Draftfcb on the complex, ever-changing retail ecosystem

March 25, 2009 by Dave Haynes

There’s a good think-piece on MediaPost’s Marketing Daily by the head of shopper marketing at Draftfcb.

Jim Lucas writes about how a store is a very complex ecosystem, and anyone marketing within that ecosystem needs to consider some very rapidly evolving dynamics.


The shopper is the audience for the retail medium. And she (or he), prompted by the recession, has been altering her behavior lately – consolidating shopping trips, more carefully planning stock-up trips, and shifting to value retailers. Moreover, research from TNS Retail Forward’s ShopperScape Panel suggests, for example, that Wal-Mart has been experiencing growth in upper-income shoppers. So both the shopping dynamics and shopper composition are changing for many retailers.

The shopper’s goals, her role, and the kinds of information she is likely to be receptive to, vary greatly by the type of shopping trip. If she is making a quick, fill-in trip to get things for dinner, she’s a very focused shopper, but open to meal solutions. During a stock-up trip, she’s a shopper making many purchases (usually as many as 20 or more); therefore, she has a great many things to focus on.

Also, during the course of a stock-up trip, the shopper may take on a number of different roles. Picture her as value guru and global citizen, and perhaps more of an investor when shopping for laundry and household cleaning supplies. But when shopping for food, she is more focused on what her family will eat, what’s nutritional, what’s affordable. Or she may be playing the role of heroine, looking for the right treat for her children, who just passed their math tests with flying colors. 

Lucas also writes about how content needs to adapt to shifting conditions in the market and in consumer attitudes and behaviors.

Right now, for example, the way in which retailers are talking about value is undergoing a radical makeover as they try to establish themselves as value destinations. Compared to the period just prior to the recession, price and private labels are getting much, much more attention. As are new ways of expressing value (e.g., Wal-Mart’s “Gametime” with its focus on at-home socialization and entertainment, or Target’s “New Movie Night,” or Walgreens’ “Affordable Essentials” campaign).  

This is good, logical stuff. But there are at least a couple of challenges.

In stores where the networks are being run by third parties, it’s almost always harder to sync up the operator and retailer to tune the messages to the changing ecosystem.

And with retailers who are running these networks themselves, they’re often under-resourced and there isn’t the money or focus to steadily tune and adapt the creative to the shifting sands of that retail ecosystem.  

You’ll notice the examples of retailers who are adjusting are all category monsters, and we know even companies as massive as Walmart have trimmed back budgets on in-store digital.  


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