Shopper marketing has been an area that brands and, often, retailers in China have battled to understand. We believe that the Year of the Monkey will be the year that the value of the shopper – as a way to grow both brand preference and market share – comes into focus. Brands have traditionally sought to win over Chinese consumers using price as the main attraction. Online and offline, retailers and brands have for too long taken the easy option and pulled the price lever to boost sales.
The problem has been that, as a result, loyalty has been hard to achieve, and this lack of loyalty is becoming evident now, with slowing growth making it difficult for brands and retailers to keep cutting prices. We see forward-thinking brands now starting to focus on the shopper, and seeking out ways to win at the all-important point of purchase. A tremendous amount of decision-making happens in the so-called last mile, and the brands that understand shopper behavior stand to strengthen their position.
In a slowing marketplace, the brands that rely on price in order to win may succeed in the short term but will ultimately lose. This is the year in which those that have invested in brand equity will be in a stronger position. Brands and stores that understand the factors – beyond price – that trigger a sale at the point of purchase can now stand out, and that can mean the difference between life and death. Investment in improving the execution of cross-platform campaigns in the retail space will increase, as will spending on improving the presence of brands on the shelf. The bar for quality in shopper marketing will be raised this year, and those that execute poorly will lose crucial sales.