Retailers and agencies ‘should scrutinize the shopper’

Newsroom 08/07/2015 | 15:15

From loyal to impulsive, cosmopolitan to deal-seeking, retailers are focusing on understanding and targeting the different types of Romanian shopper. Advertising professionals told BR how they are responding to the profiles of local consumers, the tools they use to learn about them, and how this fast-developing new sector is changing the shopping experience.

 Romanita Oprea

Purchasing habits are driven by context (the shopper is affected by a psychological factor, a feeling, “a state”), not individual traits. The same person can also be categorized under various typologies, accordingly to the category of purchase.

The conclusions emerged from a D&D Research study, commissioned by Leo Burnett Group, on the characteristics of Romanian shoppers. Researchers looked at such aspects as digital shopping journals on Facebook and shopping visits and carried out in-depth interviews on a sample of 750 respondents from large towns across the country aged 18-55.

The study found that local shoppers can be divided into six types: “cosmopolitan”, “best buy”, “loyal”, “looking for quality”, “shopping fun” and “impulsive”.

The cosmopolitan shopper (accounting for 14.1 percent of the pool) is looking for new products and tends to “validate” (i.e. feel a strong affinity with) the brands he or she buys, seeking high quality. The “best buy” (8 percent) type is primarily attracted by the idea of always the getting the best deal, while the “loyal” (29.8 percent) one is devoted to his or her regular brand.

The shopper seeking quality above everything else (8.3 percent) is self-explanatory. And Romania also has some impulsive shoppers (7.8 percent), who often have fun while shopping, considering it relaxing to stroll around the supermarket (32 percent). This type always spends a lot of time in the supermarket or hypermarket and considers it a real experience.

The survey found that most local consumers are well prepared for their shop, looking for an intelligent buy (53.2 percent) and also re-stocking the refrigerator (57.8 percent). There are also fast buyers (47.8 percent), shoppers looking for variety (41 percent) and less impulsive ones (35.2 percent).

According to D&D Research’s data, they want flexibility (61 percent) and efficiency (47.6 percent). Three quarters of the respondents relied on recommendations from friends or influencers, while 43 percent focused on the best price. Researchers said that this shows that the Romanian shopper is more functional than rational or emotional.

Retailers ‘must train focus on understanding the consumer’

Today’s marketers and agencies often use this type of research before deciding how, where and when to approach the shopper, as their success depends upon understanding consumer behavior and shopping patterns, along with innovation and new ways of thinking and attracting shoppers, say industry players.

“More and more retailers and brands see the shopper as key to their activity. Even if there are not many available data for Romania, they do pay attention to different consumer needs. They are really interested in the stimuli that persuade shoppers to approach a shelf, what influences their purchasing decision, the complementarity between products, the way categories support each other and how to maximize their shopping experience,” said Ioana Mucenic, visionary managing partner & head of strategy at communication agency Pastel. “Much of the information about shoppers that we access is international data, usually from the United States or Great Britain. Also, many clients receive studies from more developed countries, like France.”

Still, she believes that although major aspects are quite similar, there is a poor understanding of the local shopper, in different types of retail (international key accounts, traditional trade, local key accounts).

The in-store procedure is a basic “give and get” game between shopper and retailer: the former gives money and time and expects to receive the desired products and satisfaction, say players. “New store formats and emerging new product categories (following the health and wellness trends) are visible outcomes of ‘shopper-centric retailing’. We are an intelligence-led retail and experiential agency; therefore we always put a bullseye on any qualitative and quantitative shopper data that enable us to translate brand-shopper interactions into the ‘moment of truth’ (aka sales). We developed a proprietary ‘field data tracker’ tool to collect valuable translatable data into actionable insights before/during/after shopper interactions,” said Marian Dumitrescu, managing partner at Fieldstar.

Others agree that such information is key. “They have no option but to genuinely understand the shopper. Otherwise, your space at the shelf or your intricate innovation is dismissed for a competitor with higher relevance and more stopping power. Understanding the shopper means scrutinizing and questioning each and every step of the purchase decision journey (PDJ), finding their mind-sets, needs, barriers and receptivity touch points. The steps that can be influenced through communication can lead to an entire range of new connection contexts that reach shoppers exactly where and when they are open to your message,” commented Alina Buzatu, head of strategy at Geometry Global.

Irina Pencea, managing partner of the agencies Jazz & Curious, points out that Romania is in the expansion stage, with modern retail still entering new areas with various formats, meaning that people who did not previously have access to modern shopping are now exposed to it. Accessibility is key for most retailers who are expanding their private labels beyond economy options into added value (for example, Mega Image’s Gusturi Romanesti retail format recent launch).

“The shopping experience is mainly the duty of the retailer. The brand should understand the experience offered by each retailer and adapt its activation [e.n. a part of brand engagement] and presence to it. In cases where the brand owns the retail space there is more focus on experience,” added Pencea.

Unfortunately, only large corporations can afford to create real shopping experiences, believes Mucenic. The budgets involved are quite high, from taxes to retailer and execution costs. “However, I have seen some large projects, such as the redesign of the baby category in Carrefour, which were done by the book. Also, some brands have spectacular executions [e.n. actions that form part of a campaign], like Nivea. Only few brands engage consumers in an active manner, many of those with a cooking component, which is really attractive to consumers. Activities like DIY, discovery, personalization, gamification, are still new on the local market,” explained the Pastel visionary managing partner.

For Alina Buzatu, offering genuine shopping experiences has now become a point of parity; if you don’t do that, you have to fight with increased budgets, better execution or more consistent promos. None of these options are solutions that marketers or advertisers relish.

“A local example is a campaign recently praised by the Team P&G Awards international jury: Rollout advantage for P&G and Selgros. The brand and retailer acted as a hub of know-how and learning from previous experiences in targeting kiosk owners. The communication tackled a full shopper journey which helped kiosk owners become genuine business managers, by providing them with educational materials, DIY tools and kits that offered professional tips and tricks and enabled them to properly lead their own businesses,” said Buzatu.

The evolution of hybrid shopper behaviors

With the holiday season approaching, brands and retailers are focused on how consumers will respond to the latest seismic shifts affecting how they’ll shop this year. While easing health restrictions are enabling consumers to return to the celebrations they love, unprecedented inflation and supply chain disruptions are changing the way they’ll prepare for those gatherings.

Players divided over market maturity

Players say a lot of progress has been made in the last few years; however, Dumitrescu would characterize the sector as incipient, since there is still a lot of confusion around the discipline of shopper marketing.

“The big players, producers and retailers too are increasingly putting resources into shopper-centric projects and the outcomes are more and more visible: from retailer events to the presence of new media vehicles in-store,” added the Fieldstar managing partner.

Striking a more positive note, Irina Pencea sees a market that has made the shift from childhood and is in its adolescence, seeking to find its value and demonstrate its power and ability to build business success. According to the Curious representative, budgets are still dominated by retail fees, with investments in creativity, strategic thinking and innovation small and rare.

“Research has started to address shoppers differently from consumers in the past few years, which helps marketers be more relevant and effective. However, discounts and bundled promotions are still cluttering the modern trade isles. The balance in retail is changing in favor of discounters and supermarkets, and hybrid formats are appearing,” said Pencea.

In her turn, Alina Buzatu sees an emerging market with an encouraging evolution from an investment standpoint. Romanians might not have been the first to embrace Facebook, e-commerce or UberTaxi, but when they got it, the adoption rate was spectacular, she says. The same was the case with shopper marketing.

“The agency I work for has been among the first, if not the pioneer, in spotting this market opportunity – the Geometry Global network focuses more on activating ‘the first moment of truth’ instead of targeting consumers randomly, exclusively via ATL-centric touchpoints. Shopper marketing specialists in Romania already have dedicated meetings, events and conferences at which the level of discussions and the depth of knowledge are getting better and better,” added Buzatu.

Ioana Mucenic, meanwhile, says that she first saw that shopper marketing was really important to companies two years ago. In the middle of campaign preparations, a client decided to cut the TV budget, in order to keep the shopper budget intact. For her, that was the Big Bang moment, when she realized that shopper marketing had become a priority. Pastel has now developed hundreds of shopper marketing campaigns, in Romania as well as Bulgaria, Greece, Poland and the Czech Republic.

“The market is in the quantity phase. There are many things happening, but the differentiation among them is quite small. We have seen many displays and other point-of-sale (POS) materials, only a few activations and a few special projects, like category branding. The visibility aspects are still the most important: the way POS look and the amount of materials one can display in the retailer’s store. Therefore, creativity is mostly limited to design aspects,” said the Pastel representative.

Seeking creativity

Industry players emphasize that creativity is a key ingredient in shopper marketing, just as in any other communication sector. But is it as present as in TV or online advertising? Is this zone as “sexy” and interesting to agencies wanting to show their real creative spirit?

“I see creativity, but I do not see too many resources invested. Many companies and agencies are used to doing more with less. However, this approach is not the best one, in the context of technology development. There are many in-store campaigns that are half way there. You can see that the initial idea was good, but the implementation has flaws,” said the Pastel representative.

In the last few years, the agency has developed more spectacular executions, using settings that also include a multi-sensorial experience. For example, during a Bonduelle sampling, the team used smoke machines to recreate the sauna effect. It also used a new printing technology, to promote the Bergenbier Thermo Pack. The technology is called thermo-print, and the printed surface changed color when consumers touched it. This demonstrated the feature of the product without the involvement of promoters.

Besides all these aspects, Pastel also moved from offering instant prizes with scratchcards to using tablets. In 2015, the agency is looking to make greater use of technology, in order to gain more interactivity with shoppers.

“I would say that retail has not yet managed to be sexy enough for top creative talent to pay attention. That’s a pity, as retail is an engagement moment, where stories can be told and experiences can be lived with more intensity than on TV. And the results are so much faster to see. I would dare more creative people to approach shopper marketing and more marketing people to seek and value creativity. We would all enjoy shopping more,” said Pencea.

At the beginning of 2015, Jazz launched a shopper marketing division, in partnership with Lucian Marin, reflecting the complexity of the retail market and the belief that clients and agencies need to take a closer, more in-depth look at real consumer behavior to be able to anticipate their needs and, ultimately, communicate with them in the right way, at the right time.

Pencea believes it takes deep understanding to be able to attract shoppers’ attention in such a cluttered environment. That is the main reason Curious is focusing on walking in consumers’ shoes with its Shopping Assisted Trip research tool, where teams begin in shoppers homes, continue with their shopping trip and return to home, in order to understand the entire journey, from need to decision to usability/satisfaction. “This enables us to extract insights with our own minds and hearts and transform them into strategies and actions,” added the managing partner.

Alina Buzatu says that creativity, lateral thinking, reframing and daring are in Romania’s DNA. “I don’t believe a shelf stopper is less generous with creatives than a radio ad is. Last year, my colleagues developed a very popular app for Pampers shoppers, even though the initial brief asked for a typical in-store communication mix. There can be creativity in the way promoters approach customers but also in the way the same incentive is presented to different shopper typologies,” said the Geometry Global representative.

The agency is becoming more and more involved in digital capabilities in order to create a fluid shopper experience, pre, during and post-purchase, she said. Moreover, both the agency and its clients have understood the need to invest a lot more in research (category drivers, barriers mapping and ranking, exploratory in-store studies).

“Previous experience shows that the local market dynamics are not so powerful as to generate dramatic changes from one year to another. Nowadays trends point towards a context where stores will be mostly used as a showroom, whereas the actual purchase will be done via web or phone,” concluded Buzatu.

Smartphone and tablet gain market muscle

Rising smartphone penetration all over the country and fast internet broadband have brought about a clear change in consumer behavior and attitudes while shopping. According to the D&D Research study, 40 percent of “cosmopolitan” shoppers and 39.5 percent of those looking for quality are permanently connected to the internet via their mobile phones.

Buzatu thinks three key points will come to the fore: meaningful innovation, seamless shopper experiences and in-beta communication. At Geometry Global she say the focus on delivering tailor-made communication solutions for brands in varied retail environments has increased.

“Shoppers are fast providers of information on product features and availability, price deals and promotions in certain retailers. The bottom line is convenience. We were amongst the first players to introduce tablets and digital apps in daily practice for higher shopper or consumer engagement. From educational campaigns to shopper promotions and brand events, one in three activations we have developed in the last year integrated a digital component,” said Marian Dumitrescu. Mucenic added, “Many brick and mortar retailers complain about showrooming – consumers test the products in-store, but actually buy them online, because the cost is lower. Also, while inside the store, shoppers compare prices online, which is a major factor in their decision to buy.”

However, the agency has not yet received any request for mobile approaches in-store from the client side. “I suppose there are two main reasons: lack of budget and knowledge. In order to become familiarized with new technologies, one must actually invest a lot of time, researching, meeting suppliers, getting budget estimates, understanding useful features and the potential to adapt the solution for each brand. Therefore, I believe that agencies have a major role, to proactively propose innovations to their clients, for relevant campaigns, not just for the sake of implementing something new,” concluded Mucenic.

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