Book Review: Shopper Marketing – How to Increase Purchase Decisions at the Point of Sale, Edited by Markus Stahlberg and Ville Maila

From a neuromarketing standpoint, the point of sale is a potent place to make a branding impression. One has the customer in the retail environment, the product in hand, any point of sale material in plain view, and so on. The experience can be further enhanced by video, scent, even human interaction. Compared to other forms of conveying a product or brand message, the concept of “shopper marketing” is inherently appealing.

In Shopper Marketing, Stahlberg and Ville Maila have compiled a series of 34 chapters, each written by a different expert in some consumer-oriented discipline. This approach gives the book a somewhat choppy feel, as the style and approach of each chapter varies with the individual author. On the plus side, we hear from a great many experts in their own voices and see a plurality of viewpoints.

I found the book to be long on marketing advice but short on case studies and insights into specific consumer behaviors. That isn’t all bad, of course – in each bite-sized chapter, the reader receives lessons and expert views about a particular aspect of shopper marketing without having to wade through a lot of data. One of my favorite chapters is Six principles to drive effective packaging, by Scott Young of Perception Research Services International. Young’s firm conducts hundreds of consumer studies each year to gauge the effectiveness of consumer product packaging. We don’t see any of those studies in his short chapter, but he distills that work into six packaging maxims:

  • Design for visibility. Contrast is key. Large blocks of color work. A strong brand mark, sometimes surrounded by white space (e.g., Special K) works. When shelves are filled with “screaming” packages, simplicity works.
  • Design for shop-ability. Consumers can be overwhelmed by the number of choices in a category, so making your product easy to find and, most important, easy to understand, is critical. If you have different products for different applications, the layout should be consistent and facilitate comparison. Colored caps on similar colored bottles can balance branding and product differentiation within the line.
  • Design for differentiation (on a visceral level). Young notes that purchase decisions are often intuitive and emotional, and the packaging needs to embody or represent key aspects of the brand. In his words, “packaging needs to look more effective, more refreshing, more healthy, more authentic, or perhaps more high-tech than the competition at first glance.” (I was reminded of the Campbell Soup neuromarketing study when I read this section.)
  • Design for a single clear message. Consumers don’t spend a lot of time studying the products they toss into their shopping cart, and the package needs to convey a clear message. Adding more claims, for example, won’t increase the time the shopper spends reading the package and will dilute the message.
  • Design to drive consumption. Packages can increase sales when they make the product easier to store (“fridge packs”) or consume in more places (“on-the-go” packaging).
  • Design for sustainability. Consumers are increasingly concerned about the environment, and packaging needs to be designed to address their concerns. Sometimes, it’s a win-win. For example, eliminating secondary cardboard packaging can deliver a marketing benefit: the product itself can be seen.

Each chapter adds to the store of shopper marketing knowledge, though not always with the specificity of Young’s chapter. Some chapters are a bit more process-oriented, i.e., how to think about and implement shopper marketing, which might be useful in organizations that don’t embrace novelty and flexibility. One chapter authored by Chris Hoyt spends several pages describing misconceptions about what shopper marketing is.

One concept mentioned in several chapters is the idea of using the shopping environment to solve customer problems. A shopper looking for a cold remedy, for example, might also need tissues and hand sanitizer. A branded grouping of such products could convey a powerful message as well as saving shopper time and boosting overall sales.

If your product or brand is sold in a retail environment, you’ll find plenty of insights and opinions in Shopper Marketing. With more than two-thirds of brand choices made in the store, one can’t afford to ignore that environment.

Amazon Link: Shopper Marketing: How to Increase Purchase Decisions at the Point of Sale
Image via Shutterstock

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