Products Are The Actors

by Matteo Rinaldi

In the last few decades, we have seen a clear shift from simply buying products to shopping.
In modern times, Rene’ Descartes philosophy “Cogito Ergo Sum” (I think, therefore I am) can be adapted in a new way – “I shop, therefore I am”. Consumers’ purchases, be it shoes, bags, belts, pasta, toothpaste or yogurt give us a lot of information about who these people are: “Tell me what you buy and I will tell you who you are”.
People shop for products that help to assert themselves. This is why they buy for emotional reasons connected to their identity and subsequently justify their purchases using the rationality of functional benefits – “I need the BMW 328i because I commute on smaller highways and need the acceleration to pass slow cars and trucks”. As a direct consequence, the role of emotions and impulse purchase is becoming more and more important when the consumer stands in front of the shelf (the moment of truth – “To Buy or Not to Buy”). The challenge for the manufacturers of these products is to understand how to leverage the different tools and the latest trade marketing techniques in order to make the best out of that crucial moment. The key is to be able to create the perfect shopping experience by delivering the right message at the right time and place.

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With the help of psychologists and related research we established four “simple” rules that will help to create a unique shopping experience to emotionally engage our shoppers.

SENSE: Use all five senses (sight is not the most important sense). Recently, scent marketing is a discipline that has been evolving considerably. It is not a secret that what we smell directly affects our mood – smells in fact, can trigger emotions and memories. Ikea and Starbucks are perfect examples of stores that were able to create a more emotionally engaging shopping experience using the different senses.

FEEL: Shoppers have to feel something when shopping inside the store. Enjoyment (happiness) is the most common feeling that companies try to invoke, but feelings like nostalgia, excitement or guilt can also help to trigger impulsive purchases. For instance, Toys R Us does a great job of targeting parents and leveraging two main feelings: Nostalgia – the toy you always wanted, Guilt – Spoil your kids and they will forgive you for working too much.

ACT: In many instances (depending on the category), it is important that there is an interaction inside the store. The retail assistant should have a proactive attitude – not only being a product expert but also being passionate and enthusiastic about the products. Not only do they have to answer the client’s questions, but they must challenge them as well. In the case of fashion brands, getting the consumer to try on clothes or in the case of furniture, get them to sit on a comfortable sofa. Your retail employees need to be the front line Brand Ambassadors (think people that work at Apple stores, Foot Locker or Abercrombie & Fitch).

THINK: Beyond the heart and gut emotions, the experience also has to engage the brain. When we say that products are the actor, it doesn’t mean that the shoppers are only passive observers of the show. Communication inside the store and the retail assistants have to inspire and engage them as well. Shoppers want to feel challenged, provoked, intrigued; they want to discover, solve and think about the possibilities your product can offer them. Apple Geniuses are very good at this. Every time you go to an Apple store you learn something new and you are inspired to buy new products or applications.

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Companies today, need to develop a plan of entertainment and engagement – the spectacle of the product that is able to dazzle the senses of the consumer and stimulate the mind and touch the heart. It is by employing the category appropriate five rules of engagement that marketers (and the sales force personnel are marketers too!) will more effectively be able to engage with the shopper and trigger the impulsive purchase.
The American brand Abercrombie & Fitch is one of the most spectacular examples of “experiential marketing”. The company doesn’t spend money on traditional marketing communications to advertise the brand, the primary communication is in their store. Mike Jeffries, the CEO of the company once said “We only hire good-looking people in our stores. Because good-looking people attract other good-looking people, and we want to market to cool, good-looking people”. Even if the intent of these words sounds a bit arrogant and discriminatory, using the right lights, smells, and people, he was able to make the shopping experience at Abercrombie & Fitch stores akin to the theater. People would spend hours waiting in line to get inside. HR at Abercrombie & Fitch is informally called ‘central casting’.

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Some can argue that in-store engagement is possible and relevant only for flagship stores, but what about for the FMCG brands – how can P&G, Ülker, Nestle, Coca-Cola, Danone, etc. create a shopping experience in retailers such as Carrefour, MiGROS, etc. where they do not have direct control?
The challenge is to create a shopping experience by understanding the mindset and behavior of shoppers at particular moments to employ the right message, for the right SKUs in the right areas of the Supermarket.

THE RIGHT PLACE:
There are two basic attitudes towards shopping – planned and impulsive. In the first case, shoppers know exactly which products they are looking for, they know where to look and how to move inside the store to get them. In the second case, the shoppers make decisions that are not premeditated. Starting from these two different behaviors, it is crucial for the company to understand what the most relevant areas are according to specific products. Different zones require different approaches since the mindset of shoppers is very different. The image below shows an example of destination zones and impulsive zones for Coca-Cola.

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THE RIGHT MESSAGE:
Once we understand what the most important engagement areas in a specific retailer are, the company has to create a tailor-made message for the different zones based on the shopper insights (what, where, why and how they shop), the shopper tension points (what are they concerned or worried about – “Everyone in the family wants something different, how can I possibly make them all happy”), and the shopping communication strategy. This last point is very crucial, as we said before, brands are ‘actors’, they have certain values and personalities and we can say the same for the retailer ‘stage’ as well. We need to create a joint value platform with targeted engagement activities for the shopper between the brand and the retailers in order to provide a unique emotional experience for the shopper in that specific retailer.

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THE RIGHT SKUs
Different SKUs have to own different zones in order to create a holistic shopping experience. A practical example (Coca-Cola in Italy) will help to understand why it is so crucial to differentiate inside the store.

Impulsive Zones
o Vegetables: this area is characterized by high frequency, usually where shoppers buy products daily. Coke, in order to “get on the table of Italians”, promotes the 1L bottle which is the perfect size for a family dinner or lunch.
o Snacks: one of the most important impulsive areas of a store, usually targeting teens (Fanta is the most important SKU for the Coca Cola group). In this area, you can also find the Coca-Cola mini can (150Ml). The reason they decided to push this SKU is that Italian mothers think that Coke irritates their children’s stomachs. Drinking a smaller amount is the perfect balance and allows the children to still enjoy dinner.
o Frozen Food: there is nothing better than a Coke with a Pizza. This is why the 1L SKU is near the Frozen Pizza section.
o Cashiers: this is the most important impulsive zone (Ice-cream, candies, chewing-gum, etc. are always there). While people are in line waiting for their turn to pay, these products capture their attention which helps them to feel less bored. The 0.5L Coca-Cola is the perfect SKU to push in that zone which will encourage on-the-go consumption.

Destination Zones:
o Beverage Shelf: Of course the most important zone is the shelf. In fact, more than half of the volumes come from there. It is important to have the complete assortment displayed in the beverage section. The number of visuals depends on special promotions or should reflect the actual market share.
o Gastronomy: It is easy to find the 1.5L Coca Cola extra display close to gastronomy products such as prepared food, grilled chicken, etc. The mindset is to find easy and quick solution that will help the mom to prepare a fast but tasty dinner for their close ones (Coke will make the dinner even tastier).
o Party products: in this section, the Coca-Cola 2L is the perfect SKU. Shoppers are looking for big volumes that the kids can share with their friends when they come home for specific celebrations (birthdays, graduations and other special occasions).

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THE RIGHT POP & THE RIGHT PROMOTION:
The POP materials as well as the promotion inside the store play a very important role in engaging the shoppers emotionally. Indeed, every SKU according to the different zones should have specific POP materials and promotions. The occasion of consumption of the different SKUs can help in making this differentiation using diverse visuals, messages, and calls to action:

 1.5L Coca-Cola (Destination Zone):
o Promo: Coke & Food
o Visual: Family Lunch
 1.L Coca-Cola (Destination Zone)
o Promo: Coke & Pizza
o Visual: Single person enjoying pizza while watching a football game on TV

 0.5L Coca-Cola (Impulsive Zone):
o Promo: Open Happiness (Check the tap and see if you win any Coca-Cola swag)
o Visual: Teens drinking Coke while doing Dynamic Activities
 2L Coca Cola (Destination Zone):
o Promo: Double Pack
o Visual: Teens Partying

In conclusion, companies have to create a strong link between the brands, the occasions of consumptions, the SKUs and the different mindset of the shoppers (destination vs. impulsive zone) when preparing their trade marketing strategies. Engaging the consumer in a crucial emotional shopping experience will allow companies to increase sales exponentially and at the same time help their retailer partners to increase their margins and profits.

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