The “modern” supermarket is some 70 years old and has played host to countless in-store marketing campaigns of all kinds over the years. One would assume that by now marketers have completely learned the supermarket's potential as a promotions vehicle.
That assumption would be wrong.
There's a new surge of interest in the store as a medium, which comes at a time of fast-changing consumer shopping behaviors. An SN survey of manufacturers published last month found more than two-thirds of respondents were planning retail-specific consumer campaigns, an increase in activity from the prior year. A study to be released at this week's GMA/FPA Merchandising, Sales and Marketing Conference in Colorado Springs reports a growing manufacturer focus on in-store and related “shopper marketing” efforts compared to the use of TV, radio, print and other traditional media, which are becoming increasingly fragmented, said Brian Lynch, director, sales and sales promotion, GMA/FPA.
The most far-reaching initiative in this renewed attention to in-store marketing is a program to bring better tools to marketers. The idea is to measure the retail environment for consumer reach, just as you would measure TV or radio. That is the focus of the industry's PRISM effort, which stands for Pioneering Research for an In-Store Metric. The goal is to predict consumer reach by category, area of the store and retail format. This campaign has attracted a highly impressive roster of trading partners, which include Wal-Mart, Kroger, Albertsons, Safeway, Meijer, Stop & Shop, Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, Miller, Kraft, Unilever, ConAgra and General Mills. (A story on PRISM appeared in SN in late August.) Current research, which includes analyzing store traffic patterns, would lead to the creation of a new syndicated in-store measurement service from the Nielsen Co. by 2008.
Peter Hoyt, executive director of the In-Store Marketing Institute, Skokie, Ill., which is spearheading PRISM, cited strong progress and told me why marketers will benefit. “We know how many consumers bought a product, but how many passed by and didn't buy? We'll be able to compare one chain against another in traffic and close rates in stores. Then marketers can make decisions on how to invest to improve results, whether through POP displays, floor graphics or some other method.”
If successful, PRISM will be a boon to marketers and retailers, who have long had to live with the inexact science of in-store marketing.
No set of metrics can give marketers complete control, especially in the face of retail programs that aim to rationalize the in-store experience for shoppers. The best example is Hannaford's Guiding Stars campaign, which developed a star system for products based on predetermined nutritional criteria. Hannaford recently said products assigned stars were experiencing up to four times the movement of those without.
So, even as marketers gain new tools for in-store battle, they are up against new powers that be. A Guiding Stars-type endorsement from a retailer will carry far more weight with consumers than virtually any manufacturer campaign.
Suffice it to say that the store will become a more contested battleground in coming years, and this is the time for all parties to prepare their ammunition.