The Missing Link Between Shopper Marketing And E-Commerce

Combining the insights of e-commerce and traditional shopper marketing can bolster your brand’s market share, explains columnist Benjamin Spiegel. He walks you through some ways to close the gaps between them.

As much as we all love terms like “breaking down silos” and “omni-channel,” we all know there is a big divide between the online and offline worlds. The reality is that we still have a long way to go in integrating our digital with our offline activities; this is especially true for the shopping realm.

Digital shopping is widely believed to be the future of commerce. If it were up to companies like Amazon, Instacart and Facebook, we would be purchasing all our goods via digital channels.

On the other end of the “channel spectrum,” we have the craft of traditional shopper marketing. Shopper marketing is fueled by insights generated by thousands of hours of real-world observations, receipt scanning and video science; shopper marketing experts use those insights to improve in-store sales and influence consumers’ purchasing behavior by optimizing the shopping experience.

While the data is rather slim compared with e-commerce (in megabytes, not wisdom), it does provide insight into consumers and their experience that e-commerce will never be able to provide. That’s because in e-commerce you can only observe digital activity; shopper marketing, on the other hand, is based on observing actual consumers who are searching for and touching tangible products in a physical space.

The ability to integrate traditional shopper marketing and e-commerce depends heavily on a brand’s resources and collaboration of their agencies. Following are some low-hanging fruit opportunities that MMI Agency (my employer) has identified by looking at our current clients and working closely with their agency teams.

1. Translating Spaces

We recently completed an audit of our client’s physical store locations. One of the key findings is that it takes the shopper awhile to get situated/acclimated, due to the complexity and variety of selection. They literally looked lost upon entering the store.

As a result of this, we moved all of the sales shelves from the entrance of the store towards the rear; by doing so, we reduced the confusion and presented these special offers when the shopper was ready to notice and engage with them. This simple change increased sales on these units by almost 25%.

So how do you take these brick-and-mortar learnings about physical space and apply them to your digital “stores?” Should we avoid pushing specials upon site arrival? Should we wait before offering live chat or a coupon popup?

2. Placement And Bundling

A primary planning activity in shopper marketing is the product’s position and placement inside the store environment. This can be the location on the shelf itself or the location within the store.

Savvy retail marketers understand which aisle is the best for their product and where it should be on the shelf. In e-commerce, most placements are based on algorithms. And while I am a big fan of algorithms, I think they are only as good as the data they are being trained with.

Combining some in-store principles of product placement with digital practices can greatly increase basket size. Think about summer: The moment you enter Walmart, you see a table with charcoal, grills, meats — everything you need for an all-American Fourth of July. However, when I go to Amazon to purchase a grill, I’m offered grill covers and cleaning supplies. Algorithmically, that is correct, as those items often get bought together, but during prime grilling season, you could probably get a better basket size by pushing bundles.

3. Gender Differentiation

Women shop differently from men. This isn’t sexist or gender bias — it’s just a simple fact of shopper marketing. When deciding on merchandise placements, store layout and signage in a retail environment, we always consider the shoppers’ gender and modify the shopping experience to best fit with their needs.

So why don’t we do this in an e-commerce environment? For example, why is the product detail page for a female-focused product laid out the same way as one targeting a male shopper?

4. Avoid Disruptions

In his book, “Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping,” Paco Underhill introduced the concept of the “Butt-brush effect.” Simply put, there are certain moments in the shopping experience where a disruption (like someone in a physical store brushing up against your rear) will disrupt the shopping experience (with the shopper often abandoning his/her browsing), and the retailer often misses out on a sale because of it.

We should find a way to translate these negative disruption moments into the digital space and watch out for “butt-brush zones.” As an example, I was recently looking to purchase a new vehicle, but the live chat popups and specials were so disrupting that as a result, I stopped my purchase journey on that site and moved on.

5. A/B Testing

In e-commerce, we are always testing; nothing is random, and we are continually striving for a better engagement rate, a larger basket size and a higher conversion rate.

And with technological advancements like dynamic consumer segments and real-time A/B testing, we are constantly generating new data and insights. Why aren’t we sharing this data with the shopper marketing teams?

Doing real-time in-store testing is close to impossible. We could easily use digital’s agility and feed better insights to traditional shopper marketing, whether we’re talking about packing, pricing or product claims.

I hope these examples inspire your shopper marketing and e-commerce teams to find ways to close the gaps between them. By using the expertise of each, you’ll improve your brand’s market share by creating a more integrated omni-channel buying experience for your customers.