How Shopper Marketers are Adapting to 'Always On' Consumers with a New Playbook

Thanks to the proliferation of technology and the fast-paced world consumers live in today, shopper marketers have had to make significant changes to accommodate the changing needs of consumers who are growing ever more accustomed to always-on, surround-sound-style opportunities to buy anywhere, anytime they please. The mission of the typical smart shopper marketer today? Be everywhere, all the time, across every physical and digital channel to ensure that every shopping experience—wherever and whenever it takes place—is a great brand building experience that leads to a sale.

Thriving in the “always on” era can often hinge on one strategic tool: consumer insights. It’s about understanding how consumers behave across all channels and leveraging those insights to be ready and prepared to provide the right amount of information to shoppers at key points along their customer journey. Here's a closer look at how brands like Kimberly-Clark and Sun Products are driving strategic shopper marketing campaigns that prove out with measurable results and—even whirl into long-term campaigns that adapt to multiple retailers.


Kimberly-Clark is one parent brand whose marketing strategies follow a moving target. And as with all successful shopper marketing programs, key consumer insights drive its planning, creative and execution.

Campaigns can be driven by a collection of insights, or even just one, as Kimberly-Clark discovered for its U by Kotex brand.

U by Kotex recently launched a new line of products led by one specific shopper insight: Women find it difficult to exercise during their period and often choose less challenging workouts. Cue the debut of U by Kotex FITNESS, a new collection of tampons, liners and thin pads.

“The design was heavily informed by research surrounding this target to ensure the innovations met her needs; specifically, creating products that stand up to a variety of exercises and activities. We understand that health and wellness varies for each person, which is why new products were designed to enable a spectrum of goals,” says Kade Applegate, ‎brand manager for U by Kotex at Kimberly-Clark.

Now that it had the products developed and packaged for market, it was time to apply that insight to determine the shopper marketing support strategy to an integrated mix of marketing aimed at its ‘always on’ target market. In stores, custom retailer programs like price promotion, in-store creative and displays and in-pack coupons are building awareness and driving trial as this consumer comparison shops in stores. As this consumer moves online, banner ads, product detail pages on retailer websites and digital partnerships with clothing and lifestyle sites prompt consumers to purchase. CRM programs help Kotex manage customer data and interactions to determine appropriate channels and retargeting. And on social, U by Kotex keeps the messaging humming toward a target market that spends copious amounts of time surfing their social networks and other social media. Its Facebook page alone has close to 250,000 fans.

Sampling is also a critical piece of the launch. Women who visit UbyKotex.com can request a free sample—or make a purchase—and share their experience with friends.


Influencers have become one of the newest strategic allies to the shopper marketing discipline for many marketers.

Kotex is using influencers through a partnership with Yoga instructor Jessamyn Stanley. She serves as the spokesperson for its new U by Kotex FITNESS campaign and is featured throughout the integrated program, including the shopper marketing creative.

“The intent of this program is to open an honest dialogue about working out on your period and to break the stigma around that conversation,” Applegate says. “Jessamyn Stanley is no stranger to honest conversations and we were excited for the opportunity to bring her authenticity to this project. An important piece of the shopper marketing strategy and reaching our target audience was representing the spectrum of health and wellness, making yoga and body positivity advocate Jessamyn Stanley an ideal spokesperson.”



Retailer perception of shopper marketing effectiveness fell precipitously, from 92 percent in 2014 to 65 percent in 2016, according to a Cadent Consulting Group study. So, it’s ever more important for CPGs and other manufacturers to develop innovative and creative shopper campaigns that move the needle for the retailer—and the category—as well.

For Sun Products, whose major brands include Dial Soap, Persil and All Free and Clear laundry detergents, one insight proved so critical to a recent Sun Products’ campaign that the brand was able to whirl that insight into an evergreen model that brought multiple brands together across a number of categories.

“We came across a really important insight,” says Ken Krasnow, vp-digital and consumer activation at The Sun Products Corp, a Henkel Co. “We’ve learned that in order to live a healthy life people need to think beyond diet and exercise to think about where they live in their home. Is it dry? Free of mold and clean? If not they’re really missing the important third leg. The light bulb went off that we have aright to talk about in-home cleaning.”

With that insight in hand, Sun Products and its agency, The Mars Agency, built a strategy to leverage its brands to reinforce a better-for-you initiative from a laundry and clean home perspective. Another insight? It would do better with partners.

The campaign, “Healthy Home,” provides consumers with surprising, yet useful facts to help them rethink their cleaning regimens. Partners Clorox Wipes, Kleenex Tissues, 3M sponges and Kimberly-Clark products joined the program.

For example, at Samsclub.com visitors find video hacks for projects such using All Free Clear to remove allergens from children's toys and other home items.

Another hack: Put tough-to-clean greasy stove burners together in a Ziploc bag with a one-quarter cup of ammonia and let them sit overnight for an easy clean job. Each video focuses on a problem to solve that a consumer may not even know is a problem and then associated that problem with the campaign’s partner products.

The idea for the “Healthy Home” campaign began last fall when Sun Products’ regional grocery chain partner ShopRite looked to make a statement about themselves in health and wellness. For that campaign, 21unique 15-second videos were produced and marketed through social media, paid ads, circular ads and in-store merchandising displays.

“We had tremendous engagement with online watching and sharing that resulted in a double-digit increases in sales for the partner products and for the category,” Krasnow says.

Even so, Sun Products took some important lessons from the ShopRite campaign to improve the new Sam’s Club program.

“We learned that we probably had one to many steps to get to the content, so now we’re looking to deliver the content in the media to make paid media work harder,” Krasnow says. “We’re removing a step by serving pre-roll video ads that contain the added value content and then it’s just one click for consumers to buy making it more seamless and easier for the shopper.”

A new campaign at Sam’s Club begins this fall to target the fall allergy season as well as the cold and flu season with many of the same partners supported by online video pre-roll primarily through programmatic media and social media, as well as search.

“What we’re really trying to do is take the success of this program and create additional shopper marketing solutions that target different shopper needs,” he says. “The benefit is when you do a program like this that drives incremental sales and reinforced marketplace distinction for the retailer and the participating brands the benefit is that you can create an evergreen program that you run year after year and make it bigger and better.

Influencers also play a key role in the "Healthy Home" campaign.

“What’s old is new,” Krasnow says. “Word-of-mouth marketing is the most successful form of marketing. Some 90 percent of people are more apt to believe a stranger’s review of a product than they are a brand’s message. Influencer marketing has become a very important piece of the [shopper] marketing mix.”


Overall, marketing spending by consumer packaged goods companies is a tremendous investment, nearly $225 billion annually, or 19.5 percent of total sales. Even so, that’s relatively flat over the past 10 years. What has changed however, is the mix, according to the 2017 Marketing Spending Industry Study from Cadent Consulting Group.

Spending on shopper marketing has more than doubled, while digital spending has almost tripled over the past five years. The growth has been sourced from traditional vehicles including advertising, trade promotion and consumer promotion, while the total budget has remained static. Digital spending is now greater than traditional advertising. Digital received the lowest effectiveness rating from retailers, as well as the lowest awareness and impact scores from shoppers.

Even though shopper marketing has chipped away at consumer promotion budgets, consumer promotion grew to 9.2 percent of the mix last year, up from 7.9 percent in 2014 and is projected to grow another 1.3 points to 10.5 percent this year. Consumer promotion remains effective in the eyes of 68 percent of retailers, with 39 percent of shoppers claiming awareness and 30 percent saying it affected their purchase decision, the Cadent study found.

Despite the increase in shopper marketing and digital spending, neither retailers nor shoppers are feeling the impact. Most significant, money is being redirected with an incomplete understanding of marketing ROI.

Source: Cadent Consulting Group

Source: Cadent Consulting Group

As shopper marketing has now been around for decades, it’s critical to establish the right metrics to measure effectiveness on the business, as well as understand how to drive impact among both retailers and shoppers.

This year, manufacturers and CPGs are projected to spend the most, 26.1 percent, on retailer specific coupons and offers, 23.7 percent on in-store ads, 17 percent on merchandising fixtures, 13 percent of sampling and demos, 10.4 percent on in-store events and 9.8 percent of other brand activations. The biggest shift from 2014 is that coupons and in-store ads gained ground over merchandising fixtures and in-store events.

Source: Cadent Consulting Group

Source: Cadent Consulting Group


Shopper marketers are hard at work in the digital space, trying to keep up with the changes evidenced by the wide range of spending across digital channels.

This year, spending on social media is expected to outpace all other digital vehicles for the first time at 24.6 percent, followed by digital banners, 16.6 percent, online coupons, 16.4 percent and video at 12.8 percent. As a testament to the importance of video, including storytelling and educational videos that include recipes, video did not even appear in the 2014 digital spending mix. Other digital channels splintered in the mix this year include, website content, email marketing, sponsored content/native advertising, SEO and sponsored search ads.

“The spaces where shopping meets selling has evolved, channels are blurring, retail formats splintering and tech is enabling this all-on mindset. Shoppers are in the drivers seat,” says Derek Joynt, evp and general manager at The Mars Agency. “We see every commonly held strategy about retail is all up for grabs. The marketplace requires a new playbook.”


Marketing feminine care products has become more honest, frank and realistic reflecting a larger social drive to end the stigma around periods.

Kimberly-Clark continues to reshape the conversation with the launch of U by Kotex FITNESS to meet the needs of women exercising during their periods. The brand’s new spokesperson, Jessamyn Stanley, embodies the straightforward attitude, authenticity and confidence the brand represents.

Sara Welch, the Amazon shopper marketing lead at Kimberly-Clark, talks about how shopper marketing and the path-to-purchase meld to market the new line of U by Kotex FITNESS products.

CHIEF MARKETER: How has the path-to-purchase changed over the last few years?
SARA WELCH: Today, the path-to-purchase is the unconscious non-linear channel shifting by the consumer on demand. Where ecommerce, social and mobile play an increasingly critical role in influencing behavior, this is a far cry from a few years ago where traditional media could deliver a more sequential set of desired actions based on a brand’s objectives.

CM: Are there certain media that have disrupted the path-to-purchase more than others?
SW: Mobile and social without question have disrupted the traditional path-to-purchase due to its on-demand accessibility and influencer network. Both mediums will continue to do so as the mobile consumer experience continues to improve and as the intersection of commerce and social blur the lines further. Emerging tech will only accelerate this disruption as the proliferation of data allows for the delivery of more personalized one-to-one connections for each of us.

CM: How do you incorporate these new channels into the path-to-purchase for a new brand like U by Kotex FITNESS?
SW: We view mobile and social as critical to all Kimberly-Clark brands. Mobile and social affords us the ability to deliver relevant content, foster relationships and create seamless experiences with our consumers beyond purchase.

CM: What are the most important shopper insights taken into consideration when planning marketing for U by Kotex FITNESS?
SW: What influences their shopping behavior at the critical inflection points along the path-to-purchase from research and discovery to customer service and content interaction.

CM: How has gathering shopper insights changed and where do those insights come from?
SW: We leverage a myriad of data sources to mine the most relevant insights. While our approach to shopper hasn’t changed, the types and availability of data have exploded.

CM: As a marketer in a very competitive market, what keeps you up at night?
SW: Sifting through the clutter, placing the right bets and being able to move at the pace of the market.