most [retailers]are very firm about the importance of having a significant physical presence.” 

This came off the back of the latest retail sales data from Statistics New Zealand, which showed total retail sales for the 2015 quarter were up $921 million or 4.4 percent from the previous year to $21.8 billion.

New Zealand has undergone a gradual, yet drastic change in the way it approaches communicating with shoppers. Not so long ago it was the role of an activation, below-the-line or a promotional agency to either execute a creative idea in-store or deliver a simple sales driving promotion. But over the last four to five years there has been a shift toward an approach that rewards working collaboratively with all stakeholders, including clients, retailers and other agencies to deliver an integrated solution that changes both shopper and consumer behaviour. 

Troy Fuller, managing director of the specialist shopper and retail communications agency Raydar, maintains shopper agencies now need to bring to the table an understanding of the shopper as well as a clear strategy in how to influence them. 

“The shift in New Zealand to more shopper-centric thinking is driven out of necessity,” he says. “Shoppers are more empowered than ever before due in no small part to the exponential rise in online shopping and mobile technology. No longer do shoppers need to settle for what traditional bricks and mortar stores are selling. Shoppers can now buy whatever they want, from wherever they want at whatever time of day they want. Not only is deep discounting not enough to keep shoppers coming back, it also fails to serve all stakeholders equally. You need to partner good value with a positive shopping experience.”

Trend watch

On a recent visit to the States to attend the Path to Purchase Institute Shopper Marketing Conference, the team at Raydar saw a whole new side of retail. Here’s some of the interesting tech trends happening internationally.  

Musical tables 

KFC South Africa has created an immersive sound experience with its tables by using bone conduction to transmit sound from the table through the body to the ears. To hear tunes from unknown local artists, KFC patrons simply had to put their elbows on the table and cup their hands over their ears. 

Sales updates on the fly 

Offermoments delivers personalised ads to shoppers while they are walking along the street. After downloading the app, shoppers are informed about exclusive offers at stores they are physically walking by. 

Pizza and movies 

Pizza Hutt Hong Kong developed a pizza box that came with a movie projector lens that allowed for short films accessed on a mobile to be projected onto a wall. 

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Touch it, feel it 

It’s no secret that Kiwis are becoming more comfortable clicking their way to purchase, with data from BNZ showing that online retail purchases accounted for $3 billion in sales in 2015. However, no matter how many digital screens we slap across the world or how immersive we make our apps, a digital shopping experience can still not deliver something as tangible as walking into a shop. And Anne Hirst, director of promotions agency Phenomenon, sees this as a major advantage for shopper marketers.

“When people reach the store they may have an understanding of what they want to try or buy (they may have researched the options online, looked at peer reviews on social media, and scoped out pricing) but a significant part of the purchase decision is made in-store, when the consumer can actually interact with the physical product and ask the advice of a trained expert,” she says. 

“The face-to-face, tactile experience of being in store can’t be underestimated. Tasting, touching, smelling and holding the product cannot be replicated by any other channels.”

As a whole, shopper marketing draws together the existing disciplines of what used to be called promotions, experiential and digital, and seeks to have them working in a holistic manner, to communicate with the target market. And like their counterparts in other disciplines, shopper marketers are becoming better at using research and data to refine their strategies and deliver more effective solutions for clients. 

BTL director Christine Abbott believes a successful marketing plan needs to integrate shopper marketing early in the brand-planning process with shopper research needing to sit alongside consumer research.

The reason for this is that consumers don’t engage with disparate channels in a vacuum. In fact, Reachmedia general manager of sales Christopher Gin observes, “buyer behaviour continues to evolve, with shopping research and conversion either occurring at a store or online”.

This is not indicative of a battle between the two channels, but rather illustrative of the need to ensure a seamless brand experience that does not leave the shopper disappointed whether they’re perusing in-store or hitting the purchase button online. 

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