Shopper Marketing


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

  1. Juergen Bluhm says

    Dear Roger,
    Unfortunately I cannot share your more positive view of the book. Scott Young’s prinicples for example are yesterdays’s news, at best. The whole book itself is mostly a series of self-promoting articles and the expert views often sound like excerpts from sales folders. I can, however, fully agree with your statements “From a neuromarketing standpoint, the point of sale is a potent place to make a branding impression.” as well as “With more than two-thirds of brand choices made in the store, one can’t afford to ignore that environment.”, but the chapters in this book are often mere truisms and commonplace knowledge instead of new insights and advice. As always there are exceptions from the rule, for example Lubov Kelbakh’s article, who shares some interesting insights about the Russian market. But sadly enough, this book is in general another example of self-promoting publications, just like Buy-ology from Mr. Lindstrom.
    But thanks for initiating the discussion, Roger, my apologies if I am maybe too cynical here.
    Best regards,
    Juergen Bluhm

    1. Roger Dooley says

      I hear what you are saying, Juergen. My main disappointment was the lack of specific data. Normally, a book like this will be chock-full of case studies, research summaries, etc., from which I can select a couple to bring a couple to my readers here. I managed to plow through the whole tome without finding one of those nuggets. Most of the chapters had the feel of a short PowerPoint that had been converted into textbook-style prose. (And I agree, a few seemed rather self-promotional.) Still, for the newbie to the area of shopper marketing I think some of those chapters could be good launching points for further research. Thanks for stopping by!


  2. Brendon Clark says

    I’m a bit torn. When I find a book chock full of case studies I tend to be a little cynical, because I think that I too could find an example to prove any point of view. What I want are before and after scenarios which show the power of a model, comparisons between studies rather than one sided arguments, and critiques, lots of critiques.

    Ok, so, as a newcomer to the neuromarketing thing, where would I find a good read? I’ve read Buyology (enjoyed it) but otherwise…

    In advance, thanks.

    P.S. Roger, thanks for the Gravatar link.

  3. Roger Dooley says

    Brendon, you make a good point about too many case studies. Anecdotal data can certainly be used to support just about anything. At the same time, our brains respond to stories, and a speaker or writer who incorporates some real world examples will be far more interesting than one who delivers unsupported bullet-point recommendations.

    Statistically valid research studies are by far the most valuable, and I try and make that kind of work the basis for the majority of my posts here. Sadly, Shopper Marketing was lacking in both case studies and hard research, which made the information presented both dry and unsupported. You pretty much had to take on faith that the authors had done the field work or studied the research to arrive at their conclusions and recommendations.


  4. Filipe Frota says

    I’ve read some of this book, and I think it’s not a bad read. There are some useful insights. What better books would you guys recommend about this subject? Is there any publication about Neuromarketing studies in the retail environment? Cheers.

  5. Gerardo says

    I agree with the six points about packaging.

    As a consultant for small and medium of consumer packaged goods companies in Latin America I have realized that most of the companies create new products just because their CEO or someone in the company usually thinks that it will succeed, but the truth is that they never visit the retailers shop before or really look forward to understand the shopping behaviour in their category. The truth is that if companies understood first their shoppers, then analyzed their category competitor, and finally launch their products considering all the data gadered before their products will increase their probability to succeed at the point of sale.

  6. shoppernews says


    I recently finished reading this book. I agree with you but maybe its thought to be a general introduction for “beginners”. As I am really interested in reading more about neuroscience in connection to shopper marketing, I will follow your blog.

    I also invite you to have a look at mine:



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