Occasion-Based Marketing Triggers Coca-Cola's Solutions
By John Karolefski

Understanding shopping occasions and trip missions to the grocery store has always been important for Coca-Cola. But these insights took on greater meaning when research found that nearly six of ten trips (57%) are occasion based with shoppers looking for solutions. 

It’s no wonder the giant beverage company is looking to develop merchandising strategies based on understanding trip missions and consumption occasions. The interaction between the two creates the foundation to drive purchase.

“Occasion-based marketing is how we go to market today,” said Andrew McMillin, Vice President, Shopper Marketing, Large Stores, Coca-Cola Co. “In reality, it is our heritage.”

He said shoppers go to the grocery store with an occasion in mind for most trips. So the goal is to “unlock that occasion” along the path to purchase or at the point of purchase (POP). The good thing about beverages is that is an expandable consumption category with many opportunities to link into occasions.  Any occasion with people coming together is an opportunity for a beverage, he said.

Coca-Cola always looks for a triple-win solution involving the shopper, the retailer and the category, he stressed in a recent presentation at a shopper marketing conference in Chicago hosted by the Path to Purchase Institute. 

Another speaker, Jeff Fechalos, director of shopper insights, Coca-Cola Co., called grocery shopping a means to an end. It’s all about meal consumption. So the more Coca-Cola can understand how people are consuming food and pairing it with a beverage, the more the marketer can understand what they are going to the store for and ultimately what kind of solutions they are shopping for.

“If we can put those two together – trip mission and consumption occasion – that’s very powerful,” he said, adding that understanding how shoppers move through the store can help Coke offer products grouped into relevant solutions at key engagement points along the path to purchase.

According to Fechalos, Coke has three different ways of looking at how people shop in the grocery store: trip mission, where they shop in the store (that varies by mission), and finally how people move through the store. By putting all these things together, marketers can build a complete picture of how someone is acting in the store – what they are doing and what their needs are.

Coca-Cola sees shoppers’ trip missions as organized against four priorities: save time, save money, serving their family or serving some need for themselves. Different kinds of trips include stock up, immediate need, forgotten item, special occasion, and so on. 

To determine the right solution, Coca-Cola marketers ask several questions:
  • What is the trip mission?
  • How are shoppers planning each of these trips?
  • What are pre-trip behaviors?
  • How do they choose the store?
  • What need are shoppers serving?  
  • How do people shop the store?
  • What is their shopping path?
  • What are their destinations?
  • Where are the high-traffic areas?
  • What are some of the satisfaction drivers?

“We can tailor our strategy based on trip mission,” he said. For example, a stock up trip calls for a tie into center store solutions. 

McMillin said Coca-Cola brings solutions to life in the store with a three-step process:

Integrate: The foundation and starting point for a solution is integrating the mission and the occasion along the path to purchase. This is the hardest part. There is an art and science to it.

Implement: Coca-Cola develops solutions that have synergy with the right marketing partners; for example, a beverage with chips, cookies or crackers.

Inspire: The goal is to bring the solution to life for the shopper. “If we don’t inspire shoppers at the point of purchase or along the path to purchase, we sub-optimize,” said 

According to research, only one of ten shopping trips involves a purchase in the supermarket deli. Activating a solution there, he said, results in “a great lift for us.”

He said unlocking the emotions of the occasion is critical to success and is where solutions typically fall apart. He used the example of European retailers that merchandise soft drinks and take-home pizza, as well as soft drinks and pasta. Ultimately, it’s about occasions and time together.

When shoppers are walking along their path in the store, he said, they are looking to buy with a usage occasion in mind. “Providing that solution is the key to growth.”

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                                                                               May 2012
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