Tuesday, April 23, 2024

The year of the Ox, the renaissance of authentic creativity

Debbie Schubert

Who would have thought that as we enter 2021, one of the positive outcomes would have been a desire for more innovation and creativity in store as an aftermath of Covid-19?

By Poplever Director Debbie Schubert.

Last year we saw a kick-off in growth in online across all categories. Just under 40% of us shopped online at least once a month during the year (ABS Impact of Covid-19 Survey, Nov 2020). Lockdown, border closures, mandatory mask wearing made leaving home at best ill-advised, or worse, compulsory. Online flourished. As we enter this year, we see a new trend emerging with food online stabilising and in some categories tapering off (ABS Online Sales, Dec 2020). The question brands are asked, as we reframe our budgets, are where we should put our investment buckets for 2021 to get the best sales result.

In the last quarter of last year, the advice from major retailers via the Advantage Survey Report 2020 was to increase online investment over traditional activations to catch the growth wave. Based on this advice, many companies recalibrated their budgets. Online’s allocation of funds increased substantially reflecting this head up.

Not surprising with the increased in raw costs, and freight, in most cases the actual budgets weren’t increased. The reality is funds are now spread leaner across more channels. As a result of this, teams will want more value from their investments. Proof of sales success against their investments from both retailers and suppliers will increase in importance.

Online is here to stay. A third of shoppers are opting for online shopping more often than before Covid-19. However, the good news is we are also seeing shoppers heading back to stores as they rediscover their malls. The news of the vaccine rollouts and the first jabs now a reality, are filling people with confidence and a spring in their step.

Over the past month, I have been involved in four innovation sessions with major brands and retailers. The dominant discussions in all sessions, are how brands will engage with the accounts to excite both shoppers and stores. The request is for bigger, bolder, more authentic creativity, building on brands heartland. The objective is to bring stores back to life.

There is strong rationale behind this request. Malls became ghost towns last year. Shoppers still are not browsing at pre-Covid rates. A quick in and out top up shop is the norm. A happy fun place makes shoppers relax and slow down the shop. When they engage better in store they spend more. As part of a test and learn, we took on challenge to test this hypothesis.

Working with the team at Snack Brands and the independent channel, we created a ‘Back to School Bus,’ bringing theatre back to stores over the return to school period. Results from this activation proved shoppers are responding well to theatre, and the bigger displays are triggering multiple purchases due to location as the price point was moderate.

Profitable sales growth based on effective and meaningful creativity in store is an unlock. Make no mistake, the retailers are not wanting a free for all or asking for bins like soldiers in their stores creating rabbit warrens of point of sale. They are wanting real creativity.

Brands are being asked to lean into the store’s specific target market. By engaging meaningfully with their shoppers, better results are generated. This means we will have to better understand the retailer’s heartland. This requires more work from the account and shopper team with the customers as one size won’t fit all. Creative authenticity that talks to the brand and the retailer’s shopper is what is engaging the retailers. When you get that sweet spot, you will get a ‘yes’ to the off location displays that brands know generate sales.

In homewares, we are already seeing displays that incorporate home environments into the design rather than traditional gondola ends from brands such as Samsung. Samsung’s new lifestyle displays in the competitive world of electronics are proving a good example of creative displays that influence the shoppers to pay more for better quality if it resonates with them or their lifestyle.

In the petrol and convenience channel we are seeing a desire for gift with purchase that are specific to that account, so they become a destination. As long as the goods on offer are of quality and appeal to the target market, they fly out the door. The benefit of a great gift with purchase is that retailers can position this as a multibuy and try new price points. I have seen evidence of this increasing the basket size, improving margin and bringing users in the category. It is critical to watch if the items are not seen as adding value to the customer target market. If they fail the value equation, they become dust collectors in store.

So, it’s not just about online, or in-store activation. It’s a blend. Success comes when brands totally integrate above and below line activation and work tightly with the retailer.

This year is starting off as a reset, reframe. The way to approach planning for the year requires agility, and teams working together. This is a critical year for most businesses. We will need to be flexible with our budgets and be willing to constantly review and adjust the online versus in-store spends as we travel this year. Out of all this, the goal is we learn to be better partners winning together.


About Debbie Schubert

Debbie is the Director and founder of Poplever shopper marketing agency, established in 2016. She is a shopper marketing and retail strategy expert working both on client side as well as agency in FMCG shopper marketing and sales. She worked with large multinationals and start-ups including Snack Brands Australia, Lion Dairy, PepsiCo, Nestlé, SC Johnson, and RB. She has an intricate knowledge of the Australian FMCG retail landscape. She was chair of POPAI (Shop!) for four years.

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