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Connecting the route to purchase with the route to market in the new omnichannel reality

During 2018, 69 percent of US adults made an online purchase at least a few times, and 43 percent made an online purchase at least once a month.20 When starting the shopper journey for online purchases, e-retailers such as Amazon have a clear lead. Forty-four percent of online shoppers start their journey with Amazon, and 33 percent start on search engines such as Google. Large retailers (such as Walmart or Target), brand websites and online marketplaces (eBay or Etsy) have significantly less importance as a shopper journey starting point; just 10 percent, 6 percent and 5 percent of shoppers begin their journeys there, respectively.21 Groceries are purchased online far less than other categories of goods, such as electronics or books, with important differences between countries. In the USA and Canada, the probability that respondents would buy groceries online in the next year was found to be 15 percent and 8 percent, respectively.22 In the UK, this probability is 32 percent, and in China, it is 59 percent.23 Sixty percent of shoppers do research online before they buy in store while 27 percent do research in store before buying online. This is often referred to as webrooming and showrooming. The importance of this omnichannel shopper experience is accentuated by the fact that omnichannel shoppers spend 3.5 times more money than shoppers who use just one channel.24

The purchase process has become more complex. In the year 2000, 82 percent of shoppers used one or two touchpoints when purchasing. Fifteen years ago, the average consumer typically used two touchpoints when buying an item. Today 90 percent of customer use three or more touchpoints. With this comes new strategic shopper marketing challenges that need to be managed in the omnichannel environment.25 Due to ongoing fragmentation and digitalization, shopper journeys are becoming longer, more fragmented and multidirectional, an issue well depicted in Scholz & Friends advertising video on the subject from 2008.26 Communication and influence is no longer a one-way street, but multidirectional and not under the full control of companies. One of the key drivers of these changes and resulting challenges is technological development. Markets are moving from connected to hyperconnected via artificial intelligence for automatic ordering or voice-activated purchases. Digitalization and automation will continue to influence the route to market value chain. On-demand last-mile delivery through meal delivery solutions, like Uber Eats, have already entered the route to market sphere, as have sharing-economy solutions, like FLEXE for warehouse spaces.

Convenience is becoming more important to shoppers. Originally, convenience in marketing was attributed to products that needed little cognitive decision making; later, it expanded to include convenience channels.27 Convenience channels, such as 7-Eleven, are defined by their proximity and speed of purchase. Convenience has also entered the purchase process. Solutions such as Uber, cashless stores as tested by Starbucks, or voice ordering through digital assistants such as Alexa, offer increasing convenience to shoppers. Furthermore, direct consumption, on trade channels, are increasing in importance, often driven by increased incomes, with a wide variety of sub-channels such as restaurants, bars and pubs for different consumption needs.

Commercial customers are looking for convenience, too. In Vietnam, MuaCoke, a selfordering app for retailers, where the type and service of delivery can be chosen, has been introduced. In Sweden, mobile payment methods like Swish are expanding, simplifying the payment process not only for shoppers, but also between suppliers and retailers.

As the concept of convenience develops and goes beyond just products or sales channel proximity, companies need to understand the specific significance it has for shoppers in different categories or for commercial customers. It involves understanding the job to be done and where the key banders are. Understanding the task at hand can give convenience a new meaning. Examples include convenience shopping at discounters, end-to-end sendees for the purchase of men’s toiletries (e.g. Hany’s)28 or the use of apps in the management of deliveries and warehousing for commercial customers.

As shopper journeys become more complex, there is a shift in focus from sales charnels to shoppers. The omnichannel concept depicts an always connected shopper who uses multiple channels for infonnation and purchase. These purchases can take place both online and offline in different channels. Connecting the route to purchase with the route to market means delivering on shopper expectations at the different points of purchase. It implies understanding shopping missions, and thereby the roles of the different touchpoints and points of purchase. The aim is to activate each of these points in the most effective and efficient manner. Developing a seamless shopping experience starts with mapping and understanding the shopper journey. Dependent on the role and importance of each touchpoint along the shopper journey, the resource allocation in terms of investment and content can be prioritized to optimize the conversion of the shoppers. The fragmentation and digitalization of shopper

Strategic shopper marketing 35 journeys and sales channels have led to more fluid shopper behavior, where shoppers use different types of channels in their search and buying process in an omnichannel approach.2’ As opposed to multichanneling, where channels are managed in parallel, the starting point is the shopper. Iris needs and the role of the different touchpoints and sales channels, and their interaction. Still, such a strategy needs to be evaluated well, as it can be more costly in fact, and less effective than expected.30

Sales channels are facing fragmentation, as well as new challenges from digitalization. Over time, there has been a certain consensus that channels would develop toward a mainly modem trade, big-box environment, but in many parts of the world, like South America, Africa and many countries in Asia, traditional retailing is preeminent. In addition, many chains are developing different formats to better meet shopper needs or, indeed, compete with the traditional channel and service they provide to shoppers.

The concept of the shopper journey is important as it shows that the interaction between the different touchpoints with the brand have a bigger impact on shopper behavior than the individual touchpoints by themselves. It is thus important to optimize the journey experience over the experience of each touchpoint.31 If the experience at the point of purchase is disappointing, even if a marketing campaign is perfectly designed and developed, building awareness and preference through TV, radio, outdoor and digital media, the journey, as a whole, is sub-optimal.

Shoppers expect a seamless omnichannel shopping experience where they can order and buy from anywhere, anytime. This puts the route to market under pressure to fulfill from anywhere, anytime as well. Customers want to buy online and pick up in a store or at lockers, place orders on cell phones and have purchases delivered at home with the ability to return them. The challenge of omnichannel fulfillment has made logistics a part of shopper marketing.

The increasing expectations for seamlessness and convenience implies that purchase decisions can be taken across the shopper journey through the internet, mobile devices or in store with a variety of fulfillment options. These include click and collect, buy online and return in store, home delivery, showrooming, or just buying in store while receiving offers and promotions through a mobile device. This implies rethinking the supply chain and the role of existing and new players, as well as the use of existing assets, such as the store. Analysis of customer data plays a vital role in better understanding needs and the flow of goods required to be able to optimize these. Examples include how brick-and-mortar retailers use their stores for fulfillment of online orders, the usage of courier, express, parcel (CEP) companies for last-yard delivery, and connecting wholesalers or food delivery agents through ordering apps for a more flexible fulfillment in terms of timing and service. Lately, drones as a fulfillment alternative have gained increased attention.

Shoppers enter the journey with an ideal proposal to satisfy a future consumption or usage situation.32 In that sense, not only does the journey need to be well managed, but also the offering needs to be in line with the solution the shopper seeks. Taking wine as an example, even the best service and the best food will not cover up the fact that the appropriate wine to accompany the occasion was unavailable. A glass of wine at an informal family dinner compared to a formal dinner party would in most cases trigger different types of solution in terms of wine type and price. In addition, the shopping journey would differ in terms of information touchpoints and ultimately the point of purchase and consumption occasion.33 A satisfactory shopper experience can only be achieved if a suitable wine is available to accompany the intended consumption occasion.

The availability and presentation of the adequate product and service at the moment of purchase, to convert the shopper into a buyer, also needs to be ensured. Shopper marketing is strongly associated with the supply chain.34 Only by ensuring that the shopper will end up with the product or service that he has intended to buy to meet the consumption need, and that he has been activated along the journey toward the moment of purchase, and more importantly that he has been activated at the moment of purchase at the point of purchase, will ensure a coherent shopper experience aligned with the brand intent.

Managing points of purchase is complex, as it involves aspects of logistics, as well as of activation, based on the specific role of the shopper and the importance to the company. The question is how to optimize effectiveness in terms of activation and cost to serve across the different sales charnels. Management challenges vary between modem trade channels with centralized negotiations and logistics, small independent outlets that need to be managed individually, either directly or through third parties, and digital channels.

For companies to deliver a shopper experience in line with the brand intent in the new omnichannel reality, they need to coherently connect the management of the shopper journey toward a specific product and service, the route to purchase, with the management of this product or service toward the shopper, the route to market.35

A more complex shopper journey and increasing expectations on shopping convenience are influencing sales channel structures. As convenience becomes a more important factor, channel roles are blurring. Discount grocer Lidl now offers convenience shopping in its stores in Gennany and the UK. With continuous urbanization, rising disposable incomes and smaller families, away from home or immediate consumption (i.e. consumption at the outlet or on the go) is growing. In parallel, chains are consolidating the retail market, looking for growth in the changing channel landscape. The sales channels and points of purchase are the point of conversion of the shopper journey. As shopper journeys have become more complex and the importance of convenience has increased, the role of sales charnels and points of purchase is changing. The shopping missions determine the type of point of purchase shoppers are looking for. They give an idea about the cun ent and potential future role of points of purchase and provide an understanding of the ongoing channel binn ing and the emergence of new channel formats (e.g. pop-up stores), as well as the interplay between online and offline channels and omnichannel solutions.

Connecting the management of the shopper journey, the route to purchase, with the management of the product and service, the route to market, is a complex endeavor, as in many cases sales channels are not under the direct control of companies, but it is where business to business (B2B) and business to consumer (B2C) or shopper meet. The knowledge set needed to manage the route to market is quite different from the one needed to manage the route to purchase, which makes the internal coordination challenging. Still, as the shopper reality grows more and more complex, different touchpoints and charnels cannot be managed apart, as this no longer corresponds to how the shopper operates. To deliver a shopper experience in line with expectations, companies need to connect their route to purchase with their route to market. A challenging task, as the intersection of the route to purchase and the route to market is where different busmess realities meet, due to the different objectives, shopper vs. channels, and type of management, B2C (or shopper) vs. B2B.

With the new omnichannel reality manufacturers need to adapt their route to purchase and route to market.36 Manufacturers and retailers are facing the challenge to ensure a seamless shopping experience and manage the complexity of omnichannel fulfillment while minimizing the cost to serve. Eighty-seven percent of retailers agree that omnichannel is critical to their business, but only 8 percent say they have mastered it.37 Eighty-five percent

Strategic shopper marketing 37 of fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies have resources dedicated to shopper marketing, which shows that shopper marketing as a concept has reached the mainstream of company reality, especially in the case of consumer goods companies.38 With the introduction of the concept of the shopper journey, shopper marketing has stepped out of the store to encompass more accurately the reality of today’s shoppers and what leads them to buy. The shopper journey is where the shopper is in contact directly or indirectly with the product and service and thus can be influenced by marketing activities to drive preference and ultimately conversion.39

Omnichannel strategy implies shifting the emphasis from selling to the point of purchase to focusing on supporting the point of purchase to activate and sell to shoppers.40 The development of an omnichannel context encourages companies to focus less on sales and order taking and more on advising clients on how best to develop their businesses, transitioning the role of sales from selling to giving advice on developing business. To stay ahead in the new omnichannel reality, manufacturers must reevaluate the role of sales. The goal is not to focus on sell-in, but to partner with retail and other players to activate shoppers and focus on the sell-out. This implies not seeing retailers and intermediaries as the end customer, but as part of the system to reach the shopper. By understanding the role of retailers and intermediaries within the shopper journey and how to activate the shopper, clear plans can be developed to trigger conversion. Companies such as spirits manufacturer Diageo are talking about route to consumer, connecting the route to purchase and the route to market, integrating sales and marketing to better activate the shopper and consumer in line with their brand strategies. The sales function of the future will be more closely integr ated with shopper marketing internally, and partner with commercial customers to better serve the common shopper.


  • 1 (Crawford, 2012) and (Schneider & Rau. 2009)
  • 2 (Stengel, 2011)
  • 3 (Cadent Consulting Group, 2020)
  • 4 (GMA, 2011), (ECR Europe, emnos & The Partnering Group, 2011), (Huskins & Goldring, 2009), and (Hanis, 2010)
  • 5 (Hillesland. 2013)
  • 6 (Pauwels et al., 2002)
  • 7 (Sommer. 2010), (Sansolo, 2010), and (Dellaert et al., 2008)
  • 8 (Silveira & Marreiros, 2014)
  • 9 (Basuroy et al., 2001)
  • 10 (Desforges & Anthony, 2013)
  • 11 (In-Store Marketing Institute, 2009)
  • 12 (, 2019)
  • 13 (GMA Deloitte, 2007)
  • 14 (Retail Commission on Shopper Marketing, 2010)
  • 15 (Shankar. 2011)
  • 16 (Flint et al.. 2014)
  • 17 (Nitzberg, 2012)
  • 18 (Shankar et al.. 2011). (Fam et al., 2011)
  • 19 (Millward Brown, 2008)
  • 20 (NPR. 2019)
  • 21 (NPR. 2019)
  • 22 (PwC, 2019)
  • 23 (PwC, 2019)
  • 24 (Wood. 2018)
  • 25 (Clarke. 2018)
  • 26 (Scholz and Friends, 2008)
  • 27 (Kaufman. 2015)
  • 28 (Hany’s, 2019)
  • 29 (Verhoefetal., 2015)
  • 30 (Reagan, 2017)
  • 31 (Maechler et al., 2016)
  • 32 (Stilley et al., 2010)
  • 33 (Hall, Lockskin & O’Mahoney, 2001)
  • 34 (Flint et al., 2014)
  • 35 (Krentzel. 2018a)
  • 36 (Krentzel. 2019a)
  • 37 (Hook, 2015)
  • 38 (ECR, 2015)
  • 39 (Shankar. 2011)
  • 40 (Lapoule & Colla, 2016)
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