<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=729135073960064&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">

Fire Prevention: Annual Planning in Times of Uncertainty

Fire Prevention_ Annual Planning

It is getting to be that time of the year again. Shopper marketers can hear the whispers. Even those working remotely can feel the heaviness in the air on their team calls. 

It’s fire drill season, a.k.a. ANNUAL PLANNING.These kinds of fire drills are the predictable kind. 

They happen the same time each year when there is a sudden sense of urgency to collect data to report on what we did, what we spent, what happened, and where we should go from here.



More than likely, this year the annual planning will be much more stressful with COVID-19 causing program cancellations, dramatic shifts in buyer behavior and an imbalance in the supply chain. (See “Facing a Shopper Marketing Shutdown” from Path-to-Purchase IQ). 

These causes of uncertainty are raising questions that will impact your 2021 planning:

  1. Shift to Online away from In-store activity drives the marketing mix changes.
    • Who are the best digital vendors for my company? 
    • What capabilities and media tactics should we be investing in? 
    • Looking for the digital vendor right for you? Check out Vedorstan - the first and only vendor discovery platform.
  2. Your best retail partner this year may not be your best partner in 2021
    • Which retailers were best prepared for today’s disruption?
    • Which partners have communicated preparations for 2021?
  3. Nobody knows how long the “new normal” will last. 
    • Will COVID-19 impact fade in 2021?
    • Will shoppers resume their pre-COVID behaviors?
  4. Your team may look different
    • What organizational changes occurred due to COVID?
    • How might additional restructuring or hiring impact planning?
  5. Supply chain disruptions caused CPGs to refocus on “core” items at the expense of launching new line extensions or brands. 
    • What is the opportunity cost of this decision?
    • What is the contingency plan in case the economy fully reopens? Or doesn’t?
  6. Historical ROI/MMA models are now useless. 
    • How do we account for sales that drastically spiked or declined during COVID?
    • How do we measure the dwarfed impact of marketing activities? 
    • What new ways should we look at results?

This will put greater pressure on 2021 planning to predict which of these changes are temporary reactions to the current environment and which are more permanent shifts. 

Whereas in the past shopper marketers were able to simply annualize their prior year activities by assuming that retailers will do ‘more of the same’, this year the assumption will likely be challenged. 

Previously, in-store activities accounted for a significant portion of the industry’s shopper marketing spend. Next year, we all know, will be the year of e-commerce and digital marketing. Marketers are scrambling to figure out what the new world will look like and doing their best not to let these fire drills turn into all out fires for their companies.



Despite the uncertainty, companies are not hitting pause on their shopper marketing plans for 2021. In fact, given the potential for continuous market changes and a stronger emphasis on mastering e-commerce, we can expect more questions and more fire drills than ever before.

The bottom line is that shopper marketers cannot wait to “figure it out”, but must approach 2021 planning more proactively than ever before. 

There is opportunity ahead if we can overcome the communications, operations and analytical barriers common with past shopper marketing practices.

  1. Coordinate and collaborate
    We will see a shift from coordination (getting everyone on the same page) to collaboration (working together to achieve a result).

    Today, coordination during planning simply takes too long. This causes disconnected communication and the scrambling that we see when it is time to plan.

    As we shift to collaboration, the ability to centralize communications about budget, strategy, tactic, objective between shopper marketing, finance, sales, retailers, and agencies will demand the collaborative platform needed to plan with aligned expectations and cross-functional transparency.

  2. Plan for change
    We’ve already agreed that this year’s planning cycle will receive more questions than past years. In 2020, we have seen retailers putting constraints on promotional messaging and brands pulling digital spending reacting to non-economic indicators.

    Combine this with projections of economic problems on the horizon and you have a recipe for plans to change quickly. Shopper marketing teams not only need to have the ability to navigate these changes as they surface, but need to demonstrate the foresight to consider and prepare for these new realities in their annual plans.

  3. Bring the art and science together
    Typically, fire drills happen with planning because there is a need to prove contribution and return to justify investment. Today, this is amplified more by unknown factors.

    For example, if you are a brand who has seen lift in your sales due to “panic buying” from consumers without additional trade or shopper marketing investment, how long can you count on this? How will this pantry loading impact future sales?

    While there are no certainties to answer these questions, shopper marketers need to be prepared to use analytics to create the narrative that demonstrates you have considered these problems and include them in your 2021 plans.

  4. Extend your team’s capabilities and partners

    Your team might look different, but to create new opportunities within the uncertainty will require your team to think and act differently too. According to a LinkedIn Post from MarTech evangelist Scott Brinker, CMOs have been upskilling during the COVID-19 pandemic most frequently in the areas of marketing and digital technology platforms, ways of working (processes) and analytics.

    The conclusion? CPG marketing leaders are going to expect new data-driven ideas to be executed with greater efficiency and accountability.

    One place to start extending your capabilities and partners is with Vendorstan - the first and only vendor discovery platform.


With a real fire drill, success is measured in how quickly you can get everyone out of the building. If it works, it is safe to say that the process is simple and repeatable. 

This year’s planning is preparing for the possibility of a fire. As a result, to get to the desired outcome, you need to make processes simple and repeatable.

In over words, because the world is not simple, your shopper marketing planning and analytics processes need to be. By adopting a shopper marketing platform like Shopperations that simplifies, automates and centralizes the key elements of the shopper marketing planning and post-program analytics, we can eliminate the common obstacles of annual planning and focus on building a plan for today’s realities.

Other Posts You May Like:


7 People Every Shopper Marketing Team Needs

"Tinder" For CPG Marketers and Vendors


Riviana Case Study COVID-19 Shopper Marketing response



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.
Vendorstan - Find a perfect tactic or vendor to activate your brand
Vendorstan - Find a perfect tactic or vendor to activate your brand

Popular Posts

5 Ways ChatGPT Helps Shopper Marketers

Posted on March 17,2023

Subscribe to Email Updates