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When does a consumer become a shopper or are we always shopping in today’s society?

Updated: Jun 14, 2022

Traditionally, brand marketers focus on the communication with the consumer (ATL) and shopper marketers focus on converting the shopper (BTL).  The two worlds have been defined purely by the environment i.e. in or out of the store with the metaphorical line being the retailer estate boundary, and the search for ultimate integration between the two messages has always been the ambition but never quite a reality. 

The reality is, of course, that these are not always two mutually exclusive audiences so considering them in silos should never be an option. In addition to this, shopper habits are ever evolving as are media capabilities meaning that the line between brand and shopper advertising has become ever more blurred.

With each of us making 26 grocery shopping missions a month and using multiple channels to do so, whether physical stores, mobile apps or websites, do we ever really stop being ‘a shopper’?

We each shop grocery more frequently than ever before – almost daily in fact, and even when we are not on one of those many missions there are many more opportunities for us to be in the shopper mindset.

The lion’s share of grocery sales still (90%) takes place in a physical store however 36% of shoppers say they regularly research FMCG products online before buying in store. Additionally, almost half (48%) of all Brits now say they do at least some of their grocery shopping online so although it only accounts for 10% of sales, online is a very credible forum to reach the shopper audience.

It is clear that the line between shopper and consumer can no longer be defined by the environment you are in i.e. whether you are in or out of a physical store as this cannot wholly determine the consumer vs shopper mindset. 

eCommerce today is both a brand engagement and a shopping environment; mobile a potential purchasing tool as well as a marketing channel. Stores themselves are a brand-building space, not just a sales-oriented one.

Neither is the path to purchase a linear one. Traditionally brand marketing set out to overcome the awareness and consideration barriers of a consumer and shopper marketing was used to overcome the conversion barriers of the shopper.  This is no longer the case. In fact, it may well be that the awareness, consideration and conversion all happen at once – in or out of the store!

So, the million dollar question; when do we stop being a consumer and start being a shopper?

The easiest to define are the rare instances where the consumer never becomes the shopper; the most obvious examples would be categories like Pet, Baby and Children’s products.  

But for many products, where the consumer and the shopper is or could be one and the same, the line between ‘consumer’ and ‘shopper’ is a lot more hazy. 

We believe that the consumer becomes the shopper when they are in a position to make an active move towards purchase – whether that be putting it in their basket in store or online or putting it on their mental or physical list for their next shopping mission.  Therefore, shopper marketing should encompass ‘any media that can be targeted to impact a shopper’s purchase intent and for which this impact can be measured.’

What does this mean for us as shopper marketeers?

This means thinking beyond the store itself and considering a much broader mix of channels from digital through to OOH proximity targeting. In every instance considering how we can be sure we are targeting the right audience when in the shopper mindset and evaluating any activity against shopper objectives (primarily sales in retailers).

Brand and shopper teams need to work closer together to agree the objectives and how these will be measured consistently across all marketing channels.  This will mean considering brand metrics on traditional shopper channels and sales metrics on channels traditionally considered for ATL.

Ultimately as marketeers whether in the above the line or below the line space, together we have a number of barriers to overcome in order to get our consumers and shoppers ‘across the line’.  Through better integration of brand and shopper objectives, we can speak to the consumer and the shopper simultaneously and measure the impact consistently across the total campaign.

Utilising digital and OOH channels to reach shoppers is a big focus of ours in 2020, and we have a new service area, Amplifier, launching shortly to support it. If you’re interested, get in touch at 

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