The shortest distance between true retailer-supplier collaboration — the shopper

BY Antoinette Alexander

CHICAGO — Retailers and manufacturers may understand that strategic alignment and a shopper-centric focus is imperative for successful collaboration, but what does the path to success look like? How do brands and retailers get from point to A to point B?

To help retailers and consumer packaged goods marketers get a better understanding of the critical factors needed to build a mutually beneficial business relationship, a powerful panel of shopper marketing visionaries were tasked to focus on the most important common ground retailers and manufacturers share: the shopper.

That was the key message of the Oct. 10 keynote session, “Building Trust: Using a Shopper-Centric Focus to Strengthen Collaboration at Retail,” in Chicago at the Shopper Marketing Expo last week.

Participating in the robust dialogue was April Carlisle, SVP and director of strategy for global shopper marketing at Arc Worldwide; Kim Feil, EVP and chief marketing strategy officer at OfficeMax; and Lisa Klauser, president of consumer and shopper marketing at IN Marketing Services.

Teeing up the discussion, keynote moderator Patrick Fitzmaurice, principal of The Capre Group, told attendees: “This whole collaborative partnership has to be aligned with pervasive insights so we all understand what the barriers to conversion are, through breakthrough retail strategy, through really high-impact shopper marketing, [and] executing through superior go-to market, all done through a suite of optimized capabilities on both the manufacturer and the retailer side.”

But recognizing that outdated methods of conducting business, common misconceptions about each other’s objectives and contrasting viewpoints often get in the way of true collaboration, panelists spent the hour examining the most common stumbling blocks to joint business planning; defining a “wish list” of information and support to ensure effective collaboration; and highlighting methods of establishing real transparency and fostering deeper understanding and greater success.

Cowboys of the new frontier
Carlisle, the former leader of P&G’s shopper marketing center of excellence, talked about the importance of measurement and the evolution of consumer touchpoints.

“The challenge for us in the world of shopper marketing is to pick which [touchpoints] you are going to engage in, but, more importantly, just because you can do it doesn’t mean you should do it,” Carlisle said. “Anything that you choose to do, you have to be able to measure. So there’s this whole new practice of digital shopper marketers.”

These digital shopper marketers, which Carlisle referred to as the “cowboys” of the new digital frontier, have indicated that a key driver of their digital efforts is improving customer brand engagement. Research also indicated that Facebook is the dominant playing field, while digital couponing took the lead as the No. 1 activity within the digital shopper marketing space.

Providers of digital coupons may be cheering, but Carlisle argued that there’s more — much more — that can be done with digital shopper marketing with solid retailer collaboration.

Regardless of which digital touchpoints marketers choose to engage in to connect with shoppers along their path to purchase, what is important is that it can be measured. “No tactic is a good tactic if you can’t measure it,” Carlisle said.

Step it up
It’s time for brand marketers and retailers to “get out of the tactical rut” that stands in the way of true collaboration, noted Klauser, who drew extensively from her 20-year career at Unilever, most notably as the former VP of consumer and customer solutions and marketing operations for the CPG giant. Her advice: Step it up.

“As I look at it, you all have an opportunity to step it up in terms of how we work together with our manufacturer and retailer relationships,” Klauser said. “I think, for the most part, there’s still a lot of tactical, annual planning that is going on. … Shopper marketing is still very much being done in a silo in the absence of broader, more strategic conversations.”

Klauser stressed the importance of evolving the retailer-manufacturer relationship and argued that the new model hinges on bringing cross-functional teams and perspectives to the table.

“Some of the best shopper marketing programs that I’ve done have had supply chain intimately and R&D intimately involved,” Klauser said. “So co-creation and partnership, again, versus coming to the table with an idea that you are trying to sell the customer.”

To help marketers get out of their tactical rut, Klauser offered the following tips:

  • Identify a mutual growth opportunity;
  • Gain internal alignment;
  • Get customer alignment;
  • Build a cross-functional team;
  • Project kick-off and discovery;
  • Collaboration on solutions; and
  • Test, roll out and optimize.

Shared goals
Within the past 10 years or so, retailers have become quite astute in how to target and define the targets of their customer base. But it’s the manufacturers who often hold the key to shopper psychographics. The real question is how can brands and retailers work together to share those insights and create big ideas?

To help attendees connect the dots and gain insights into how co-creation is playing out within OfficeMax, Feil discussed the recent launch of the new OfficeMax Services Center.

Kim Feil, EVP and chief marketing strategy officer at OfficeMax

“We’ve been trying to understand how to get into a meaningful space with our business customers,” she said. “We know they’ll buy supplies, and we give them a good price on that. … But we also know that these people care about [their] businesses, and we wanted to move into new spaces that would be meaningful to supporting small business.”

Earlier this month, the company introduced the new OfficeMax Services Center. The in-store Services Center offers a portfolio of more than 40 services designed to relieve the administrative burden on small business owners, and offer such technical support as web design and maintenance, 24/7 On-Call Tech Support, printing and document management, marketing materials, shipping, credit card and payroll processing, human resource services and legal assistance.

OfficeMax collaborated with its top vendor partners to develop the program. “We worked with [vendors] to shape our messaging, to shape all of our offerings, shape the deals, shape the kick-off announcements, and they were involved in every single part of this,” Feil said.

A lynchpin of the program is the introduction of the retailer’s first magazine for small businesses, which also was developed in collaboration with vendor partners.

“What we wanted to do was present to our customers all that content and rich expert knowledge in an objective magazine that also included offers and tips and information that they could use,” Feil said. “This is important because it also allowed us to shape a different perception of OfficeMax as a knowledgeable and credible source for these things.”

What is it about? “Breakthrough ideas; and I feel like this one, in particular, is a great example of that,” Feil added. “Don’t be afraid to talk transparently with your retailers. There’s nothing worse than someone coming in with their deck and trying to get to the point instead of just talking to us.”

For more DSN coverage from the Shopper Marketing Expo, visit



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The mark of a winner: Axe Apollo nails ‘Four Cs’ of Design of Times competition

BY Michael Johnsen

CHICAGO — The drug channel winner of the Path to Purchase Institute’s annual Design of the Times merchandising display competition fired on all cylinders in meeting the “Four C’s” judges use to measure each of the displays — ability to command attention, connect with the shopper, convey a clear message and close the sale.

Unilever’s Axe Apollo Astronaut floorstand, designed by RockTenn Merchandising Displays, was named the Design of the Times 2013 Platinum Award Winner in the drug store category by Path to Purchase Institute judges. The display proved critical in helping to drive awareness and encourage trial for Axe’s new fragrance, Axe Apollo 2, through a special promotion that awarded a free trip to space camp for a handful of winning customers.

Because the majority of Axe purchase decisions are made in store, the display needed to be disruptive in nature and command the shopper’s attention. “Our job is to interrupt the shopper,” Jon Kramer, RockTenn chief marketing officer, told DSN. “The way we do that is with very powerful messaging and very powerful visuals that really are designed to stop the shopper,” he said. “Because when you think about it, shoppers are there in the store for the most part to do one thing — that’s get out of the store. So you have to turn shoppers into stoppers, and those stoppers into browsers, and those browsers into buyers.”

The display encouraged consumers to purchase an Axe product, as purchase triggered a receipt code needed to enter the Space Camp contest.

Return on investment was measured across a number of factors, including the incremental sales generated by the display, the number of impressions and the conversion rate of purchases to contest entries.

RockTenn Merchandising Displays accepting the platinum award.

“No successful shopper marketing program doesn’t include in-store activation,” noted Peter Hoyt, CEO and executive director of the Path to Purchase Institute and host of the Shopper Marketing Expo. “There are lots of programs out there, but the ones that really succeed have some kind of excellent activation in store.”

Unilever beat out 16 other contestants in the drug channel. For an in-depth look at the other finalists in the drug channel, see ‘Out of this world’ display takes top nod in annual Design of the Times awards.

Designed by Frank Mayer & Associates, the Wii U Interactive Retail Display Program, which competed in the mass merchandisers category, was named “Best of the Times” at the show, marking the best overall product display across all eight retail categories, including drug, food, mass, consumer electronics, convenience, home center/hardware, sporting goods and specialty store channels.

For a look at all of the gold, silver, bronze and platinum winners in all eight retail categories, visit

Presenting the awards were Natalie Zimny of Target and Louis Dorado of Walgreens.

For more DSN coverage from the Shopper Marketing Expo, visit



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Rewriting the rules on successful merchandising and display

BY Michael Johnsen

CHICAGO — Being safe can make one sorry. Because it’s the unconventional that captures a consumer’s attention, and that’s just as true for designers of display units as it is for anything else. Indeed, it’s often the displays that deviate most from the norm that have the greatest impact and the greatest potential to get a shopper to stop, shop and buy.

That was the key message Leslie Clifford, executive director strategic planning at Geometry Global, and Nick Patterson, associate director of shopper marketing for Procter & Gamble, had for Shopper Marketing Expo attendees, during an Oct. 10 breakout session, “Breaking the Rules the Right Way.”

“Today’s shoppers are feeling very empowered. And they don’t view shopping as a mere transaction — one price to get a product. It’s really an experience that they feel they’re entitled to — customized solutions and trial and experimenting,” Clifford said.

Delivering on the customer experience is key. The challenge is delivering that customer experience while also satisfying performance measures both from the retailer’s perspective as well as the manufacturer’s needs.

The basic rules retailers commonly associate with promotional display include:

  • The display must align with the retailer’s broader corporate strategies;
  • It must drive sufficient sales;
  • It must fall within the seasonal calendar; and
  • It must be unique.

But manufacturers have rules of their own, and sometimes those rules don’t perfectly mesh with the retailer’s rules. In addition to aligning with a retailer’s corporate strategies, a display unit also has to live up to the manufacturer’s strategies.

Displays need to drive sufficient sales for the retailers, and at the same time, they need to clear time and shipment hurdles at the manufacturer.

For retailers, displays need to comply with the season; for manufacturers, displays need to be up and seen against a promotional calendar.

While the retailer wants exclusive programs, creating individual promotions retailer by retailer only adds to the cost of doing business for the manufacturer.

Even rules that should seem to be in alignment often are not. For instance, retailers want resources allocated against support for shopper marketing, and manufacturers want to dedicate those resources. But, for a retailer, it’s more efficient to have those dollars applied against a category; for the manufacturer, those funds are supposed to be applied to lifting the prominence of their brands exclusively.

Leslie Clifford, executive director strategic planning at Geometry Global, and Nick Patterson, associate director of shopper marketing for Procter & Gamble

The solution? There’s no need to actually break any of the rules, suggested Patterson; but, rather bend or rewrite them so that they meet three needs: the retailer’s needs, the manufacturer’s needs and the customer’s needs.

One way to do that is to identify the personal priorities of the retail decision-maker; in other words, find an internal stakeholder and align your initiatives against their pet projects. “Find out what their motivations and their interests are,” Patterson suggested. “If you can [convince] that internal stakeholder to be a champion of yours for a particular program, it often makes things a lot easier.”

Patterson shared a personal anecdote involving Walmart and Procter & Gamble’s desire to breathe some life into the liquid detergent category with the use of shelf-talkers and in-store signage. “Walmart had — and still does — a very strong policy on ‘clean store,’” he said. “It happened to be at that time that Walmart had a strong desire to drive sustainability,” he said. “We looked at our laundry care compaction project, which was taking our laundry business and taking half the plastic and half the water out of [it] — huge sustainability win on multiple fronts from product supply to the consumer to manufacturer.”

Instead of approaching Walmart with an in-store signage program that would run counter to Walmart’s clean store initiative, Patterson said, P&G highlighted its sustainability effort. “We’ve got a great story to tell in one of your biggest categories around sustainability. Let’s use [in-store signage] as a way to talk to your shoppers,” he said. “The idea was we had combined messaging on sustainability along with product messaging, and that allowed us to bend some rules and understand the actual lift from doing something like this in the category. It turned out to be a great initiative.”

It’s also important to look beyond the rule itself, and focus on goals and needs — for instance, how each stakeholder is incentivized, Patterson said.

Finally, communication and transparency are also crucial elements of a display program’s success. Manufacturers and retailers should write a program brief around any promotion so that expectations become a known quantity before the display is shipped, Patterson suggested.


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Which area of the industry do you think Amazon's entry would shake up the most?