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The time is now to work in shopper strategy

Lisa Gills, associate director of planning & strategy at DNA Recruit, discusses the lack of planning talent and why it's worth having shopper strategy expertise on your CV

Lisa Gills, associate director of planning & strategy, DNA Recruit
Lisa Gills, associate director of planning & strategy, DNA Recruit

When I ask planners and strategists what they think makes a successful strategist, they all tell me that alongside delivering the business objective, it’s about making sure a creative idea - be it a campaign, product or experience - engages its audience in a relevant way - whether that’s useful, enabling or entertaining.

Strategists with shopper, experiential and retail experience are in demand

I’m also told how important it is to be an integrated thinker, in the context of planning and strategy recruitment. However, the integrated strategists clients want to hire just aren’t out there. I’m talking about the strategists with shopper and retail experience. Unfortunately for our clients there’s a huge skills shortage in this discipline and it’s not going away anytime soon.

Shopper 3.0 - moving away from the shelf wobblers and coupons

When I spoke recently to the chief strategy officer at a well respected brand activation agency about the lack of planning talent in this area, he explained the discipline was still tainted by the traditional perception of shelf wobblers and coupons. He argued that in fact, shopper is the best discipline in planning to work in right now. Candidates forget about its integration within the digital ecosystem. Its thinking about how customers experience brands via platforms, in store or new products. He described it as a pivotal component of digital marketing that always needs to reinvent itself to keep up with constantly changing technology and consumer behaviours.

Expertise worth having on your CV

I’ve worked with an experienced integrated strategy consultant with shopper and retail expertise for some time. She told me that she’s always made a point of having a broad range of experience, especially in areas that are less popular in the planning community. As a result of this, she’s never short of work and has plenty of freelance opportunities to pick from. Yes, shopper strategy isn’t the glamour of TV, it’s not seen as a sexy area of planning to work in. But it’s easy to forget how significant shopper marketing is in the integrated approach for driving sales and it just goes to show, in uncertain times that’s an area of expertise worth having on your CV. Speaking as a hiring manager, she advised me that many candidates she’s seen that transverse to shopper and retail come from a PR, events and social strategy background. This area of expertise really complements the field as these professionals are able to connect brands to cultural in an immersive real time experience.

Be adaptable and embrace change

Ad land is unpredictable at best. So when I’m asked how planners can future proof their careers I advise them to be adaptable. You have to embrace change, oversee but also roll your sleeves up and get stuck in. Continually expand on your skills and experience but without discounting what you love best.


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1 Job description: Digital marketing executive

Digital marketing executives oversee the online marketing strategy for their organisation. They plan and execute digital (including email) marketing campaigns and design, maintain and supply content for the organisation's website(s).