Breakfast symposium examines how to engage the omnichannel shopper

CHICAGO — Omnichannel marketing is a popular buzzword when talking about the future of retail. But there could be a serious disconnect between the rubber and the road across many companies pursuing omnichannel initiatives, a panel of shopper marketing experts explained to Shopper Marketing Expo attendees in Chicago Wednesday morning.

The special breakfast session, “Shopper Marketing in a Digital World: The Omnichannel Opportunity,” examined a critical challenge to engaging the omnichannel consumer, as many companies continue to compartmentalize their organizations, forcing shopper marketers to contend with an old-school silo mentality. “Shopper marketers need to adapt and evolve their strategies to meet the ever-changing needs of the consumer by engaging them where they are, in what context and delivering the experience they want,” noted moderator Chris Lobdell, VP sales central region for DataXu. “We’re seeing more sophisticated shopper marketers use their digital advertising investment as research,” Lobdell continued.

According to DataXu research, shopper marketers are expected to spend almost $3.5 billion in digital advertising, representing a 15% increase over 2012 digital ad spends. The reason is simple — 8-of-the-top-10 resources consumers use for research are digital. Digital advertising drives an average 21% in-store sales lift, with 1-in-4 campaigns actually driving sales lifts of more than 40%.

The panelists — all members of Path to Purchase Institute’s annual report, “Who’s Who in Shopper Marketing,” an exclusive group of leaders who have been recognized as industry trendsetters — talked extensively about operating in today’s digitized world and what that means for the future of omnichannel marketing.

Moderator Chris Lobdell of DataXu; Alicia Smestad of Nsight Connect; Roberto Siewczynski of Panavista; Stephanie Kovner-Bryant of Retailigence; and Matt Wise of ePrize

How do leading shopper marketing executives define omnichannel marketing? “Omnichannel is pretty simple — you start the transaction anywhere and you finish it anywhere,” said Roberto Siewczynski, EVP business development and strategy for Panavista. “As you start thinking about manufacturers vs. retailers, the thought process becomes a little more complex. Where does the CPG company engage [the consumer]? Where does the retailer engage [her]? And how is this delicate dance balanced?”

“There isn’t a path to purchase, anymore,” added Stephanie Kovner-Bryant, a member of the board of advisers of Retailigence, which describes itself as “a hyper-local marketing platform, serving both retailers and brand manufacturers, that utilizes brick-and-mortar inventory data obtained directly from retailers to turn online consumers into offline buyers,” according to the company’s website. Retailigence distributes local store inventory-based advertising via its own network of location-based application partners, mobile ad networks, mobile ad exchanges, search providers and social networks.

“People come in and out all along different points, and we need to be where they are with as much information as they need or want to activate against the final purchase,” Kovner-Bryant explained.
And omnichannel marketing remains a moving target. It’s not static like POP advertising at the shelf or other traditional shopper marketing vehicles. “When we talk about the next 36 months, we see a sea of change in the communication between the brand and the consumer,” noted Matt Wise, CEO of ePrize. “Where before there was a push out to the consumer, and we would talk about one-to-one marketing, the reality was you really couldn’t do one-to-one marketing,” he said. “When we talk about omnichannel marketing, the [chief marketing officers] of the world have to start to think, ‘Now I can speak to individuals via their smartphone; how is that going to affect all of my marketing because that [becomes] the primary tool with which I can talk to my consumer?’”

A key question is how do you measure these efforts? Even with the ready availability of data on consumer shopping behavior across omnichannel platforms, there is still some question as to how best to measure the return on investment behind omnichannel marketing.

“We’re at a real impasse in terms of measurement,” noted Alicia Smestad, president of Nsight Connect. “It’s not ‘click-through’ rate; it’s really an engagement metric,” she said. “In [one] digital program [that] we offer, we’ve measured four times the volume movement [versus] just the click-through [rate] or the incremental coupons that we measure alone. So we know there are eyeballs and there is an impact. … There is not one measurement tool for every program. You really have to understand the specific business objectives and the specific behavior objectives, and craft a measurement approach to go with each one of those [objectives].”

Omnichannel marketing may even change the way loyalty programs are implemented, suggested Wise, evolving from a linear purchase occasion-reward to a more robust purchase occasion-consumer engagement opportunity. “So often brands — both retailers and CPG players — use loyalty as an incentive to join a program, but not as a conversation piece,” Wise said. Ads, in-store displays and actual consumption are the traditional touchpoints brands have with consumers. Omnichannel marketing creates a fourth touchpoint, he said. “That will be the change, where people will move away from traditional programs … to a program where [the brand uses the loyalty points] to spark a conversation with the consumer.” 

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