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  • Writer's pictureSaurabh Bajaj

The Art & Science of Shopper Marketing

Updated: Jan 29, 2023


One of the things that I often reflect on is that in an ideal world, I would perhaps be doing research in the field of Physics. A subject that I still love and one in which I had scored a 97 in my 12th Boards. However, life takes its own path and I found myself in the magical world of marketing. Yet my love for marketing perhaps stems from the fact that Marketing is in equal parts art as well as science.

Now, we have all seen the beautiful creativity that this field creates, however in this article lets focus on the science that’s at the core of the art that we see it generating. This leads us to the key question, it is possible to scientifically decode the needs of a consumer & shopper?

Consumer versus the Shopper

As you may have noticed, I called out the “consumer” and “shopper” as two different entities. But are they really distinct? The consumer is the person who consumes your offering and hence is impacted by all the 4 Ps of marketing including the Product, Price, Place and Promotions. However, when we talk about the “Shopper”, we basically talk about the journey leading to the closing of a sale or getting your product into the shopping basket.

Given that the consumer journey is likely to be more holistic, lets first talk about the needs of the consumer and then lets deep dive into the shopper.

The Purchase Decision Hierarchy

The consumers purchase and uses a number of products in the course of a week and with these ten minute deliveries those purchase journeys are now down to daily. But what goes into the landing of a purchase, what are those parameters and in what order are those parameters decoded?

I have had the good fortune of decoding the Purchase Decision Hierarchy across several categories that I have worked with and let me demonstrate this through a few examples.

Cadbury Gifting

When I took over the Cadbury Gifting portfolio in 2008, I realised that we had an unwieldy portfolio of 26 offerings of diverse shapes, sizes, colours and types of chocolate. With discussions I realised that there was a popular myth that when it comes to gifting the consumers demands something new and hence every year we do workshops to come up with even more innovative packs.

However, in my discussions with consumers, I realized that they don’t even remember what they had gifted the previous year. Which is when we decided to interrogate the Purchase Decision Hierarchy of Gifting and what we learnt was fascinating.

The most important question for the consumer is to make the choice of the Primary or Main Gift or the Add on Gift. The Primary Gift had a budget of Rs 500 to Rs 1000 while Add on Gifts had a budget of Rs 50 – Rs 500 and hence the first criteria of selection was the budget range.

The next question they considered was the category. So if they had gifted Mithai last year, this year it would perhaps be Dry Fruits and so on. If they had decided to buy Chocolates the 3rd decision was which Brand – say between Cadbury Celebrations of Ferro Rocher.

Shape of the Box, Type of Chocolate, Colours used were so down the hierarchy that they didn’t even matter.

Hence from 2008 to 2012, I made a number of drastic shifts on the portfolio which doubled our business and improved our profitability from negative to double digit profitability.

  1. Firstly, we reduced the number of SKUs from 26 to just 8 to help manage the space within an outlet and to reduce the unnecessary complexity that we had created.

  2. We introduced Gold & Purple as a dominate colour across our packs and creatives to build brand relevance.

  3. We introduced chocolate on the front of pack in place of Diyas as we had previously thought that we had to hid the fact that these are chocolates to overcome cultural barriers.

I have had similar examples in other categories where I have worked with and a few interesting insights are:

Biscuits vs Chocolates: Since Biscuits are a planned purchase and Chocolate are often bought on Impulse, hence Brand colours are more important on packaging in Chocolate while in Biscuits the variant colours are more important. So when you but a Cadbury Dairy Milk, Roast Almond or Crackle, you first choose Dairy Milk and then the variant. However, when you buy Good Day you make the choice between Butter, Cashew & Pista before you choose Good Day or Moms Magic.

Johnnie Walker uses the height of the bottle to callout the degree of prestige and hence helps you choose the right variant depending of the specialness of the occasion and the company that you are drinking with.

Shopper Marketing

So while the purchase decision hierarchy help you create the optimal mix to win with consumers, shopper marketing focusses on the needs of the shopper who is trying to navigate the store.

Shopper Marketing understands that a shopper goes through a particular buying cycle and a Brand can lose a potential sale at any of these steps. These steps and how Brands can influence them are captured below:

  • See: The first thing that a shopper does when he enters a store is to look around and see what captures her attention. This is where a large and attractive fixture might just capture her attention, like a large 6ft by 6ft figure of an M&Ms character might capture our attention in Duty Free. So the first task of a Brand might be to identify the passion points of her Target Group, say Football and set up an attractive Point of Buying element.

  • Scan: The next step that a shopper focusses on is to see to try and find the category of her interest. Here dominant players like Cadbury in India might invest in creating Category Management within the confectionary category so the shopper finds it easier to spot the exact type of goodies she might be looking for. This is also often achieved through the right “Planogram” or a layout of company products that is offered to merchandizers.

  • Spot: Next the shopper goes on to try and find the exact product that she is looking for. Here a stand out colour is extremely effective. For examples, Red, Orange & Yellow are colours that one would most often associate with baking and hence the biscuits category. A stand our Blue colour of Oreo helps the brand break the colour and hence gets easily spotted by most shoppers.

  • Show Interest: Often appropriate Branding, a great product shot that attracts the eye and nutritional claims are great elements to attract interest of shoppers.

  • Select: This is the final act of picking up a product, paying & exiting a store. In making the final shopping decision often a pack promotion or a limited edition flavour can be quite effective.

Shopper marketing tried to understand the impact of each of these parts of the merchandizing or product-packaging mix to try and increase off takes.

In Conclusion

When we see those beautiful fixtures in stores, bright coloured packs and delightful consumer promotions we often fail to appreciate the science that goes behind the scenes in helping deliver the purchase decision. The understanding of the Purchase Decision Hierarchy and the 5S of Shopper Marking helps a marketer build an optimal marketing mix and an in store strategy.

Saurabh Bajaj is the Executive Vice President Pre Paid Marketing with Vodafone Idea since Aug 2022. He is an alumnus of Delhi College of Engineering and completed his PGDM (MBA) from Indian Institute of Management Indore in 2004. He has since, spent 18 years in the field of Sales & Marketing having worked for a decade with Mondelez, then with Diageo for a couple of years in Innovations, and then the last 5 years with Britannia as the Marketing Head for their International Business & then with the Dairy vertical. Saurabh is passionate about sharing his experiences and has spoken at several campuses, runs a video series titled ‘Iconic Ads’ and has done a podcast series named ‘Buland Future’ on Mentza and is also working on a book titled ‘The Practical Marketer. Saurabh has also been recognized as 50 Best Marketing & Communication Professionals by White Page International in 2020 & as a DMA Trailblazer Rising Star CMO in 2021. You can follow and connect with Saurabh at

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Distil Design is a shopper marketing agency that specializes in creating effective campaigns for brands and retailers. Our approach is rooted in distilling complex data into actionable strategies to drive sales and build brand awareness. Our team of experts works closely with brands to create impactful campaigns at the point of purchase. With over 15 years of experience, we help brands increase sales and navigate the shopper's purchase journey. Visit us at to learn more about our services.

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