The Minneapolis Convention Center overflowed with big ideas on how to better connect with customers at this year’s Path to Purchase Expo. With over 70 speakers and more than 100 exhibitors, attendees had boundless shopper marketing education and networking opportunities.

But as wide and deep as the presentations were, one idea kept coming up again and again. And a quote from the keynote, renowned authority on digital disruption and Forrester analyst Brendan Witcher, summarizes it rather nicely:

“We’re no longer chasing competitors, we’re chasing customer expectations,” explained Witcher. “You need to create ways for your customers to talk to you.”

And from that big idea flowed several takeaways that should help most shopper marketing efforts. In case you couldn’t attend this year, here are some highlights:

Consumers are unique and so must be their shopping journey.

In Witcher’s keynote, he talked about how everybody wants something, but it could be completely different for each person. Some shoppers will buy anything if there’s a $5 off coupon while others don’t care as much about price as same-day delivery. Marketers need to talk to every consumer differently. But how do we know how to talk to everyone individually? Get to know them as best you can using quality data.

The more you understand each customer, the more effective your engagements.

Witcher also indicated how customer-obsession was all the rage four years ago and how we used data to support strategic decisions we had already made. But now, we’re wising up and realizing we need to use data to drive strategic decisions. We need to be data-led instead of data-driven. We need to avoid preconceived notions and check our facts before acting.

Some companies only use a fraction of their data, and most of what they do use is low quality. But Witcher said the “masters of individualization” are those who engage customers in real time by listening, capturing, measuring, assessing, and addressing intent across every enterprise touchpoint.

Design shopping journeys as unique as your customers.

Starbucks is a perfect example of this. They don’t have a payments app, they have a customer data capturing machine! Almost 13 million people participate in their Starbucks Rewards loyalty program and besides redeeming loyalty points for free drinks, the mobile app also enables them to place orders and pay ahead using their mobile phone.

Through this loyalty program, Starbucks is able to collect an enormous amount of customer data including what they’re buying, locations visited, and when and how often they are going for their java fix. Using these insights, they’re able to create even more personalized service for their customers.

Inspire loyalty by focusing on how users experience your brand.

In his breakout session, Steve Miglieri of Narvar spoke about inspiring loyalty with evolving customer needs. Brands such as Sugarfina, offering effortless and customized gifting, and Dollar Shave Club, creating authentic messaging, consider the whole experience of their customer.

Dollar Shave Club includes honest, dry humor in their packaging and content that makes customers feel like the company understands their values and interests. “It’s a cool experience to get the Dollar Shave Club box and I look forward to it,” Miglieri said. “They make their copy cheeky and fun to read.”

Evaluate how the parts contribute to the full ROI

Matthew Tilley from Valassis explained in his session that trends in marketing spend are increasingly moving more toward digital media. While many marketers are doing this, they just aren’t assessing the cross-media-multiplier effect to understand how the parts of their marketing plan are contributing to that great ROI they see at the end. In fact:

3 in 4 shopper marketers are running cross media campaigns, but nearly 60% aren’t evaluating how the various media are contributing to the bottom line. (according to Ensemble IQ)

“They need to go a whole lot deeper for personalized marketing and maximum effect,” according to Tilley.

While digital coupons might be driving the best ROI for one company, a large segment of consumers still prefer print coupons. Again, you need to know your audience. Read the room! Then make your marketing mix work for you. In-Store POP is one of the top offline marketing tactics. If only tactics could be combined…oh wait, they can! Digital marketing, supported by in-store display and a strong call to action, such as value, drives the greatest ROI.

But while most marketers agree cross-media works best, few fully appreciate a measurable impact. So where should shopper marketers allocate their budget with respect to digital vs. offline media? First, as we said before, know your target. You need quality data for a full, comprehensive view. Then, and only then, can you effectively personalize and combine the correct multiple marketing methods to achieve success.

The insights you are looking for can include:

  • What is valuable for the shopper?
  • How do they want to engage?
  • What are they actually in the market for?

Find out, and then deliver! (Using the shopper’s preferred channels of course!)

Brendan Witcher skillfully summed it up at the close of his presentation:
“Solve your customer’s pain points before you surprise and delight them.”
Now go and get to know your customers, ease their pain and win some shoppers for life!