Michelle Whelan, CEO, Geometry UK investigates

In a world of infinite choice and round-the-clock shopping, can brands still rely on seasonal peaks, product launches and promotions to guarantee growth? Or do brands really have to be mentally and physically available 24/7, 365 days a year?

To my mind, ‘always on’ means a personalised and relevant presence to ensure the brand is visible and available where and when people need it, in a format that works for them.

What it is not, is a constant bombardment at a great speed volume. It’s connecting with people in moments that matter.

While being “always-on” is essential to modern marketing, there is one big proviso: it should be considered in the context of channels and categories as people shop: category first, then repertoire, then brand.

Why? Because shopper behaviour is changing at a macro level with shifts towards discounters (+5.8 percent), convenience (+ 4.8 percent) and online (+17.4 percent) driving a fragmented retail landscape. And people are happy to switch across different environments to meet their needs.  Added to this mix, the mission and behaviours across these channels differ significantly.

We have identified three strategic pillars of modern-day “always-on”.

Permanent Shopability

Permanent shopability means having the right range and assortment to satisfy all shopping behaviours, in the right channels. What do you need in convenience compared to Amazon or compared to big grocery multiples?

Take Oreo, which earlier this year tapped into the subscription box trend, partnering with Amazon to deliver a monthly Cookie Club box containing favourite sweet treats. Not only that, but each month you get an Oreo-inspired gift. All with the convenience of Amazon delivery.

Once you have the right range, how do you help shoppers navigate the category quickly, and, easily? Unilever recently overcame choice complexity at shelf by developing a needs-based segmentation in the deo category. This resulted in clever colour-coded navigation at shelf and, in turn, category growth for Walgreen’s of over 10 percent.

Shopper-centric Campaign Activity

Shoppers aren’t just shopping during a seasonal campaign. Part of ‘always-on’ is to create new – but critically relevant – occasions or associations.

Purina, through understanding shopper data, recently learnt it can use retail media to feature against sun-cream, online. As people consider their holiday, they’re bulk-buying cat food. An unexpected but brilliantly effective use of shopper-centric campaign activity.

Total category growth

To deliver long term, incremental growth brands should be working with retailers to create category driving programmes that establish new behaviours or occasions.

The Unilever/CVS partnership is a great example: Unilever research revealed that CVS had been losing beauty category shoppers to mass and supermarket channels. So, on the heels of CVS announcing a new focus on health and beauty, Unilever stepped up with “Love Your Skin,” an exclusive platform that grouped its Dove, Simple and Vaseline brands together to create new regime of behaviour and drive overall growth of the skin-care category. “Love Your Skin” promoted a group purchase and changed the core CVS beauty buyer’s mindset from “treat” to a new focus on total skin health.

I believe we’re at the advent of a new “always-on” journey. Brands and retailers are re-organising, repurposing to deliver and delight their shopper where, when, and how they want to purchase. Exciting times ahead!

Please click here to read Michelle's article, published in full by AW360.

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