What's In A Name? In the Case of Shopper Marketing, Perhaps A Lot

November 29, 2018

By Paul P. Robinson

Malte Mueller/Getty Images

While it's hard to argue with Shakespeare, that a rose would smell as sweet if we called it anything else, we can also agree with what President Barack Obama once said: "Words matter." In the case of shopper marketing, I would argue its name really does matter in today's environment — perhaps more than ever.

The term "shopper marketing" gained widespread adoption in the early 2000s in a world where consumers and shoppers could easily be differentiated and shopping occurred largely at retail. Throughout the years, we've heard from marketers everywhere that if you ask 10 industry professionals to define shopper marketing, you'll get 10 different definitions. For the most part, marketers have used some variation of the definition found in the ANA's Shopper Marketing Playbook: "Shopper marketing is all about the partnership between the manufacturers that produce the brands people consume, and the retailers that sell these products to shoppers in their stores."

Regardless of definition, the history of the term stems from its use among CPG firms and traditional retailers before brick-and-mortar had begun to yield significant ground to clicks, add-to-cart, or any other form of purchase, and the retailer still owned the relationship with shoppers. One prevailing concept that remains unchanged is the idea that capturing revenue from those considering your product is universal.

With all that has changed since the discipline emerged — in marketing, distribution channels, payment options, and more — the name deserves another look. At the end of the day, in almost any industry, it's all about brand/product, retail/channel, and shopper/consumer. However, with seismic shifts to the ways exchange products and services are exchanged, we need to reexamine how we describe this process to best reflect these changes and to extract the maximum organizational impact and value.

The goal is to drive growth via retail, e-commerce, m-commerce, direct-to-consumer, or any method of commerce, regardless of whether your business is shoes, banking, gasoline, mattresses, fitness-as-a-service, or staplers.

In looking across the landscape, we see a number of organizations and agencies have begun to adopt similar thinking. For example, John Kiker, SVP and director of client leadership and business development of The Integer Group, recently commented, "Branding ourselves as a commerce agency put a finer point on the role we've played for our clients over many years. We sit with our clients in closest proximity to the sale, and our job is to create experiences that accelerate transaction. With the multitude of new physical and virtual places and spaces available for brands to create commerce experiences, it was natural for us to widen our aperture from a shopper marketing agency to a commerce agency." The Integer Group is not alone. Just last month, Publicis and P&G announced a new unit in Cincinnati called PG One Commerce dedicated to shopper, digital, data, retail, e-commerce, and more.

The term "shopper marketing" has always been heavily associated with retail or the CPG world. But it doesn't need to be. From its widespread acceptance, its roots have grown significantly, and the principles of the discipline are now well-developed in all verticals and business segments. But the age-old terminology has left a gap in the shared learnings across industries. We are confident that by breaking down that artificial barrier, we will all — as marketing professionals — benefit.

To best address where we are today and to maximize the discipline's relevance across all industries, we've decided to reframe our conversation around shopper marketing. Moving forward, the ANA has decided to re-name its Shopper Marketing Committee the Shopper/Commerce Marketing Committee.

This committee focuses on the blending of consumer and shopper insights, driving growth via retail, e-commerce, m-commerce, direct-to-consumer, and other methods of commerce brands adopt. With this expanded scope, our goal is to engage members in ANY industry.

Paul P. Robinson (@pprobinson) is the director of commerce and content marketing at the ANA. To learn more about the ANA's Shopper/Commerce Marketing Committee, reach out to him at probinson@ana.net.

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