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Erickson Research Blog

All posts by Jennifer Morales Keller

Connecting with Shoppers “Local Style”

Recently, I attended the Shopper Marketing Expo in Chicago. If you’ve never been, make a note to sign up for next year’s event.  The folks at the Path to Purchase Institute continue to outdo themselves every year.  It’s the one conference I know will offer a great mix of retailers and manufacturers in attendance and informative sessions with relevant content in the shopper marketing space.  Trust me, Peter Hoyt did not pay me to say this…I’m just a big fan of the Institute and what it stands for.

While at the conference, there was certainly an underlying theme, across the board — localization.  In a world of many retailers and billions of SKUs – and not all of us being Apple or Costco — everyone is vying for the attention of shoppers.  So, how do you create shopping engagements that are relevant and create loyalty?  The best opportunities lie in those retailers that are frequented at least once per week.

So let’s think about that.  Which establishments are frequented one per week..or more?  Not Apple – that’s a destination place.  I’m talking about drug stores, coffee shops, banks/ATMs, hardware stores, and convenience stores – places that are part of consumers’ weekly, or sometimes daily, routine.

Further to this point, a standout speaker at the conference, Joseph Magnacca (President of Daily Living Products & Solutions at Walgreens) discussed “differentiation through mass localization.” Walgreens has been quite successful with this model, particularly in Chicago.

Magnacca compared two very different stores –two miles apart — on State Street in Chicago.  The downtown location caters to business people, students, tourists, and residents of the area looking for quick, ready-to-eat meals like fresh sushi.  They also offer a large wine selection and a nail bar– great for express, lunch time manicures.  In contrast, the South side location serves a food desert, offering grocery items, everyday necessities and a very active pharmacy that acts as a primary healthcare source to many residents.

The folks at Vestcom spoke about “precision retailing, no more mass retailing” while Catapult captured the manufacturer’s perspective — focusing on smaller retailers to “experiment with” before going to the large mass retailers.

Bottom line… one size does not fit all.  Yet many retailers continue to implement mass planograms, regardless of neighborhood diversity and varying shopper needs.

I recently witnessed what I deem  a  “lost opportunity” at City Target in downtown Chicago (incidentally, located just two blocks south of the Walgreens I mentioned earlier).  Target’s marketing and PR inundated Chicago in anticipation of opening a City store in the historic, long-time vacated, Louis Sullivan designed, Carson Pirie Scott building.

As I walked through the ornate, cast-iron rounded, main entrance, the first thing I saw was the athletic apparel section.  I might as well have entered through the back entrance of the store.  It was a very underwhelming discovery.  It appeared that Target had just inserted their standard planogram into this fabulous space.  They took the time and money to restore the beautiful facade, but did not take the same care to elevate the shopper experience inside to meet the expectations of that same sushi-loving, express manicure seeking shopper that frequents the nearby Walgreens.

So, with great learnings like those shared at the shopper conference, how do you effectively approach new market opportunities?

By understanding who shoppers really are in a given market — possibly down to their neighborhood dynamics.  Also, by finding out what excites them, what frustrates them, and what they currently buy.

Answering these questions provides an opportunity to more effectively create relevant shopper experiences. Giving shoppers what they truly need or want, at a place that’s convenient — where they live, work or play.


Are you winning in the Game of Shelf?

For the past 5 years, every shopper marketing conference I’ve attended has referenced this image at least once.  And it continues to be used, with good reason — many manufacturers are still struggling to stand out.

When I do witness brands becoming more strategically visible at the shelf, I’m curious to see the effect on the shopper experience.  Is it a ‘wow’ result?  And more importantly…is that a good wow or a bad wow?

I also enjoy discovering category — or even cross-category — ‘copycats’ using similar eye-catching tactics to get noticed.

Here are some examples I’ve come across recently where retailers and manufacturers really seem to have the shopper in mind.


Safeway launches occasion-focused wines

Safeway collaborated with winemaker Truett-Hurst to offer 12 wines positioned by buyer occasions/events  (versus grape or region). This idea came from a deeper understanding of how Safeway shoppers buy wine.

To further enhance the shopper experience, these wines are sold with unique and vibrant packaging — essentially creating a ‘gift-ready’ purchase.

My kudos for —  identifying consumer ‘need states’ and truly addressing them.  Also for relieving the burden of occasion-shopping and even making it fun for the shopper.


Goshen’s packaging gets an attitude adjustment

A modern adaptation of cultural icon, “Rosie the Riveter” gave this Fair Trade coffeemaker’s package an eye-catching makeover.  The result…Goshen conveys a bolder, more creative image that really pops among nondescript coffeebean packages of the St. Louis market.

My kudos for — cleverly bringing brand personality to the shelf.  


Rahal shows that even eggs can have shelf impact

Farmer Michael Rahal’s eggs are packaged in a bright blue carton and topped with a nostalgic-themed, 100% recycled wrapper.  This package not only stands out in Tennessee-area stores, it also shares the story behind Rahal’s eggs and conveys his distinctive commitment to quality and attention to detail.  

My kudos for — giving uniqueness and flair to a commodity and emotionally connecting with consumers — i.e. sharing a brand’s story, right at the shelf.  


These are just a few of many great examples.  Can you think of some others? (Feel free to post them in the comments section below)

Some final thoughts for the next time you’re pondering how your brand can stand apart at the shelf…

…particularly if package design is part of the solution

…be sure to keep these four things in mind

  • Think about your shoppers differently than you have in the past
  • Make sure your brand personality is present
  • Don’t be afraid to try something new – shoppers are more open than ever to this
  • Stay true to your brand truths and communicate them confidently and sincerely – shoppers can see through the fake stuff

p.s. I can’t wait to see what’s new at the Shopper Marketing Expo in Chicago (October 16th to 18th).  I’ll be make sure to post a follow-up just after the conference.


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