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10 Rookie Shopper Marketer Mistakes - Part 1

Rookie Shopper Marketers' Mistakes Part 1

One of our most popular blog articles last year was “10 Rookie Shopper Marketer’s Must Dos.” The practical tools and strategies we talked about continue to be reflective of the growth of shopper marketing around the globe, and across all CPG sectors. If you’ve already completed your initial on-boarding (and are no longer drinking from a firehose), check out this list of some typical mistakes shopper marketers make. It is a compilation of testimonials, or “stories from the trenches” we collected over the years from seasoned shopper marketing executives. These folk have been around the block and dealt with the frustration and embarrassment of not getting it right on the first try.  Their real identities have been hidden for their own protection (but there’s no judgment here! We’ve all been a rookie).


1. Running a shopper marketing function from HQ

“Due to a prolonged hiring freeze, we were unable to establish a field-based shopper marketing team, and for the longest time, it was just me and my manager running the shopper organization out of headquarters. Both of us had small kids and were unable to travel full time, so we tried to manage the business via conference calls and occasional in-market visits. That didn’t work out too well. We were always extremely busy, but I never felt we were the experts in our retail customers’ marketing strategies because our customer relationships were weak. Brand teams viewed us as a bottleneck and eventually learned to bypass us and go straight to Sales to discuss strategy. It was a tough situation for a while, but things turned around once we expanded the team and developed deep customer expertise by having ‘feet on the ground’.”


2. Believing any agency can do shopper marketing

“We had this awesome digital agency our brand team loved and highly recommended. When we announced our shopper marketing agency pitch competition, we included them into the process. We could sense that they lacked shopper marketing expertise, but we believed we could learn together plus they already knew our brands so well and they had a great relationship with our brand team. After giving them a chance, we quickly realized that the retail world is a completely different story from a digital marketing world. Things are messier, less driven by the data and more by the relationships. Our sales teams were frustrated that they had to teach us — and our agency —  basic stuff about how retail worked, and that the ideas the agency proposed could never be executed at many of the retail customers’ stores. We wished that our new SM team had a more seasoned shopper marketing agency partner.”


3. Not investing in shopper insights capability

“For the first couple of years of doing shopper marketing, we were treading the waters and could not figure out a way to elevate our relationship from a transactional to a strategic one because it was hard for us to differentiate from other CPGs. All we brought to the retailer’s table was some money and a product portfolio. It was getting harder by the day to impress retailers even with data since they have access to their own, robust data sets. At some point, we realized that to make our retail partners pay attention, we had to show them something they didn’t already know. So, we commissioned ethnographic studies that went deep into aspirations and attitudes around meal preparation and helped us come up with a new shopper marketing framework for how meal planning and shopping for food feeds into family dynamic. That research revealed what problems shoppers faced when deciding on, shopping for and preparing family meals, how retailers could help and what messaging would resonate with them. This research was a hit with retailers, it fuelled multiple top-to-top conversations and numerous retail executions because insight like this cannot be gleaned from the point-of-sale data alone.”


4. Developing cookie-cutter campaigns for all key accounts

“I come from Consumer Promotions background. In my early shopper marketing days, I came up with this awesome tailgating promotion I thought would be a massive success because it was grounded in shopper insights, supported by a multi-touchpoint national campaign, had awesome recipe content and was packaged in a glorious selling deck. What else would a sales team need to make it happen? Well, what I learned is that the timing of my proposed campaign conflicted with the retailers’ promotional themes at our two top accounts. The featured products in all of my key visuals had less than 60% distribution in three out of top five accounts, making the digital assets and recipes we prepared useless. We spent a lot of time reworking and re-packaging the program and ended up being late to present to several retail accounts that had longer sell-in lead times. This experience taught me to get my field teams involved in initial planning conversations and not to “fully bake” the ideas until they are presented for retail customer input. That means starting planning waaay earlier.”


5. Taking on too much

“Early in my career, I tried to please everyone. I wouldn’t even push back when a tiny brand wanted me to develop detailed shopper marketing plan or non-priority customer teams called for help with executing their tactical programs. Our team ended up being seen  as a “catch-all” for all the extra marketing work at anyone needed to do, so we were assigned digital & social media, content creation and e-commerce capabilities... all vastly different disciplines that required specialized skill sets. Our team was too small and over-extended. We didn’t accomplish any major breakthroughs in either of these areas until we learned how to prioritize and cut back on the number of people we needed to please. Determining and sticking to our top 5 key accounts and top 3 priority brands made a world of difference and helped us achieve some serious wins.”

What were some of your rookie shopper marketing mistakes? Share in the comments below and stay tuned for Part 2 that will be published next week!





After more than 15 years in Consumer Packaged Goods industry, I became a software entrepreneur. Today, I design and sell Shopperations, a web-based, collaborative planning software for Marketers on both CPG and Retail sides, to enable transparency, accountability and stronger Shopper Marketing promotional analytics. I am passionate about all things Retail and Shopper Marketing, love reading about Neuroscience progress as it relates to shopper research, and care about process improvement and marketing automation technology.
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