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Shopper Marketing: Steering the Consumers’ Path to Purchase

If the topic of marketing strategies was to pop up at the next networking happy hour or company picnic, we’d bet the pervasive misconception that shopper marketing begins and ends at the point of purchase—that it’s solely focused on the bottom of the sales funnel—would prevail. However, this belief misses the boat entirely when it comes to the scope and impact a well-conceived, strategic shopper marketing approach can have across all stages of the consumer journey. 

Read on to discover how shopper marketing drives consumers down the path to purchase and how to ensure every touchpoint along the way builds brand trust and awareness while boosting your bottom line. 

What is Shopper Marketing? 

Shopper marketing is any touchpoint along the consumer’s path to purchase. (We encourage you to let that marinate a minute.) You know how they say it’s not the destination, it’s the journey? Well, they just may have been referring to shopper marketing. It’s not just about the final purchase; it’s about every single step along the way. Shopper marketing embraces the entire spectrum of consumer engagement (aka the sales funnel), from creating awareness and fostering consideration to ultimately driving conversion and loyalty. 

We’re here to quash the rumor that shopper marketing is only confined to “checkout” or limited to platforms like Instacart. Don’t get us wrong, the e-commerce platforms of the world are likely to be on the menu of tactics we serve up within any consumer packaged goods (CPG) brand shopper marketing strategy we create as it helps close the deal. But a truly savvy marketer looks at the bigger picture and everything that leads up to “add to cart”—how shoppers discover products, what influences their decisions, and how brands can meet them where they are—both online and off.  

Taking a Trip Down the Sales Funnel

As an integrated marketing agency, helping our clients navigate their customers’ journey down the funnel is a service we provide as each stage has its own reason for being. At the top of the funnel, we focus on generating awareness through compelling content, social media engagement, creative campaigns, and traditional media. This starting point is all about grabbing the attention of potential consumers and introducing them to our clients’ brands. 

Moving into the middle of the funnel, our efforts shift to nurturing leads. Here, we provide valuable information, address pain points, and build credibility. This engagement works to cultivate trust and guide prospects toward considering our clients’ products or services.

Finally, at the bottom of the funnel, our focus sharpens on converting leads into sales. We leverage a variety of incentive-driving tactics to encourage purchase decisions and to prompt the prospective consumer to convert to a purchasing customer.

Throughout this journey, our agency’s role is to identify the target audience, strategically plan tactics for every touchpoint, and then optimize for every stage of the funnel, ensuring the customer keeps moving along the path to purchase, ultimately boosting each client’s bottom line. 

Stage 1: Building Awareness

It surprises even the most seasoned marketers to know that effective shopper marketing initiates at the awareness stage. It’s about capturing attention, sparking curiosity, and cultivating brand recall. While the tactics for this stage of the funnel are too vast and too varied by brand to list, strategic initiatives such as social media, digital and traditional advertising, influencer collaborations, and experiential activations can help brands amplify visibility and imprint their presence in the minds of potential consumers. With the deep-dive target persona research and development we do upfront to understand a brand’s target consumer, as well as their habits, wants, and needs, we’re better positioned to build trust and awareness well before a consumer ever goes to buy.

Stage 2: Driving Consideration

The power of shopper marketing is that it allows us to guide consumers along the path to purchase. This is where we act as Siri in navigating their trip, placing brands and their unique selling proposition along the customer’s route—ensuring there is an opportunity to engage. It nurtures consideration through highlighting product benefits, addressing pain points, and fueling emotional connections. This stage can include targeted promotions, educational content, and personalized recommendations. Because we’re well-versed in each brand’s target personas, we can tailor messaging to align with their consumers’ needs and preferences, ensure differentiation, and sway purchase decisions in their favor. 

Stage 3: Inspiring Conversion

While conversion is often associated with the final transaction, shopper marketing plays a pivotal role in making the most of this critical stage. By optimizing retail environments, streamlining purchase processes, and enhancing product visibility, brands can facilitate seamless buying. From compelling packaging designs and product sampling to strategic placement within brick-and-mortar and digital platforms, shopper marketing maximizes the likelihood of a customer completing a purchase.

Stage 4: Inspiring Loyalty

At the heart of shopper marketing lies the desire to build lasting relationships between brands and consumers. It’s not just about one-off transactions; we’re reaching for the repeat buyer. It’s playing the long game to foster loyalty and advocacy. This means crafting compelling brand stories, delivering value-added experiences, and going the extra mile to delight shoppers. When they’re satisfied, they’ll share the love—and a brand ambassador is born.

Online shopping platforms are incredibly convenient and make it easier to facilitate a transaction, but true shopper marketing aims for something deeper—a connection that extends beyond the virtual cart to resonate with consumers on a personal level.

Busting the Shopper Marketing Myths

As a marketer, you’ve probably heard them all, but we’re here to separate a few facts from fiction so you can feel good about your game plan for using shopper marketing as part of your brand’s strategic planning.

Myth: Online tactics are all you need. No one is shopping in store anymore.

Not true. While consumers like to shop online, they also crave the in-store experience. Over 46% of U.S. consumers expect CPG brand advertisers to utilize in-store promotions and digital displays, and over 60% expect loyalty programs, social promotions, and digital/physical coupons, according to Coresight Research. The moral of the story: a successful strategy includes a multichannel mix of tactics including sponsored product ads, display ads, boosted social media posts, TPRs (temporary price reductions), and so much more as consumers can just as easily shop a brick-and-mortar store as an online one.

Myth: Shopper marketing is only for big brands with even bigger budgets. 

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again—working with an experienced shopper marketing pro pays off. It’s not the size of the budget but how you use it that counts. Brands can stretch their dollars and grow their bottom line at the same time if they’re strategic with the tactics and where they’re placed. A shopper marketing master can help make that happen.

Myth: We need to cast a wide net and market to everyone because anyone has the potential to be our customer.

NOPE. We apologize for the tough love here, but while you believe your brand is great, that doesn’t mean it’s for everyone. Getting to know your target persona, and by extension your prospective customers, is key. If you try to be all things to all people, you run the risk of being nothing to everyone.

Data-Driven Insights Drive More Sales

Check it out—here’s where we show you the money. Shopper marketing thrives on data-driven insights and continuous optimization. Coincidentally, so does our team. By harnessing the power of analytics, we can uncover hidden patterns, fine-tune strategies, and adapt in real time based on consumer behavior. By leveraging what the data is saying, shopper marketers can identify key touchpoints and tailor compelling narratives that resonate with specific audience segments. While any one hot tactic can spark a single purchase, we don’t chase purchase trends. Instead, we develop a comprehensive shopper marketing approach leveraging data to inform broader strategies, optimize campaigns, and drive meaningful results.

Shopping for a Shopper Marketing Partner

There are agencies that specialize in shopper marketing. Then, there’s the Element team who understands the importance of shopper marketing as part of a fully integrated approach. 

Should you enlist an agency partner to assist with your shopper marketing efforts (and we strongly suggest you do to ensure the most bang for your marketing budget buck), and they try to give you a one-size-fits-all list of marketing tactics, run. With a wide range of tactics and what seems like limitless ways to combine them, it’s imperative that the strategy created for your brand be unique to your business goals and your target audience. 

We’ll never serve up a cookie-cutter strategy of any sort. Likewise, we’ll never pass up a chance to chat about shopper marketing as a holistic approach that can be integrated seamlessly with broader marketing initiatives. 

Ready to check out an integrated shopper marketing approach and see what it can do for your brand’s bottom line? Get in touch. 


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