An introduction to experiential

Retail media can be an incredibly effective way to drive conversions, be that through targeted product recommendations online or via attention-grabbing promotions at the shelf. Sometimes, though, the path to purchase begins a little earlier – meaning that brands need to raise awareness and give shoppers a reason to try something new. That’s where tactics like experiential marketing can make a big difference.

In the penultimate post in our series looking at different retail media products and channels, media experts Connor Chappell and Ciara Hagan look at the enduring appeal of experiential.

Inspiration is a crucial part of the grocery shopping experience – and not just for customers, either. Few shoppers stick to their lists[1] when they’re in store, and research shows that ads can be a driving force in prompting many customers to try out new products[2]. Clearly, that presents a major opportunity for any brand that can spark the imagination of its prospective audience.

Experiential marketing has long been recognised as an effective way to do just that. From sampling stations and trial-size giveaways, getting your product into the hands of prospective shoppers is a great way to raise awareness and build an audience. Thanks to the ever-increasing diversity of modern retail media, experiential is now something that can go far beyond the store, too.

In the wider marketing world, experiential is now a discipline that can incorporate everything from virtual and augmented reality through to gamification and interactive video. In the grocery space, though, experiential is typically focused around three specific areas: magazines, online inspiration, and in-store events.

Let’s look at what each typically entails.

Store magazines

Store-branded magazines have been part of the grocery retail landscape for decades now, and are normally distributed to customers free of charge at the entrance and exit. Content often centres around news, features, interviews, and recipes, with many magazines also including offers, incentives, and money-off coupons. Digital versions of each edition are frequently available online, too.

As is the case with other print magazines, most retailers offer advertising space within their publications. What’s more, these magazines are capable of reaching vast numbers of customers, making them an ideal medium through which to raise awareness and profile newly launched lines.

Advertising opportunities available through store magazines typically include:

  • Display Ads – designed to generate mass awareness.
  • Advertorials – aimed at informing, educating, and inspiring readers.
  • Product spots – that profile brand products within recipes.
  • Coupons – which offer opportunities to entice and reward.

Inspirational content

On the subject of print magazines, the importance of food inspiration is only reinforced by the number of recipe-specific titles on the market. Most in-store newsstands are now well stocked with a variety of cooking-related magazines, as well as additional publications catering to everything from homes and interiors through to health and wellbeing.

In the age of content marketing, this focus on inspiration hasn’t gone unnoticed by retailers. Numerous grocery brands have now created their own digital content hubs, giving customers easy ways to plan out their meals, experiment with new ingredients, and improve their health and fitness. Many retailers also give brands the opportunity to engage with customers through those properties.

Specific opportunities can vary considerably between retailers here, but the typical focus is on sponsorships. Brands might sponsor a recipe that showcases their products, participate in a seasonal feature that recommends one of their lines, or provide expert advice on using items in creative ways.

Sampling and experiential

Magazines and inspirational content can be a great way for brands to spark the imagination of customers away from the store, but what about when they’re already there and thinking about what to buy?

Sampling and experiential provide an answer to that question. Sampling gives customers the chance to try products first-hand, whether through product giveaways or in-person taste tests at pop-up kiosks. Experiential events can help to bring a brand to life in a memorable way, and can be particularly effective when used to translate Above the Line campaigns into the store environment.

In recent years, a lot of the focus around retail media has been on the – undeniably compelling – digital opportunities that it presents. Experiential marketing reminds us that it’s no longer a case of having to choose between online or in-store; instead, the focus should be on connected, multichannel experiences that engage and inspire in equal measure.

In our final post in this series, we’ll explore the subject of direct-to-customer – and what that really means in the world of grocery retail.


[1] Shopper Thoughts Module Nov 19, base size n= 1,368
[2] Shopper Thoughts Research n = 668 – 2,325

The latest insights from our experts around the world

customer first data science analytics & machine learning services
Ready to get started?

Speak to a member of our team for more information

Contact us