CPGmatters: Focus on Shopper Engagement Paying Off for Kimberly-Clark
By Dale Buss
Through a special arrangement, what follows is an excerpt of a current article from the monthly e-zine, CPGmatters, presented here for discussion.
Befitting its status as a leader in the CPG business, Kimberly-Clark is helping its retailer partners do a better job of hooking shoppers in their aisles. But that doesn’t mean that chains always like what they are hearing from Kimberly-Clark – or act on it.
Take end-caps, for example. Recently, Kimberly-Clark did some “tagalongs” with consumers at various supermarkets and mass-market retailers and found that shoppers have very different preferences for aisle-end real estate than most store managers do.
“The shopper would like to see them be more like a Macy’s window, where end-caps engage them and pull them down the aisle and are related to what you actually find in that aisle,” Mary Goggans, director of customer development for Kimberly-Clark, told CPGmatters. “But retailers are using them for promotion and to push a lot of volume.” Among other results, Ms. Goggans said, is that “consumers feel confused and like they need to go from end-caps back to the aisle to make sure what the best prices are.”
Yet when it comes to end-caps, store executives are resistant to any message of change from Kimberly-Clark, even after the company has used its advanced virtual-reality system in Neenah, Wis., to help its retailer partners figure out what really pleases shoppers. “They think all of their space is too precious” to use it to merely indulge consumers,” said Ms. Goggans.
Kimberly-Clark’s accompaniment of actual shoppers is just part of one beefed-up aspect of its shopper-engagement apparatus: improvement in in-store metrics.
“We’ve been doing first-of-its-kind research to measure department equity in the store: what shoppers are saying about a ‘store within the store’ compared with what the retailer would like them to say about it,” Ms. Goggans explained. The “tagalongs” provide qualitative research while Kimberly-Clark also crunches quantitative conclusions.
For instance, Kimberly-Clark, among other things, advised Safeway to put its baby wipes and baby toiletries together, and pull strollers, car seats and other baby-goods hard lines closer to baby-care products. Significantly higher sales during the test verified Kimberly-Clark’s ideas about improving shopper engagement.
Other retailers also are beginning to benefit from a two-year-old initiative Kimberly Clark calls the Indispensable Partner program. But this isn’t as easy as it may seem.
For one thing, nearly every retailer would like to get account-specific help in engaging shoppers, but truly meaningful innovations in this area remain at a premium. And Kimberly-Clark really wants to focus on helping its biggest partners.
“We’ve had to prioritize our customers based on several variables, including growth potential – as well as their own [shopper-engagement] capabilities,” said Ms. Goggans.
And what does Kimberly-Clark get in return? “An ongoing partnership,” Ms. Goggans says. “We might get more than our share of displays or get our fixed ad fees waived. Or we’re invited to the table when they’re looking at a new marketing campaign. We’re going after joint goals.”
Discussion Question: Do you think vendors bring a fresh perspective to shopper engagement at the store level? What type of changes would you expect if they became more involved? Do you agree that consumers are looking for more aspirational messaging (i.e., Macy’s windows) at supermarkets rather than primarily promotional stances?