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Why brand and shopper marketing must connect

In recent months, we’ve been asked one question more than any other by the clients we work with – what should my marketing look like in a 'post-Covid world'?

The past year has led to some huge shifts in the way brands have advertised; moving spend rapidly to e-commerce and digital channels, making last-minute-only media buys and working in a cycle of continual contingency and scenario planning.

But if there was one step we would ask brands to take this year, it would be to implore them to better connect their brand and shopper/trade marketing.

To best see the importance of this, we need to consider what shopping is like now. To make a purchase, shoppers now bounce across a huge spectrum of online and physical touchpoints before they get to the point of adding something to their basket. And more than that, they are frequently engaged with multiple touchpoints at the same time.

We rarely shop within a singular channel or move linearly (or even predictably) between channels, one step at a time. We can switch modes almost instantly – one minute we’re browsing updates on Instagram, the next a scroll and a click has driven us to a site to buy.

Even in FMCG, a category which involves predominantly low-involvement, impulsive purchases, the journey to buy can still be unpredictable and complex. Shopper decision-making in FMCG happens at pace and often unconsciously. And whilst in reality shoppers are unlikely to research food and drink purchases on the internet before buying, it is pretty likely that a shopper will have seen a 'prompt' online and then go on to purchase offline, or notice a message offline and later purchase online. The reality is that if you’re not present and visible at the moment of deliberation, you’ll lose share of preference.

Coupled with this, the retail landscape is increasingly complex. The physical store still has a massive role to play. Although media headlines (and indeed many agencies) still refer to the ‘death of the store’, the latest Kantar data shows that 87% of sales took place in a bricks and mortar store in 2020. But we also know that digital retail is in massive growth, a trend that has been accelerated dramatically by the Covid pandemic.

So, in many categories (including FMCG), whilst the majority of purchases are still made offline, the information and media that inform those purchases are increasingly online. The big implication for brands is the need to create structures & processes that allow for the better connection of these two worlds.

The brands that get this right will be using multiple channels to achieve this connection, combining the likes of programmatic, voice, search and video with traditional shopper marketing channels (such as secondary space and POS). These brands will not only positively influence the effectiveness of their shopper marketing budgets, but also make their brand marketing spend more efficient overall.

It’s my hope that this year we will able to move on from the traditional delineations of brand and shopper (or ATL and BTL), which seem almost meaningless today. We are certainly no longer in a position to separate the digital and bricks & mortar worlds. 2021 is the year we need to rethink the shopper journey and organise our marketing efforts around it.


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