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Recently, I participated in a strategic conference that included several sessions on how to effectively use advertising and promotion to reach moms, millennials, multiculturals and other shopper segments. Not surprisingly, significant emphasis was placed on the use of emerging digital and mobile media. But each session also reinforced that traditional media including television, radio, retail feature ads, and Free Standing Insert (FSI) coupons should not be undervalued.

While it is tempting to focus on how new media technologies can more efficiently deliver a message, what is most important to shoppers is not how a message is delivered, but when it is delivered and whether or not it was relevant to immediate perceived needs. The most effective marketing mix delivers the right message through the right medium to reach an individual shopper at the right time.

So how do you reach moms, millennials, multiculturals, and other segments with the right message at the right time? A focus on timing, shelf life, visibility, and simplicity is key.

• Timing – The objective is simple – have your message reach the shopper when they are making purchase decisions or planning a shopping trip. Achieving this, however, can be a challenge. Using media that allow shoppers to opt-in and “pull” a message when it is more relevant to their needs – as compared to media that “push” a message out to shoppers - is a good way to overcome this. For example, a radio commercial broadcast during evening drive time may be relevant to a shopper seeking a convenient option to pick up a few items on their way home from work. But this will likely also have significant wasted coverage. A text message may drive incremental sales if it is delivered while the shopper is in the store, but this may have less effect if the shopper cannot act on the offer until later. Paid internet search advertising or digital coupon offers are examples of advertising which is delivered when the shopper is actively seeking product information or purchase incentives.

• Shelf Life – Since you can’t guarantee a message will be delivered at a key decision point along the shopper’s path-to-purchase, using media with greater “shelf life” increases the chance a shopper will engage when it is more relevant to them. Text messages have a short shelf life, which may not extend beyond the moment of receipt. In contrast, FSI coupons have a longer shelf life that allows shoppers to engage with offers immediately or set them aside until they are actively planning shopping trips. Similarly, shoppers may not engage with retail feature ads immediately but often will engage with them as part of their planning. In addition to traditional print media, digital coupons on retailer websites allow the shopper to take advantage of relevant offers when they are actively planning a trip to a specific retailer. • Visibility – Maintaining visibility and remaining top of mind with the shopper throughout their path-to-purchase increases the impact of the message. In addition to reaching shoppers in the home, retail feature ads are often carried by the shopper as they walk through the store and can influence purchase decisions made at the shelf. Similarly, printed coupons, including both FSI coupons and printed versions of digital coupons, are tangible reminders that reinforce purchase intent. In contrast, a digital coupon loaded onto a mobile device or onto a loyalty card may be forgotten and have less influence on the final purchase decision.

• Simplicity – Regardless of media, any offers included in the message must be easy for the shopper to understand and for the retailer to merchandise. For example, offers that “show the math,” including a featured price less coupon savings, help shoppers understand the value of the promotion. In contrast, an offer to “save $10 on a $40 purchase of participating brands” requires the shopper to know which brands are participating and to be able to calculate a running total to reach the $40 threshold. Retailers can make it easier for shoppers by merchandising participating brands together and providing whole-dollar pricing, even though this can complicate life for the retailer when promotions include multiple manufacturers, brands, price points, categories and departments across the store.

When selecting the best way to deliver your message, think beyond the amazing things that technology can do. Consider timing, shelf life, visibility, and simplicity.

While emerging digital and mobile media provide new opportunities to engage shoppers, traditional media have a significant influence on individual shoppers as well, and especially when it matters most - at the right time along their path-to-purchase.

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