news from the intersection of branding & technology

Shopper Marketing Conference targets “In-Store Experience”

In Shopper Marketing on March 16, 2011 at 4:55 pm

by Robert Liljenwall

Every seasoned retailer and brand marketer knows that if you can improve the in-store experience, shoppers will stay longer and spend more.  Disney found that out a half century ago.  Apple epitomizes the in-store experience.  Costco keeps you there by giving you free treats from their famous Demo Queens.  But the target keeps moving, too.  What worked five years ago, may not work today, and we know, strategic marketing teams are huddled everywhere trying to ‘unlock’ the secret to getting customers to spend more.

Under the leadership of Dr. Dan Flint, Director of the Shopper Marketing Forum (SMF) at the University of Tennessee, leading retail and brand marketers are gathering for the inaugural Shopper Marketing Managers Conference, March 29-31 in Knoxville.  (BrandTech will have a complete update on this important conference in our next issue.)Dan Flint

The theme of the conference is: “Improving the In-Store Experience.” The two-day intensive seminar includes an impressive group of speakers from companies who lead the way in shopper marketing, including: Frito-Lay, Crossmark, Mars, and In-Store Insights, with UT Faculty presenting on Research Insights. Dr. Brian Harris, chairman and founder, The Partnering Group, will be giving the opening keynote. The Hot Topic Shopper Marketing Breakouts, facilitated by UT Doctoral Students, provides time to focus on key areas of interest and allows colleagues to interact, share, learn and provide professional insights.

According to Dr. Flint, the driver for the course is a sense that many more managers and new hires are moving into something related to “shopper marketing” in their organizations without a solid foundation of what that means.  They may know what it means to their firm, he states, but not what the leading firms in the industry are thinking of.  The inspiration came from some of our sponsor organizations stating that something was needed to orient their managers and get them to a baseline level of knowledge that they could build on.

“We think that this is needed because more and more focus will be placed on shopper marketing. If too many managers think this is tactical merchandising as it has always been, they will be shocked when competitors regularly take market share away from them, or grow the entire pie in ways they did not foresee,” Flint said.

One of the major factors is the rapid expansion of shopper marketing conferences and discussions in industry that have prompted this initiative.  Research has been going on focused on shopping behavior, consumer behavior, retailing and branding for years. Now much of the attention is being placed on pulling this all together through the entire path to purchase.  So now brand management discussions are involving what has to happen at the store and collaboration discussions are cropping up everywhere between brand marketers, retailers and agencies like never before.

Brands are working with retailers to help retailers differentiate themselves in unique ways.  It has changed the skill set required by brand managers and account managers.  They all need to know business analytics, shopper insights, strategy, brand management, account management, merchandising, finance and supply chain management to make this work.  These skills are currently spread across three to seven people in most firms today.  The course is designed to help managers understand how all of these things are interconnected.

“Essentially,” Flint said, “we need general management skills that span research, strategy, marketing, sales, finance and supply chain management.”

The unique expertise that has been fostered at the University of Tennessee is many years of research in all of these areas and significant work experience with companies.  From consumer psychology, to shopping behavior, to technology in stores, service quality, business analytics, retailing layout and operations, brand management, buyer-seller relationships, strategy and so forth the University has at least one if not more faculty who have spent their careers conducting research in each area.

“We have pulled faculty from retailing, statistics, operations, logistics and marketing to put this course together and to conduct our managers conferences.  We build in hands-on exercises to bring points home and provide nearly two dozen practical worksheets that go along with a formalized shopper marketing management process.  We also have a secret weapon so to speak in significant input from Chris Hoyt of Hoyt & Company; an extremely well-respected expert in-shopper marketing, and Ken Barnett; the CEO of Mars Advertising, regularly cited as one of the top shopper marketing agencies in the country,” stated Flint.

“In fact, Mars Advertising has won the Hub Top 12 award several years in a row. Both Hoyt & Company and Mars know what works and what doesn’t,” Flint stated.  “They have helped us combine their practical experience with our own research and practical experiences with manufacturers and retailers to put together a solid 4.5 day exposure to the concepts, processes, and tools of shopper marketing; from insights and opportunity identification; to strategic planning, execution and measurement.”

Dr. Flint’s personal background and research has focused on bringing social psychology into understanding what consumers and business customers value from products, services and organizations.

“I specifically look at patterns of change that suggest what shoppers, consumers and business customers will value in the future, and work on processes to help organizations create a proactive customer orientation – to look ahead and anticipate.  One view we bring into our discussions has to do with how to leverage a powerful trend toward co-creation of value and experiences that consumers now expect into the shopping experience,” he said.

To register, please go to the Shopper Marketing Forum homepage: http://shoppermarketing.utk.edu/ .  Simply click on the registration link to gain immediate access to the Registration Page. Under Registration Category, register as: Conference Attendee.  The fee is $149.  For questions or to pay your registration fee, please contact Jennifer Johnson, Forum Registrar.               RJL

Daniel J. Flint is The Proffitt’s Inc. Professor, in Marketing, associate professor of marketing in the Department of Marketing and Logistics, and director of the marketing Ph.D. concentration at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He has a Ph.D. from the University of Tennessee, an MSA from Central Michigan University, and a BS in Engineering from Annapolis.

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