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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.


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