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Pre-Planning for Shopper Marketing Success

customerThere’s more to shopper marketing than coupons and samples, and if you wait until your shopper is in the store, you’ve already lost the battle. Technology has changed the way people learn about and acquire everything from socks to real estate.  You have to meet them where they are, with information relevant to them, at a time when they are receptive to your message. The “best practices” ground is always shifting. You need to stay nimble, connected, and aware. And on March 12, 2019 Supplier Community brought together a group of shopper marketing rock stars from a variety of suppliers, agencies, and service providers to help participants do just that.

Our keynote speaker was Hasbro Sr Manager, Omnichannel Marketing Nathan Pendleton, who discussed planning a successful marketing campaign and shared some tips, tricks, and guidance to help you get the most out of your programs, every step of the way.

The Project Kick-off

According to Pendleton, there are a few preliminary things that should be done as you’re getting ready to go into a campaign, things that will help you better define your objectives and allow you to work better with your partners in order to achieve the results you want.


  • How do we utilize what we know about the consumer?
  • What are the objectives behind this product/brand?
  • What do we want to learn about this consumer?

It’s important to have a strong understanding of what you want to achieve through your campaign in order for it to really move forward, and Pendleton believes every marketing opportunity should begin with an insight. You should know exactly what it is that’s driving the purchase, and what you want to learn about your consumer.


  • How does the consumer interact with your product?
  • How clean is the path to purchase?
  • How does this align with the goals of my retailer/category?

You also need a clear strategy. Many go into a campaign with huge expectations to cover all consumers, grow their business, and triple sales. They want to achieve eighteen different things for sales, ten different things for their brand campaigns, and five things for Walmart or their other retailers. But Pendleton says you’ve got to be specific about exactly what it is you want to learn and what you want to grow.

Make sure you’re meeting with everyone who is part of the campaign. This includes replenishment, sales, your shopper marketing team, your brand team, and your retailer. Work with your teams to really understand what’s driving them.

Whether you’re working with Walmart or another retailer, determine their objectives for your campaign and get their buy in on the front side. Make sure they understand what you’re doing and what you’re trying to achieve.  


  • How do we reach this consumer?
  • What is the size of this prize?
  • What can we learn about this consumer?
  • How do we leverage what we learn to contribute to total category growth?

Once you have your insights and have determined your strategy, Pendleton says the third key pillar is to brainstorm. And while he admits this may sound a bit crazy, he points out that your understanding from a marketing or an e-commerce side vs. what your in-store sales or replenishment teams understand is probably completely different.

You need to know what it means to win, and what you can do on the backside to achieve that win. If your plan is to earn an extra $75 million in sales over the next 6 months, make sure that’s what’s really important to your retailer and to you as a marketer for that retailer as well.

You also need to figure out how to achieve total category growth. Whether you’re a key player or just a small participant in that category, if you can drive the entire category, that will drive sales for your retailer overall, as well as generate more revenue for you.

Bring the Project into Focus

The next phase, after the insight and that big overview meeting, is to bring your program into focus.


  • What are the important measurements of this campaign?
  • Will your tactics deliver the measurements you want?
  • What do I need to deliver in order to gain additional support for future campaigns?

Pendleton says the first thing he does is set very clear KPIs. He determines what they are going to measure and how they are going to measure it. And while this seems very basic, he says there have been numerous times when, after the program has ended, someone asks what his team learned about this or why they didn’t study that, when in fact, those issues were not part of the program and therefore not included.

So it’s important to make sure everyone is aligned on your KPIs, and again, make sure this understanding is across the board – sales, brands, retailer, and anyone else who may be involved. Make sure they are also aligned on how you’re going to measure those results. Measurement is very important, so make sure you communicate this information to all of your media partners as well, so they understand what your expectations are from a reporting perspective on the back side.

At this point, Pendleton says he also looks at what he can do to gain additional support for future campaigns. Because almost every campaign is considered a new campaign and requires going in to re-pitch or ask for additional money, he has found that presenting a full year strategy provides a better overall result for him and his company.

According to Pendleton, he may offer a strategy for a campaign which includes an Easter push along with his plans for summer, and again for fall. He then expounds on how these three campaigns together will deliver X and when these deliveries will hit.

This tactic clearly illustrates his goals and strategies, and allows him to get the additional funding to create the full year’s strategy needed in order to do the best overall campaign for the customer.


  • Where are we driving this consumer?
  • Is there a clear call to action for the consumer?
  • How does the experience differ between channels?

Conversion is the bottom line when you’re doing a marketing campaign. You want to sell people stuff. There’s no surprise there – it’s pretty basic. But Pendleton says you have to think about where you’re driving the consumer.

If you’re driving them in-store, is it to a pallet or the modular? Are you driving them to the front of the store or to grocery pickup?

If you’re driving them online, is it to a brand page, or a product page, or maybe a collection page? Are those pages ready to go? Do they have the right assets and a clear call to action? What else would that customer need to know about your product in order to convert?

If you can’t give them all the information they want, they’re not going to convert, and ultimately, conversion is the end game for everything you’re doing.

It’s also important to understand how the consumer experience differs between channels. Ideally, they should all be as similar as possible. And while each channel should include the same basic call to action, it’s not one size fits all. An in-store print sign or Walmart radio message is very different than messages delivered through digital media, so make sure you take that into account.

And Pendleton says you shouldn’t be afraid to test different messaging. As long as you understand your consumer and your messaging, you can try different things, testing one thing online and something else in-store.   


  • Does the budget allow for me to do everything I want?
  • What are the most important components?
  • Do I understand all expenses that the budget will need to cover?

The third aspect of this phase is the dreaded budget. There are a lot of different components that can cause a program to go off course half way through planning, and staying on budget is critical.

Make sure you understand your budget. Make sure your media partners understand your budget. Make sure you understand all the different components of your budget, including what is coming out of it, what that budget is going to provide on the back end, and exactly what they’re getting for their programs.

Again, while this seems to be fairly basic and something everyone should know, Pendleton says it amazes him how when he sits down with the brand teams to go through his activations, they usually have no idea how much of that budget doesn’t go directly into the media or the conversion driving of the sales.

Post Activation

The final phase is the post activation, which Pendleton feels is the piece that, although critically important, usually doesn’t get executed as well as it should.


  • How are KPIs measured?
  • What did we learn about the consumer?

During the second phase, you set your measurements. Now it’s time to actually measure the results and see whether you achieved those KPIs. You’ll also want to determine what those KPIs looked like and what you learned from your program, including any results you may not have been expecting.


  • How did this program deliver on my objectives?
  • How did the results of this program compare to previous campaigns with this retailer?
  • How do my results compare to other teams and national programs?

According to Pendleton, tracking is one of the most important aspects of a program. Tracking is how you determine whether your program delivered its objectives, whether you were able to hold your media partners accountable for achieving the objectives you set for them, and how this campaign compared with other campaigns you’ve run.

You should know the ROI for each campaign you’ve run over the past year. You should know the different tactics that contributed to that ROI, and if someone asks you what you would do differently to increase the success of each of those campaigns, you should be able to look at them as a whole and provide a new plan to achieve X ratio again, based on the collective lessons from each of those campaigns.

Always track your programs. Track against your national benchmark, track against your national retailer benchmarks, track against your brand benchmarks, and track against your national media benchmarks.

You should always know what those benchmarks are, and if your brand teams and your media partners don’t have those, be sure to challenge them, because you need those numbers in order to illustrate how you delivered X or missed Y.

And while you definitely want to let them know when you hit X, Pendleton says to remember, there’s nothing wrong with saying you missed Y as well. That happens all the time in marketing. If you set three objectives but only hit two, it doesn’t mean you failed in that objective.

Sometimes what you learn by missing an objective is even more important than what you learn by actually hitting it. So, be very honest in what you’re trying to achieve and how you did or did not achieve it.


  • Share the campaign results with your team, brand partners, and the retailer
  • Include a recommendation on how you will apply the learning from this program to the next.

Communication is key to the success of your program. You’ve gone to your brand teams or your national media teams, you’ve procured funding, and you’ve told them all how you’re going to measure the results of the program. Now it’s time to go back and show them what you learned.

Don’t just send an email. Instead, send out a calendar request with that email and set up a meeting. Take those teams through those results, and tell them what you know now that you didn’t know before.

This is a critical step, not only for you, but for your company as well. It’s going to help them learn more about their retailer, more about their consumer, and more about their programs, so they can improve in the future.

But Pendleton says it’s also important to take your retailer back through those programs. Oftentimes we talk about executions and different marketing campaigns, but we never share any of that back with Walmart – or our other suppliers.

Some may ask, “Why would you share what you did with other suppliers?”

And while this advice does not apply to proprietary information such as data or budgets, according to Pendleton, we can all do better, and we can all learn from one another. There are a lot of different things you can learn across categories. You may think that what is done in toys doesn’t apply to food, but by sharing experiences you may find that a lot of what applies in toys could pertain directly to food, or hardlines, or sporting goods, or entertainment, or any other category for that matter.

So Pendleton says go out there and get a network of people. Talk collectively about what you’ve learned and what you know about the consumer. Together, you can construct a better picture of the Walmart consumer as a whole and how they’re shopping the entire box, because that will make you smarter and more aware of how to go after those consumers.

Finally, Pendleton says he goes through and makes a recommendation for his next program based on what he learned during the current one. He puts all of the information into one slide, with the original KPIs across the top, what the program delivered and key graphics on the side, and across the bottom, his recommendation.

He lets them know how much he would spend on future campaigns for this program moving forward, when he would execute it, what he would do, and the different tactics he would implement in order to increase the return even more.

Pendleton challenges everyone to take this information back to your brand teams. Take it to your internal teams, take it to your sales teams, but most importantly, take it to your retailer. Show them what you’re learning about their consumer, about their customer, and about their category.

Sharing your learning is going to make you smarter, it’s going to make others smarter, and it’s going to drive a unique collaboration that’s rarely seen across companies in other areas.

Click here to view the full video.

You can also find more information or sign up for future Supplier Community events here.