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Braintrust Query: How Can Smart Marketers Win Over Today's Tech-Empowered Shoppers?

November 9, 2012

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of an article from GfK insights4u, an interactive online community developed by GfK Interscope and designed to connect marketing professionals, product managers, brand managers and market researchers.

The economy's crash in 2008 led to massive changes in shopper attitudes, including an increased importance on price, with a hunger for bargains and saving strategies.

What's interesting, though, is that our research shows that the economic recovery has not caused a return to old attitudes and habits. Enabled in large part by mobile technologies, people had searched for and found strategies to modify their shopping and spending; they didn't just clip more coupons — they opened doors on new worlds of information, and they haven't looked back.

To these newly empowered "extreme shoppers," shopping is competitive — trying to get a better deal than the one that Target or Coca-Cola wants them to get. Their state of mind is not "woe is me — I'm struggling to pay the bills"; they feel optimistic and excited by their ability to make a difference.

So how can retailers and brands befriend this informed, take-no-prisoners population, which is short on brand loyalty and wary of hype?

Know me: They are smart enough to know that their moves on the internet, their purchases using loyalty cards, are being tracked — and they want to benefit from that tacit exchange of data for shopping advantage.

Engage me: Make it worth their while to "like" your brand; to send you updates on their location via GPS. Another key element of engagement can be co-creation; the percent of XXXX who said they would be more loyal to a brand or retailer that lets them shape or give input in what they buy has more than tripled over the last year.

Make it easy for me: Convenience isn't just about, "What are your hours and where are you located?" It's about, "Can I find what I want?" "Is your store logical, easy, and relaxed?"

Tell it to me straight: Shoppers can find out the facts faster than you can spin them; so do what you say you're going to do, and don't overpromise. Technology is the great equalizer in this department.

Make me feel smart: They are using their phones to gather information, and helping them will win points for your brand. Make them feel confident they are doing the right things for themselves and their families.

Less is more: Consumers need retailers and manufacturers to help them cut through the clutter; be part of the solution, not the problem, by simplifying your offerings and your messaging.

Keep it fresh: This is another area where digital and mobile can really help us bring new life to the shopping experience. You can do this around products, merchandising, signage, service ideas — create competition and engage shoppers.

Discussion Questions:

How should marketing approaches change to reach today's increasingly mobile, increasingly savvy shoppers? Do you see the "extreme shopping" by tech savvy shoppers becoming more common or less so in the next few years?

While we value unfettered opinion, we urge you to show respect and courtesy for people or companies about whom you comment. Keep in mind that this is a public, professional business discussion. RetailWire reserves the right to edit or refuse the publication of remarks that we deem unsuitable. We may also correct for unintended spelling and grammatical errors.

Instant Poll:

Of the seven strategies mentioned in the article for marketing to today's tech-enabled, savvy shopper, which one do you think is most underused but very beneficial?


While retailers see some increase in "extreme shopping," the percentage of customers who are driven by "the game" remains relatively small in most categories. However, the adaptation of customers to a multichannel, mobile environment is a much more significant trend.

Retailers must adapt to savvy mobile customers by providing a strong customer experience across multiple platforms, including in a genuine, authentic voice, a commitment to customer service, product selection and detail and competitive pricing. By focusing extensively on customer support pre-purchase and customer service post purchase, retailers will differentiate themselves in most categories from their competition - both physical and virtual.

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Mark Price, Managing Partner, LiftPoint Consulting, Inc.

Marketers need to acknowledge that consumers are smart, empowered and value driven. Marketing should not be about "Likes" or GPS locations. It should be about the entire customer experience, from drawing consumers into a store or website, to the customer experience (Were items in stock? How quickly items could be found, checkout....), to the value offered consumers.

The empowered consumer is here to stay. Marketers should embrace her, on her terms.

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Max Goldberg, President, Max Goldberg & Associates

Alison encapsulated some really good points in this article. I think it's very likely that "extreme shopping" will become more widespread as the marketing bombardment expands across channels and as the greater population gets more comfortable with the tools that keep emerging.

Long gone are the days of push marketing dominating consumer communications. Now consumers are equally or better empowered to control brand/product information and turn it to their advantage. Marketers really need to get over themselves and look for value-added propositions in everything they do from push marketing, to SM, to m/e-commerce. Given my skills, I'm always going to make a strong case for b&m to move beyond playing catch-up and truly integrate unique in-store interactive experiences to engage customers in meaningful ways that transcend the desire for them to be power shoppers.

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Ken Lonyai, Digital Innovation Strategist, co-founder, ScreenPlay InterActive

The expectations of digitally empowered shoppers will continue to grow. With the ever increasing sophistication of capabilities and services available to all of us via mobile devices, the two most important approaches outlined that marketers should embrace is 'Tell it to me straight' and 'Less is more'. The digitally empowered shopper is an active and informed member of a global community and she IS in control!

Brands need to focus on being true to themselves and their audience. All the time and resources spent on trying to 'spin' will be stripped away and exposed in nanoseconds by this global community.

Designing your brand story to be clear, crisp and short is an art form that will pay tremendous dividends. Being able to cut through the clutter and cacophony of marketing spin is valued by this digitally empowered shopper. Your brand message should be the rich media equivalent of an Eames chair, where your customer can relax and be simply comfortable.

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Adrian Weidmann, Principal, StoreStream Metrics, LLC

It's Friday so let's go out on a limb a little....

Within the next 10-20 years, there will be very little a marketer can do to influence consumer behavior, intent and loyalty. You read that correctly....

I say that because my research indicates that a vast percentage of consumer decisions are going to be influenced by services consumers subscribe to, to guide them toward the best, most relevant and convenient means of getting what they need.

Services like GoogleNow, Decide.com, and Kimera strong artificial intelligence are giving us a glimpse of a future where our needs and preferences are accurately predicted, and options to satisfy those needs are quickly assembled for our approval.

These services will take into account the shopper's geo-location, their past purchase behavior, credible online reviews, price comparison data, the shopper's social graph and even their calendar entries to assemble the best recommendations for everything from what to eat for lunch to what to buy their daughter for graduation.

Consumers will indeed subscribe to such services and entrust remarkable amounts of personal and financial data to them, on the reciprocal promise that they be shielded from marketing B.S., privacy infiltrations and bad decisions.

Traditional marketing interventions will have little effect in a world where one trusted (algorithmic) voice speaks to consumers.

You're probably already guessing what all this means.

The only way retailers will make it to the short-list of consideration by the meta-service is if they are actually (verifiably) excellent! That's right, businesses will have to actually deliver what they promise. They have to execute perfectly on their in-store experience (whatever that is) and they have to garner genuine social currency and a reputation for being remarkable! Then, and only then will they make it into the consideration set being whispered in the ear of consumers by their trusted, digital shopping companions!

Doug Stephens, President, Retail Prophet

You'd be surprised how extreme shopping behaviors cross categories. Close to 40% of us fit the bill and growing, ranging from high tech to healthcare to food and beverage. Yes, the degree to which shoppers engage online varies by category -- but less and less all the time.

Alison Chaltas, EVP, GfK

The smartphone has been one of the most exciting changes to retail in a very long time. The ease of being able to see something I like, find it online through maybe Amazon Prime, have it shipped and at my door in now less than one day in some markets is astonishing. Yes, price does play a role, but it's more about the right product marketed to that right person at the right time.

Quick real life example from Nov 7, 2012. On the train from NYC to Westport, I was reading an update in LinkedIn that caught my eye. "5 easy and healthy breakfast recipes." I loved one idea so much I quickly searched Amazon for the item I needed to make the recipe (Chia seeds). I found 5 options that were part of the Amazon Prime free shipping program. Next I checked reviews and found some things that concerned me about each, so I searched natural food stores in Westport. I found a natural store 1.5 miles from the train station. Google provided the number so I could call the store and confirmed they had the item. All from the train. Needless to say I was making my new recipe the next morning.

What I learned:

1)Shopping is no longer defined by a person in the store or even in front of a computer.
2)Reviews impact my purchasing behavior
3)SEO is extremely important
4)Blogs written by people I trust are the strongest marketing/sales tool
5)Chia seeds have no taste, but eating them makes me feel healthier

John Boccuzzi, Jr., Managing Partner, Boccuzzi, LLC

The GfK folks are on target with this, as usual. Well done.

"Make me feel smart" is a concept not often addressed, but worthy of emphasis. When we turn the focus on the shopper's success rather than our own, wonderful things can happen.

The not-so-simple trick would be to find reliable, practical ways to measure how shoppers feel about the outcomes of their purchase encounters. Satisfaction surveys don't come close to the standard I envision -- we need continuous, empirical and sometimes passive methods.

The good news is that mobile devices might be an enabler of this business practice. Now, can we work out ways to let shoppers show us how they define success?

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James Tenser, Principal, VSN Strategies

It's not 'extreme shopping' this is an inflection point in shopping where we can expect all customers to be more informed and have higher expectations than ever. Savvy retailers are changing the way they do business, putting the customer at the center of all channels and dealing with it head on.

Jeff King, Head of Strategy, Partnerships, eBay, Magento

I don't agree that extreme shopping means competitive and making shopping into a game. I believe that the empowered shopper wants convenience, an easy purchase process, confidence, and they want to buy when, where, and how they like. To add to that, they want to make the decision and they don't want to be marketed to. A sales person, digital or real, should be there to answer questions and ease the process; not to sell to them. Marketers beware; the game is changing and you need to get with the program. Interacting does not mean promoting!

Lee Kent, Sharing Insights for Success in Retail, YourRetailAuthority

The next few years and beyond will be dominated by Millennials. Unless you are the neighborhood store that doesn't cater to younger demos, technology will be a critical part of retail marketing.

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Carlos Arámbula, Strategist, One Ninth & Co-founder of MarcasUSA, One Ninth, MarcasUSA LLC

The question should not be how can marketers connect with mobile shoppers; it should be how CAN'T they? The mobile channel offers a wide variety of ways to reach tech-savvy consumers. More specifically, it's through social, local and mobile media, or "SoLoMo." With their infographic last week, Monetate said it best: "Social drives traffic, local drives action, and mobile drives opportunity."

Christopher Krywulak, President and CEO, iQmetrix

The "connected" consumer gets a ton of press these days, however, in the US, penetration of mobile/online shopping/purchasing has not reached the levels of many other countries. When you see people here lining up outside retailers to get special promotions, I still believe the challenge is not what we are led to believe it is.

Marketers do though in fact need to be agile to capture the growing number of connected consumers, just like the most innovative brands/retailers are as we speak. The key is building brand loyalty. CPG and retailers brands. Easier said than done, however.

Gaining insights from consumer sentiment analyses is a great start. There are some really innovative tools in the marketplace for this today. They take the gut feel out of your marketing strategy and execution plans.

I believe too much emotion still resides in many companies' marketing plans. Some of the ideas in this article provide guidance. However, take the time to look at the top brands on InterBrand's list and you will see the culture of those companies and how they drive and capture true lifetime consumer value.

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Ralph Jacobson, Global Retail Industry Analytics Marketing Executive, IBM

The importance of the tech-savvy shopper varies by type of product and price point. Searching for larger purchase brings these efforts out. After they learn, they start applying this new knowledge to other categories. So what a retailer needs to engage depends on what they are selling. Over time, the tech savvy shopper will grow, but not for everything they purchase.

Some manufacturers and retailers try to confuse the shopper. Mattresses are an example where comparison is almost impossible. On the other side, technology products are just comparing the price for the same SKU. I think product availability will over time become a key decision factor for these shoppers.

Yes retailers need to move some of their advertising dollars to mobile media, but each at a different pace depending on target customers.

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W. Frank Dell II, CMC, President, Dellmart & Company

Smart marketers will need to take advantage of the information and connected services tech-savvy customers crave.

If a customer goes to a grocery store, they want to learn what else can they buy to use the olive oil with, and get recommendations for salad kits to tilapia filets.

If the weather is forecasting rain, or a hurricane Sandy, remind them to buy batteries and offer a coupon.

Contextual data that can address realistic scenarios in real-time are what smart marketers should be looking for.

Ed Dunn, Founder, (Stealth Operation)

This article's definition of extreme shopping translates into today's consumer, pure and simple. Retailers need to be tech savvy, Internet sensitive, and aware of their consumer's price, product, and availability concerns. This requires a retailer who pushes excellent customer service, combined with great on-shelf merchandising while focusing on incredible prices for the items that their audience wants. These are the keys to today's successful retailer.

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Kai Clarke, CEO, American Retail Consultants

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