Is a consumer’s product selection pre-determined before they enter a store, based on the online and mobile decision support offered via the web and social media, or does the in-store experience ultimately influence how a consumer chooses?
ZMOT, or Zero Moment of Truth, posits the former. It’s a very progressive view put forth by Google that lays out a state of consumer behavior that makes the store almost irrelevant when it comes to influence. Walmart and P&G recently partnered in a way that sort of illustrates the point, selling P&G products directly and instantly via a QR code/mobile program in New York City.
On the other hand, Shopper Marketing, a form of trade partner marketing, is gaining a lot of attention and funding lately for a variety of reasons – but fundamentally it comes down to the fact there are very real ways of influencing product selection in the store, at the shelf, that goes beyond discounting and couponing. Even without evidence, it sounds like a much better investment than continuing to fund "pay to play” trade relationships based on discounting.
This recent article about Unilever Canada’s Shopper Marketing efforts reports 76 percent of purchasing decisions are made in the isle. I’ve read others say "shopper marketers” are the new rockstars in their organizations due to just how critical these efforts are.
You might say the debate completely depends on whether we’re talking about fast moving consumer goods like soft drinks and other packaged goods, versus health/beauty and apparel. Some consumer goods are simply more considered purchases that lend themselves to greater use of convenient mobile and online channels to research, browse, locate and buy.
There seems to be a distinction being made between ZMOT and Shopper Marketing, when in fact they are really one in the same, in terms of understanding the consumer’s path to purchase and aligning marketing and trade spend accordingly to drive sales, volume and category growth. The article about Unilever Canada illustrates the distinction by way of budget prioritization:
"In a dramatic shift, consumer-products giant Unilever Canada Inc. will soon move almost all its marketing spending for its Knorr products – about $5-million annually – to in-store initiatives such as displays, signs, samplings and chef appearances while ditching television, radio, digital and other media ads.”
Whether a considered purchase-type product or not, the simple fact is that direct to consumer sales of all consumer goods promises to accelerate in coming years. Those positioned best to take advantage of this behavior stand to outlive those that don’t. You can be certain "best in class” consumer goods makers will take a path to purchase view of consumer behavior no matter a buyer’s location or sales channel. That will require a depth and diversity of consumer and sales insights lacking in most CPG organizations today.
I don’t think it unreasonable to marry data from whatever e-commerce channels are being explored today -- including social selling channels like Facebook and Pinterest as well as sites like Amazon -- with the opted in universe of consumers subjected to marketing promotions and campaigns.
This "micro-data ecosystem” offers a wealth of insights that centers around a consumer profile that should be a part of the planning process for agency campaigns, product launches, product ideation and yes, shopper marketing strategies and tactics. Few Consumer Goods companies have taken this step – viewing the sale of product apart from marketing at a data level – mirroring the macro view of how Consumer Goods companies are organized and go to market.
With multiple ways – from inference to actual geo-location – to align consumers to a physical "buying center” based on detailed product transaction data available from most retailers, marketers can be much more confident when it comes to confronting the Shopper Marketing versus ZMOT debate. That is, if they take control of the data sources.
With integrated data and big data analytics, path to purchase insights can inform campaigns and promotions that connect out-of-store consumer and shopper intentions to in-store transactions. Then as e-commerce and direct to consumer sales becomes a more meaningful revenue contributor, these same data and analytics set the stage for optimizing the price and distribution dynamics between direct to consumer online and mobile channels, and retail trading partners. For consumer goods makers with their own retail channels, that time is now.