Retail in Asia

In Shops

Event Overview: Inside insights on shopping marketing

Marcus Evans’ Shopper Marketing Asia conference will be held from 11 to 13 June. The conference, which has been held annually since 2010, sees exciting new themes this year. It will bring together 15 industry expert across the region to share their insights of reaping profits and loyalty with excellent shopper marketing programmes in-store and out-of-the store using all customer touch points and path to purchase. Retail in Asia had a chance to talk to the conference chairman, Steve Carlin, Senior Director, Shopper Marketing & Insights for Ubisoft, to learn about the latest trend in shopper marketing, his insights, as well as the featured topics of the event.

RIA: Why is an effective shopper marketing strategy important to a retail company? What possible benefits will be brought by an effective strategy?

Steve Carlin (SC): Understanding the path-to-purchase, which is the path that a person takes as they make a decision to buy a product, is very important to a retail company and to the vendor companies who work directly with them. During my time at Procter & Gamble, this point was best brought home to me when I learnt that the main purchaser (shopper) of the men’s personal care products were women aged 35-54. They weren’t the consumer but they were the shopper. So I learnt that by better understanding the communication points and vehicles that best speak to the shopper of the product, companies can better target the decision maker and make their marketing dollars more efficient. Further, stronger marketing communication insures the messaging in store is more appropriate to the shopper and thus allows the retailer to create a better shopping experience.

RIA: What are some of the elements for a successful shopper marketing strategy?

SC: It may seem obvious, but the first key element to a successful shopper marketing strategy is actually understanding who your shopper is. Ubisoft works with major US retailers like GameStop, Walmart, Target and Best Buy. It’s certain from our research that the core shopper buying video games at these retailers is not the same person. The main shopper that we aim to speak to at GameStop is different from the core shopper at Target, and the sales data confirms this.  Once you have determined who the shopper is, you then want to understand more about how to speak to them and what kind of vehicle in-store best communicates to them.  At GameStop, where the store associates have a lot of influence on the shopper we spend a significant time communicating to them to teach them about our games and their benefits.  At Target, where the store associates don’t have quite as much interaction with the video game shopper, we focus more on signage and visual cues and clues to engage the shopper.

RIA: What do you see as the new trend in shopper marketing? Why? How can marketers tap into this new trend?

SC: The latest shopper marketing trend is the increasing speed at which a consumer turns into a shopper and in turn a purchaser. The path-to-purchase model is speeding up from when a brand or item comes in to a person’s awareness to when they actually buy the product (and potentially review it).  As you can guess, this is primarily due to the digital age’s information flow and to the socialisation of the internet. Ten to 15 years ago, consumers likely only became aware of a product through mainstream communication techniques like TV or print. That product then went on to a consumer’s shopping list for their next trip to the store. Certainly there were a high level of impulse purchases but for the most part that was the flow of the path-to-purchase. Today, what were distinct phases of that path are now grey and muddled at best. I can become aware of a product from a friend on Facebook, click on a link and read a review, click another link and buy it online all within minutes. That is both incredible innovation and scary development for those of us in marketing because it is both an opportunity to spread the brand or product message efficiently (like through social media), but it also relinquishes some of our ability to control the message and the value proposition of the brand.  It also pushes the classic consumer or brand marketing teams, and plans a big step closer to the downstream shopper marketing teams and plans. 

The last part of your question is how can marketers tap into this new trend and that is really the "$1 million question".  We know that there is convergence of the marketing mediums in this path-to-purchase, but the degree of convergence will depend again on who is shopping for and who uses your product. When I worked on hearing aid batteries at Energizer, I wouldn’t focus a lot of my energy and resources using social media channels to push my brand message. That was just not an audience who would gravitate toward that medium en masse. As you might suspect though, the video game crowd is passionate about their games and want to socialise about it. Social media, digital marketing, and mobile marketing are all increasingly vital tools for our team to use in marketing our products to our core audience. The awareness of who you are marketing to though has to be the first step in evaluating how these communication trends can best be leveraged within your marketing plan.

RIA: Can you share a successful case study with us?

SC: The example I will be presenting at the 3rd Annual Shopping Marketing Asia conference is a good one. Ubisoft makes a videogame series called "Assassin’s Creed" which is geared toward a more series or "core" gamer. The retailer GameStop disproportionately owns the market for the core videogamer in the US and so we knew we wanted to partner closely with them to maximise the sales of the "Assassin’s Creed Revelations" videogame release. Starting close to 12 months ahead of time, Ubisoft and GameStop’s cross functional teams set regular weekly meetings to build out a plan that utilised both companies’ marketing vehicles. We first set a timeline of key communication pulse points leading up to the launch of the game as well as the next 60 days of sales through the December holiday period. The plan was designed to generate and maximise pre-orders where a shopper pays USD5 to reserve a copy of the game for launch day, which is also a good indicator of the overall demand for a game. The more pre-orders a game receives the more units the game is likely to sell and so it can also be used as a proxy measurement for the success of the marketing campaign. By having the two teams work together directly to integrate all of our shopper marketing plans, including everything from in-store signage and TV ads all the way through social media and digital marketing, we were able to set a record in the Assassin’s Creed franchise’s history for both pre-orders and eventually sales. In this case, the win was really in the partnership between to two companies which delivered outstanding results.

RIA: You will be chairing the upcoming 3rd Annual Shopping Marketing Asia conference. Which topic in the event interests you most? Why?

SC: I really enjoy seeing topics I deal with daily discussed by companies and groups that are outside of my traditional packaged good retail experience. There are several companies like Starbuck’s and McDonalds that will be talking about shopper marketing from a more service-based (restaurant) approach and that should prove to be very interesting.  What I really get out of these conferences is both a reaffirmation of the approach my team and I take, focusing on the shopper, as well as interesting new approaches to the same challenges we face. I find that I take home a lot of ideas for how to approach my business that I can implement into our go-to-market strategies. I am definitely looking forward to the different discussions and point of views we will explore during this conference.


Steven Carlin is the Senior Director of Shopping Marketing and Insights for Ubisoft, the third largest video game publisher in the world. Based in Ubisoft’s San Francisco office, Carlin is responsible for developing the short and long term shopper and retail marketing visions for Ubisoft’s games and helping to shape the Sales team’s national go-to-market plans. Additionally, he works closely with both internal brand teams, to manage their shopper marketing strategies, as well as with retailers, to develop their in-store and online programmes. Before joining to Ubisoft in 2009, Carlin worked at Energizer Battery Company and Procter & Gamble where he held multiple roles in Sales, Shopper Marketing and Brand Marketing.

The 3rd Annual Shopper Marketing Asia, organised by Marcus Evan, will be held from 11 to 13 June at Mandarin Orchard Hotel, Singapore. For more information about the event, visit Marcus Evan.