In Outlet Engagement - Connecting an Emotional Brand Experience
In the FMCG world, companies make a firm distinction between OFF-TRADE and ON-TRADE channels. They do this because each requires a different in-outlet merchandising and sales approach.
In the case of OFF-TRADE, the acts of purchase and consumption do not happen at the same time, or in the same environment. For instance, when you buy a beer in a supermarket, you will most likely consume it at home – perhaps while watching your favorite football team.
For ON-TRADE – consumption and purchase typically happen in the same environment. If you buy a beer in a club or in a pub, you will most probably also consume it there. In this case, the shopper and the consumer are the same person. Fully understanding the social dynamics of the ON-TRADE consumption channel is fundamental for us, as marketers.
In either context, the store/outlet becomes a stage and the brands, actors. In the outlet, just like in a theater, everything communicates and can become a potential key touch point to create a unique emotional consumption experience.
4 STEPS TO BUILDING A SUCCESSFUL ON-TRADE CONSUMER STRATEGY
STEP 1 – Where?
Some brands can be sold in many different ON-TRADE channels. Using Coca-Cola as an example, we can enjoy it in a bar, in a club, in a gas station, in a restaurant, wherever. The communication necessarily changes in the different channels since the target, the need state, the occasion, and the mindset can be quite different. So, how do we maintain consistency with the outside-the-store communication to maximize the impact of our overall brand communication?
Each channel can be optimized to achieve different business objectives. Some of them are great at driving volume, others can be leveraged to build equity, while others still may be good for both.
As mentioned earlier, the ON-TRADE channels represent platforms to promote our brands, thus we need to understand how to maximize the impact of our communication inside the store and create the right content.
There are two main questions that we need to ask ourselves:
Is this context/channel (Pub, restaurant, cinema, etc.) relevant for the High Value Target?
How important is it in terms of volumes - How much do we sell in this specific channel?
From these two questions comes a matrix:
Top-Left Quadrant: The channel is relevant for the High Value Target (HVT - influential media and brand communication target), but the place does not sell a lot of our brand in comparison with other channels. In this case, we may still decide to invest in this channel, but just for building brand equity purposes. We call this quadrant the equity driver.
Bottom-Right Quadrant: The channel is not relevant for the HVT, meaning that they don’t typically go there, but the channel still sells a lot of volume in comparison with other channels, because other segments, who also drink beer, go there often. We will call this quadrant the volume driver.
Top-Right Quadrant: The channel is relevant for the influential HVT, and it also sells a lot. This quadrant represents the stars.
Bottom-Left Quadrant: This is not relevant for the brand when it comes to high sales volume or driving brand equity. Consequently, as marketers, we should de-prioritize activation of the channels in this area of the matrix. This is the NO area.
STEP 2 – Who?
The target will depend on the position of the channel in the matrix.
For the equity driver and the stars, the target is going to be the HVT since the channel is extremely relevant for them. In this scenario, in-store communication will need to be perfectly in line with what is happening outside the store.
On the other hand, for the volume drivers, since the channel is not relevant for the HVT, if we want to maximize sales in that channel, we have to target a different segment and, consequently, create a different message, compared to the outside-the-store one.
In this last case, the objective is to understand which segment is the most aspirational/influential segment in that specific channel for our category and for our brand. There are 5 main filters to understand which target is the best to grow the channel business (e.g. Beer and Snack Bar):
Category consumption – Who consumes beer most frequently
Channel presence – Do they go to a Snack Bar
Occasion relevance – Do they consume beer in a Snack Bar after work
Appeal of the brand value proposition – Do they buy the brand and do they engage with the brand values
Influencing power – Can they become a brand ambassador? Do they create aspirations in other consumers in the channel?
STEP 3 – What?
The Consumption Experience.
Creating a unique shopping experience means delivering the right brand-relevant message to the right target, at the right time, in the right place. To do so, we need to understand the mindset of the consumers when they are in the different channels and/or occasions.
The mindset changes according to where they are consuming the product. For example, people have a different mindset when they are ordering a beer at a restaurant vs. consuming one at a disco. By knowing who these consumers are as human beings, we are better able to see the world through their eyes and better able to understand how they approach the consumption experience in different channels. We need to create a message that triggers a purchase by engaging emotionally with our consumers.
Starting from the identified consumer tension points uncovered as part of the brand strategy process relative to their overall lives, as well as how the channel experience impacts key aspects of the brand’s positioning, we can brief the creative agency to what we want the shopper to Think, Feel, and Do after receiving the appropriate brand message at a specific moment and location.
STEP 4 – HOW?
Execution – The Retailer ID
To be effective and efficient, the brief to the sales force must not only be insightful, but also actionable. A channel-specific execution guide will enable the sales team to fully and appropriately activate the retailer. A one-page document containing the following information should be compiled for each retailer:
Consumer insight – related to that specific channel.
Consumer experience – Think, feel, and do.
Priority touch points – menu, uniforms, napkins, etc.
SKUs –products, brands and packages pushed according to the relevant consumption occasion(s).
Appropriate brand message for the occasion.
Promotion – list of meaningful brand engagement promotions to activate in the store over a period of time (an execution calendar) that are strictly linked with the consumer target’s lifestyle needs, values, and attitudes.
Price – guidelines to follow when the brand is not on promotion.
The store represents the moment of truth in the brand development process. As marketers, we need to engage with the consumer emotionally in order to become their first choice. This is a win-win situation, for the company and for the business owners. The only way to do so is to deeply understand our target and create a powerful message that releases their tension and need states at a specific purchase and/or consumption occasion.