Over my 11 years in the industry I have had the opportunity to gain some insight on both sides of the retail ‘fence’ – first, as a marketer at P&G and then in house, where I am now, working with multiple retailers. Our employees are also retail experts, whether they’ve previously worked for leading market research companies, or got direct experience from working on the shop floor. This understanding only enhances the way we approach marketing campaigns.
As a brand marketer, my single-minded aim was to achieve consistency across all touch points – whether that be on TV, in print or in-store – and to ensure my brand was visible along the path to purchase. After all, that’s how you build brands - right? You can probably blame my youthful naivety, but I simply couldn’t understand why a retailer wouldn’t want to put my beautiful branding in their stores.
Over the last 6 years I’ve come to appreciate the perspective of these retailers. Why would a shopper want to hear from anyone but the retailer when they are in their stores? After all they have chosen to walk through that door or visit that site because they trust their brand and expect great value.
But the truth is, retailers and brands want the same thing. Any communication campaign is about reaching shoppers with the right message, at the right stage in the customer journey. If you manage that effectively, you will sell more, leading to a bigger profit. That will always be the case.
There is real value, therefore, in finding a solution; and the answer often comes from connecting the two marketing departments and finding the sweet spot between what both teams are trying to achieve.
To paint a picture: we were working for sportswear brand on a campaign with a major online retailer. The brand had produced amazing assets for its campaign and wanted them to appear across the shopper journey. The only problem was that this retailer was not listing the same products that were showcased in the global assets.
However, the brand is rich in ambassadors and keen to create personal connections. The retailer in question also had massive studio capability, fantastic creative teams and a big social following. The answer, we found, was to create a bespoke campaign tailored to that retailer that allowed them to show the brand’s products in a way that felt ‘right’ for their shoppers and, most importantly, aligned with their selling priorities. The result? Double digit sales growth and the development of a long relationship which continues to prosper today.
But this sort of relationship doesn’t tend to work without a fresh perspective– such as a shopper media partner - who can act in the interests of both parties equally, something harder to achieve when it is just the retailer and brand working together. This type of approach provides retailers with dedicated resource and has been proven to make media estates more profitable for retailers, while finding the right balance within a campaign that achieves business results for both retailer and supplier brands alike.
Shop Direct is a great example of where this has worked long-term. The retailer has been using our agency, Threefold, as an intermediary for five years now, and we’ve become embedded in their business, ensuring joined up campaigns for category and brand. Shop Direct has seen marketing investment from brands double in just three years, while brands have seen a very strong ROI from their investments because of the specialist focus on their marketing campaigns.
Whilst having an agency manage all marketing campaigns can feel like another party to go through and giving up some control for retailers, it also means that internal teams and brands (e.g. category trading teams), can benefit from agency experience and approach to creating effective marketing campaigns as well. For example, working closely with Shop Direct has led us to create some market leading campaigns together with Very.co.uk centred on key shopper insights that have outperformed expectations and driven significant growth for brands. For example, Toy Team in 2016/17 and Virgin Experience Days ‘Unveil Unforgettable’ – both of which went on to win IPM awards.
Just having an in-house agency is not enough, though. That agency needs to prove that they can create more effective campaigns that truly do work for the shopper, brand and retailer. Brands need to trust the agency to deliver effective campaigns that work for shoppers and the retailer needs to be able to trust the agency enough to have them embedded in the business to ensure closer working and alignment with all the teams. Finally, there needs to be an open relationship between the retailer and their agency to allow for continual development and optimisation of customer centric marketing and media opportunities for both retailer and brands.
This principle and way of working is as much applicable to high street retail as it is to digital or grocery retail.