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30 Jun 2016
posted by: Amanda

Proper Planning [RetailWorld article 4]


Getting maximum ROI from shoppers
In the previous articles in this series we've gone through the process of defining the picture of success, how to start a shopper marketing project, understanding why current shopper execution is working and how to measure progress. In this fourth article we'll discuss Proper Planning for shopper execution. Rather than cover generic project planning steps we'll go into:

Project management is a role in itself.
Planning to measure.
Maintaining stakeholder engagement to keep project momentum.

Series Overview

Getting Maximum ROI from Shopper

I don’t know a single FMCG business in Australia today that isn’t under more pressure than ever before to reduce spend and yet is expected to achieve even more in terms of shopper & consumer execution.

This series of articles is designed to help you in this endeavour by showing you exactly how to get more ROI from your shopper team, insights & execution.

In this series of six articles I’ll cover:

  • Picture of success; what does successful shopper execution look like, who’s doing it well & why.
  • Step 1; getting started. Sometimes it can seem like everything needs doing at once. This article will help you prioritise the deliverables.
  • Step 2; understand why. Unless you know why your shopper execution is working well – or not - you won’t know how to increase your impact with shoppers. This article will help you get to the why factor without breaking the bank.
  • Step 3; proper planning. Prevents poor performance as has been drummed into us all. This article takes you through the 3 essential elements of any successful shopper execution plan.
  • Step 4; execute, measure & learn. You’re unlikely to get it right first time. Learn here how to measure the essentials and how to take it forward,
  • Step 5; start again. Going to the next level in your shopper execution & ROI. 

4.    Proper Planning

In the previous articles in this series we've gone through the process of defining the picture of success, how to start a shopper marketing project, understanding why current shopper execution is working and how to measure progress. In this fourth article we'll discuss Proper Planning for shopper execution. Rather than cover generic project planning steps we'll go into:

Project management is a role in itself
Planning to measure
Maintaining stakeholder engagement to keep project momentum.

Project management is a role in itself

If you’ve been successful in following some of the steps we’ve covered in the previous articles hopefully you’ve:

  • Understood your initial research
  • Defined your strategy based on your initial research
  • Engaged your stakeholders & sold your plan into the retailers.

It would be a shame to throw this hard work away (not to mention cost and reputational damage) by falling over on project planning. 


Figure 1

Running a successful project is a job in itself. Depending on the project this may not be a full time job but it might be a 5-10 hours a week requirement. If that's not something that's been factored in to your team, or project management isn't a core competency, it's well worth the additional cost of bringing someone in or passing the responsibility onto the research agent if they've demonstrated these skills (and are measured on it - see point 2, Planning to Measure). Just this week we're seeing a situation where a client has asked us to run a trial in store for a costly new activation & on Monday morning our field manager has had to report to them that the new fixtures we're measuring aren't yet in the store as they'd got the wrong week with their merchandising team. In another project we’re doing we were asked to research shoppers at off-locations that were planned to be fixed in-store in line with the weekly gondola schedule, however the marketing team hadn’t told the store managers of the positional criticality & many were being moved during the week. This is very basic stuff but it’s usually in the detail where hard work falls over & we see this type of thing remarkably often so please be careful. This type of avoidable failure isn't something you want to be explaining to your key stakeholders or the retailer (see point 3, engaging stakeholders).

Planning to measure

In previous articles we've covered the need to set measurable targets - so the next step is to make sure that you don't forget to measure them! Are the measures that you've defined practical in the actual store? For example, store busyness, fixture locations and environment might throw up situations that make your well defined measures impractical to record accurately.

Ensure you're measuring consistently - do you want the same times twice a week or a spread? Are the in-store researchers clear on how to take the measures? Who is measuring the measurers? When you do get the results back, analyse them to ensure you're satisfied with their robustness. This is critical especially early in the project when you have time to iron out anything that you'd not anticipated prior to going live. And finally, don't leave your results in your head, on your desk or just with your team until the project finishes. Get the news out to the stakeholders and keep them interested.

Maintaining stakeholder engagement

The third area we see where projects can fall over is loss of focus on the project, especially if it's long running. After you've got all stakeholders initially involved and excited (both internally & with the retailer) it's easy for this early momentum to dwindle as they all go back to their day jobs. As such you really want to keep prodding them throughout the project & continually reminding them of the project process (see figure 2);

Hypothesis. What is the theory that you're working on, i.e. what is the point of the project you're running? It's worth reminding everyone what research & information was used to create the hypothesis in the first place - the one that all stakeholders agreed with back then. This project is testing that hypothesis.

Goal. If the hypothesis is correct, what are the project goals? Again a reminder of what this means in real, measurable terms. The goal should have been defined to be of measurable benefit to all stakeholders.

Measures. What were the measures that all stakeholders agreed initially in order to prove that the hypothesis is true (or false)? Explain that these are the measures that have been recorded in order to produce the results…

Results. What are you seeing so far and can you draw any conclusions at this stage? Is the hypothesis still holding up or is a re-think required?


Generally, your stakeholders are busy people so if these regular reporting sessions aren't planned in at the start of the project the chances of being able to coordinate diaries at short notice are slim to nil. In Daniel Pink's book "To Sell Is Human" he talks about the psychological importance of ensuring this continual buy-in of all team members (the team in this case being the stakeholders) throughout the entire course of the project. Without this they won't "own" the project and this hugely reduces your chances of success. The replacement of a key stakeholder towards the end of a project can be terminal because the new person has their own ideas and has no psychological investment - they're starting from square 1 – and they’re often in a role that gives them some clout. You may not be able to do anything about that situation but by planning in regular sessions you can minimise your risk.

The interesting flip-side to this point is that a team who are all bought into and feel ownership of a project are more susceptible to group-think & more likely to ignore bad news. It's another reason why you want to have regular planned in sessions because if the hypothesis your project is based on is false - i.e. the measures show its clearly not delivering on its promises - the easier it is to make changes or abort altogether. Too far down the line and the emotional and financial investment made by all involved makes the correct decision much harder. As the Turkish proverb says, no matter how far down the wrong road you go you should always turn back. Your project plan should account for this.

So, to summarise, make sure your project has a project manager who has the time and experience to ensure the project runs smoothly. The plan must clearly define what is being measured and how the logistics and consistency of these measures can be guaranteed. Finally keep the momentum up with all the project stakeholders.

Good luck.