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Shopper marketing can be broadly defined as brand marketing in a retail environment. With the proliferation of mass media, traditional consumer marketing has become more expensive and less effective. Transitioning marketing funds to affect decisions made at the shelf influences the shopper during the ‘moment of truth’ and has a dramatic impact on sales.  It’s no wonder that shopper marketing continues to be one of the fastest growing segments in the advertising and promotions mix.

However, the digital revolution has turned the definition of a ‘shopper’ upside down. In the past, a consumer became a shopper the minute they walked through the door of a retail store. Those days are over.

Video may have killed the radio star, but information killed the retail shopper. In the past, consumers made decisions in a retail store because that’s where the information lived – product, pricing and comparison information. This data now lives online, along with every consumer opinion ever collected. Consumers aren’t researching products online because it’s easier – they’re researching online because it’s better and provides an overall greater degree of consumer interaction. As a result, consumers aren’t just researching products online – they are now making purchase decisions there as well.

Even further, the wealth of online information has enabled shopping research and decisions to disconnect themselves from product fulfillment. Shoppers may fulfill their purchase in an online retail environment or at a brick-and-mortar store – it actually doesn’t matter because the  purchase decision is made in an online environment.  Winning in today’s multi-channel retail environment requires us to separate the idea of conversion into two buckets – first winning the purchase decision, and then winning purchase fulfillment.  “Showrooming” is a perfect illustration of this concept.  Consumers are seeking the proper information to make a purchase decision, but the product fulfillment may be in a different retail environment.  Showrooming actually isn’t a brick-and-mortar phenomenon; it’s simply the practice of consumers separating product research and decisions and product fulfillment.

While much has changed, old habits die hard. The primary source for shopping information remains the retail environment. Winning retailers have a rich source of information and content to help shoppers make (and hopefully fulfill) purchase decisions.

Winning brands see the opportunity here – brand marketing in a digital retail environment. That is the revelation here: shopper media – the digital extension of shopper marketing.

Shopper media, which is simply defined as advertising space within a digital retail environment, is by far the fasting growing segment of monetized impressions on the internet. Impressions on shopping sites increased by 37% last year. Two reasons – contextual relevancy and performance.

Shopper media is, by definition, contextually relevant. When you are visiting a retail site, using a shopping comparison engine or mobile shopping app, you are doing one thing – shopping. In fact, that is all there is to do. You don’t visit shopping sites to check sports scores or socialize with friends – you visit shopping sites to shop. And shoppers expect advertising and offers within the shopping environment. Consumers are trained to ignore advertising – shoppers are trained to use it. Coupons at the shelf are not annoying… they are helpful. Just like trailers at the movies aren’t disruptive – they are fun.

Moreover, shopper media give brands license to speak to consumers in a different voice. Here, consumers are shoppers – they are in the funnel and advertising should be intended to close the loop and finalize the purchase decision. Detailed product information, coupons, deals, and offers are appropriate…and effective.  Shoppers are open to marketing – 85% agree with the statement: “When shopping online, I’m receptive to online ads for products or services that I am currently considering buying.”

Shopper media defines target audience by active shopping category

Shopper media is not intended to just drive impressions or clicks. It should be intended to drive sales – both online and offline. Shopper media is brand marketing in a retail environment – digital shopper marketing. The shopper media environment now greatly impacts the entire shopping funnel.  Media can be targeted to both winning the purchase decision and winning product fulfillment.

This includes the mobile channel. This past holiday shopping season, 70% of shoppers used a mobile phone while in a retail store to read reviews, see product videos and images, and more. Mobile devices give us the ability to not only reach shoppers whenever and wherever they are making purchase decisions; they give us the ability to tie the programs together.

Ultimately, successful brands create omnichannel shopper marketing strategies – seamless, consistent messaging to shoppers in the physical, digital and mobile spaces.  Shopper media is the digital representation of the funnel, helping consumers, and driving results for brands.