Fast Chat: ShopWork N.A. Head Laura Davis-Taylor

Talks about how technology is redefining retail

Shopper marketing is growing at more than 21 percent annually, with some big consumer products companies like Procter & Gamble spending at least $500 million to target consumers at the point of purchase. Last year, BBDO and its Proximity digital capabilities set up ShopWork in North America to help clients navigate the increasingly complex retail experience at whatever physical or virtual location it may occur. Laura Davis-Taylor, an Atlanta-based retail strategist with more than 20 years of experience, is the managing director of the new operation. She spoke with Adweek about how technology is changing the shopper experience both online and off.

Adweek: Why is shopper marketing such a growth area?
Laura Davis-Taylor: We have a new generation of shoppers because of technology. It’s changed the fundamentals of the marketing we were raised on: product, price, place and promotion. Consumers now have participation with brands and personalization; we no longer have those linear, traditional paths to purchase anymore. It’s based on who you are, the type of shopper you are, the technology you like, what’s going on at that moment of purchase. People now create a different shopping experience every time. They buy what they want, where they want, at the price they want—and it’s not just in stores, it’s across home, life and stores.

How are smartphones changing the way people shop?
Smartphones have been such a change agent. We’re closely tracking things like near-field communication, which allows people to place their phones next to a product and get info like what the social cloud feels about that product, get pricing comparisons or even use the phone to buy it. Think about how that can change loyalty.

Is e-commerce altering consumers’ expectations about the physical retail experience?
As shoppers, we don’t see a difference between virtual and physical now that we have all this technology in our hands. We have really good experiences shopping online because we’re able to pick something and immediately get information which is often curated just for us. What we need to do to blend the physical and digital is to create an experience across all channels that’s equally good, equally curated. The No. 1 thing is how do you make it easier for people and frankly the expectations are higher when you have an awesome experience buying something at 1 a.m. on mobile or have someone send an email that has the perfect jeans for you. People want more, they want to have it made easier for them and they want to love the experience wherever it happens.

Some 70 percent of brand decisions are made at retail. How have these tough times increased that fickleness?
It’s pricing. You have to find a reason for people to break away from focus on price. There are certain products that have found really great ways to do it. Think about an ecologically sensitive brand—people aren’t shopping for price there because it represents something bigger. The packaging may be really cool, there’s something about it that makes you love having it on your counter. I report to both BBDO and Proximity, which is digital, CRM, analytics. If we’re going to do shopper marketing, we’ve got to touch consumers at pre-shop, shop and post-shop. We need to give people a reason to believe in the brand and continue to buy it and love it. We have to be so close to the insight process that will make people irrationally love that brand so it’s not about how am I going to get it cheaper?

How are marketers transferring the principles of physical retail into digital and mobile environments?
It’s the opposite. It’s about how are we bringing the mobile and digital into physical? As a shopper if I’m used to going to ‘x’ brand online and it says ‘Hi Laura, Here are some things for you, some prices and promotions just for you. And hey, thanks for your loyalty—here’s a little gimme.’ I want that in the physical store too.

What can we learn from cutting-edge retail markets like Japan?
A lot of it has to do with how we can use mobile and apps. A retail-branded app can do a lot of things that are even better than what we do now. How do we get ready to integrate mobile payments—we’re about a year away from that—and loyalty into that? The other stuff is going to be reliant on near-field communication and U.S. phones are going to be ready for that next year. But it’s going to be a matter of how quickly it will be adopted. We know for sure the millennial crowd will [adapt] very quickly and that’s great because they teach their parents and everyone around them. Whenever you’re trying to create something new for the shopper experience the pain of learning has got to be better than the pain of not learning.