134: Exploring the Evolving World of Shopper Marketing

Written by Rob Stott

August 30, 2022

shopper marketing nationwide marketing group podcast

For independent business owners — who, admittedly wear many different hats — marketing often takes a backseat to many other tasks. That makes the work of Nationwide’s Shopper Marketing team all the more important. We recently sat down with Joe Walz, director of shopper marketing, to talk about the magic they perform on behalf of our independent retailers.


Rob Stott: All right. We are back on the Independent Thinking Podcast and excited to dive into the world of shopper marketing this week. A team here at Nationwide Marketing Group, we hear so much from you guys, not so much on the podcast and I’ll front the blame for that, because part of it’s I don’t want to bug you guys because you are so busy doing some awesome things for this company, but Mr. Joe Waltz, our director of shopper marketing, appreciate you on a Monday morning, no less, jumping in and deciding to shop with me today.

Joe Walz: Yeah, no problem. I appreciate the opportunity to be here.

Rob Stott: Yeah. So we’ll let you set it up. This is a chance to get to know you guys and your team, but for the folks at home that don’t know Joe Waltz, tell us a little bit about yourself and your background and that path to Nationwide Marketing Group.

Joe Walz: Yeah. I don’t know how impressive or important it is, but yeah. So, Joe Walz, director of shopper marketing, I’ve been with the company for almost three years now. Been able to serve the members the whole time I’ve been here and it’s been fantastic. But I came on as a senior marketing manager where I came in to really manage relationships with some of our biggest vendor partners. But before I came here, I’ve worked a few different various places doing various types of marketing. But most recently I was with the largest pest control company in the country where I was doing customer experience marketing. And there I was managing really almost anything and everything related to the customer journey, which is really what led me to an opportunity here at Nationwide. And it called to me. So I wanted to come in and really help our retailers with their own customer journeys and find new ways to get customers into their stores.

Rob Stott: So that’s obviously very different space. Yeah, it’s still retail related in essence, because you’re talking about buying product and that sort of stuff. But let’s just take it even higher level, the world of marketing. What is it that draws you to the work that you do and gets you excited about going to work for these members?

Joe Walz: Yeah. Marketing to me is all about solving a problem. What is the problem? It’s usually, how do I get more customers in my store? How do I sell something that I’m having trouble selling? How do I get my name out there more? But really it’s all about problem solving to me. That’s something that I’m really passionate about, something I really enjoy. Something I can get really stubborn about, if I’m having trouble with a problem. But it’s always been something I’ve really been dedicated to. And so if I can find a problem and help anybody solve it, that’s really what I’m all about.

Rob Stott: And awesome to see you be able to put that to work for independents who, it’s always that longstanding problem of the Big Box around the corner and that sort of stuff. But at the same time we know traditionally marketing, it’s one of those other hats that they put on. So to be able to have champions in their corners that are passionate, like you guys are, and you specifically are, got to be awesome to see that opportunity’s there and then to be able to go out and serve them.

Joe Walz: Yeah, for sure. The best part is really getting to talk to the members and find out what their problem is and knowing how many hats they wear. And that marketing is really one of the last things that they can worry about, because they’re selling, they’re delivering, they’re sweeping the floor, they’re doing everything. So whatever we can do as a shopper marketing team to make it as easy as possible on them to get their brand out there, to talk about themselves and the products they carry. That’s what we’re here for.

Rob Stott: I’ve been asking these other questions, because I’m almost afraid to ask this next one because I know it’s a lot and I’m curious how you’re going to answer it. But on the day to day, what is it that you guys do? And I know it’s a lot, but how would you sum it up and describe it to our members and listeners about what the shopper marketing team does here at Nationwide?

Joe Walz: So we’re really all about how we can help drive customers to dealer sites and into their stores and how to make it as easy as possible, like I mentioned. This is the last thing they’re having to worry about. They got a thousand other things that they’re worrying about and our dealers they’re doing, like I said, anywhere from sales, to delivery, to sweeping the floor. So it’s all about how can we make it as easy as possible on them.

Joe Walz: So we’ve got solutions all across the customer journey that I mentioned that take minimal time for the retailer and we can actually execute on their behalf and drive traffic for them. So we’re executing digital campaigns via AdRocket. We’re working with our vendor partners to find ways that we can better align with our retailers needs with what they have available. We’re working with our merchant and finance partners to make sure we have the most current information for our campaigns and what the dealers can actually offer in store, whether it be via rebates, or consumer financing offers. And we’re also trying to keep our MSMs up to date. They’re the boots on the ground. They’re the ones actually talking to the members every day. So we want to make sure that they’re up to date with the current offerings that we have so that they can communicate those out to the members. But it’s really all about solving problems every day, like I said.

Rob Stott: It’s funny to hear you describe it that way, and not to say that we’re anywhere near the same in what we do, but connecting those dots and I think of the old example, old time movies, the phone call operator centers, where they’re pulling plugs and making those connections. It sounds a lot like on your guys’ side, the marketing side, very similar to what we’re trying to accomplish with communications and seeing what all the different business units are doing on the vendor side, on the member side, the business and financial services, making those connections so that everyone can understand what’s going on and then put it to use.

Joe Walz: Yeah, for sure. I think outside of maybe your team, communications, we work with basically everybody within the company, we touch everybody, because we’ve got to. We’ve got to make sure that we have the most current and up to date information for our members, because we’re talking to them and we’re trying to help utilize what we have to drive traffic to their stores. So yeah, it just makes sense. But I like the analogy.

Rob Stott: It’s a cool crossroads too, because like you said, there aren’t many teams, because you’ll have the CE team that they’re very heads down on the CE side and working with the vendors and the dealers that operate in the CE space, or you could go across any of our functional categories and groups here. But not that it’s an advantage, but for you, what’s it being able to see across the company and how does that help you in what you’re doing.

Joe Walz: For me, it’s really all about relationships. So being able to develop relationships with everybody across the company, because when everybody knows, the better relationship you have with someone, the more likely you’re able to get what you want almost. I hate to put it that way, but if you put it that way. And so if you’ve got that good relationship across the company, you really can get the most out of what you need and be able to communicate that the best way. And again, we’re all about communicating what we have down to the members and making sure that they have what they need. So, however I can get that for them, that’s what I’m all about.

Rob Stott: Going back to saying that marketing it is one of those last hats. When you talk to members, what kind of sense do you get from them about their understanding of this space? Or is it a lot of them not wanting to say, “Hey, I trust you, go do it.” Do they show interest in the marketing world and how we are able to help them accomplish the things that we’re able to do?

Joe Walz: Yeah, for sure. So I think it varies a lot. As we know, there are some members who it’s them and their brother, or their mom and that it’s like they have no idea and are really reliant on us to tell them what they can do and what’s available to them and then there’s other, our bigger members that have marketing team themselves, where they’re very engaged to know exactly what they want. And we love both sides of it, because we love to be able to have those conversations and share ideas. But at the same time, we’re so happy to be able to share our expertise and make it easy on the dealer. So like I said, it varies all the way across, but either way we want to have those conversations.

Rob Stott: That’s cool to hear, because 5,000, whatever, some members and all those storefronts you’re going to have, it’s not all cookie cutter. So that goes to how you guys chose how versatile, I think the marketing, you guys have to be as a team to be able to serve all those different needs from whether it’s just a few employees, one single location store up to the multi-location dealers that you’re working with.

Joe Walz: For sure. The not a cookie cutter, I think is the perfect analogy. We’re dealing with complete individuals, and that’s what you got to think out of it. They’re individuals, these are people trying to run a business, trying to provide for their families. And that’s really what it’s all about. We want to make sure that we are thinking about them as people and not just as a member company.

Rob Stott: Evolution, I think, is something that we’ve seen in the space, in the retail channel, just an independent retail channel over the last couple years with COVID, pandemic, all that sort of stuff. I know you guys, three years in, the marketing team has evolved as well and how you’re going the shopper marketing. We’ve heard over the last couple of Primetime’s, there are panels and discussions on it and things like that, a lot more focus on that customer journey. So I interested, I just want to get your take in what you’ve learned as the marketing team has evolved alongside our retailers over these last couple of years.

Joe Walz: Even since I’ve been on, the team itself has changed, not only just the amount of people that we have, but just the way that we are actually going to market, it’s been a ride for sure. And I think the biggest thing that we’ve learned is that we never know what’s around the corner. In the midst of a pandemic, consumer behavior changed on what seemed like a daily basis, and we needed to be prepared for whatever came along and in that meant that our messaging had to change. We had to be prepared to change that on the fly, our advertising campaigns, the way we actually went to market had to change. And we had to find new ways to reach new and existing customers and really open up. We had to be open to trying new things, even if we failed.

Joe Walz: That’s a big thing that we’re all about is testing and learning, putting something out there and see if it works. And if it doesn’t great, fail fast and we’ll move on, try something new. If it’s something that does work great, let’s figure out how to optimize it and make it even better. So it’s really all about, again, how are we’re going to market. But in a world where demand really greatly outnumbered supply, it was really all about getting our members names out in the market and rather than trying to market a particular brand, or particular skew. Top of mind awareness was huge, in where customers went first, when they were trying to find a new mattress, or a dishwasher, or find a mattress, or a dishwasher in some cases, because we knew that once a customer gets into one of our member stores, they can close. That’s what they’re all about. They’ll find any way that they can to serve that customer. So we just want to make sure that we get those customers into their stores first rather than going somewhere else.

Rob Stott: It’s been interesting too. I know we’ve had the emphasis on shopper journey. That’s always been a thing obviously, you have previous experiences and things like that. But the added emphasis to it, is it one of those things that it was in the toolbox thing that you guys knew about, but now being able to talk to members about it and you’re approaching it a different way, or explain just the… We’ll dive into shopper the shopper journey in a little bit here, but explain of the added emphasis on that journey throughout the way you guys are talking about marketing now.

Joe Walz: So I think it’s something that we as marketers always knew about. It’s just something that we’ve always talked about and have always worked our way through how we market to customers. Even when we think about it from our point, our dealership is our customer base and how are we marketing to them? But it’s always something we’ve done about, but it’s really about, this is something that’s helpful to us. It’s something helpful that to really, everybody should know as far as marketing’s concerned. So why not bring an emphasis to it and teach our retailers what it is and how they can use our solutions along that journey to really bring customers full circle all the way from initial consideration, all the way through loyalty, and it goes all the way back around. So it’s just something that we really thought that the dealers really should know more about.

Rob Stott: It’s explained in such a simple way too. You guys do a good job of that, I think, You mentioned the tools along the way, but also just that process of, from the initial consideration all the way through the purchase, not even just the purchases at the end point, obviously, because you got the after purchase and things that go on after to maintain loyalty and that sort of stuff. So to see it not only explained well, but also positioned in a way with all the different things that you can provide throughout the journey. I think it’s been cool. I don’t know if you could plug it if you want, there’s a area or something that members they can go to learn more about those sort of things, or what we’re doing across the shopper journey.

Joe Walz: Yeah. I think there’s a couple of different things they can do. Obviously, MemberNet is a great resource to find out more about it. But I would say the bottom line is if you’ve got something that you’re really trying to find out about, come talk to us, because we can break it down even further. We’ve got the solution sure. But it’s not even going to be about a sales pitch. We’re not going to sit here and try and sell you on a solution. We’re really about, “Okay, what are you trying to do? And how can we help you solve it?” Whether it be awareness like, “Okay. So if you’re trying to bring awareness to your store, you need to be executing these tactics. Or if you’re trying to find new customers in your area, you should be trying this. If you’re trying to get customers to come back, these are some things you can try.” So I would say either, come talk to us, or talk to your MSM or whoever, but we’ve got a hundred resources out there. You just have to plug yourself into it.

Rob Stott: I hear you. Well, we also, thinking back to Primetime, which I don’t know, it either feels like it was a day ago or a month ago. I’m not really sure. I’m in this weird spot right now with what the post Primetime feelings. But while we were there in Orlando, we heard Tom talk about this new season that we’re entering. And he actually called out marketing. We have to get back to the strategies to steal those customers back from Big Box and things like that. And it’s just entering a new phase in this, I don’t want to call it post-pandemic, but we’re getting back to a more normal way of having to do retail. So how is that impacting the marketing side of things and what you guys are seeing?

Joe Walz: So first things first and Tom said, and I think Aaron said it too, we have to get back to what we were doing, which is actually marketing. Obviously, things were a little bit different and retailers weren’t really having to do anything to sell stuff, but that’s changing. Supply chains are getting better, product is starting stock up and consumers are getting back to the mindset of that they need to find the right deal, rather than just buying what they can get their hands on. So this leads back to top of mind awareness that I mentioned earlier. It’s so important to one, start advertising again, if you’ve stopped. And two, to find the right mix to reach the customers, you’re trying to reach. This means doing more than one thing. It’s going to take a combination of tactics to drive traffic back to the stores.

Joe Walz: And another big point is to figure out who your target market is. If you’re trying to get back to your previous customers back into your store, there’re some things you can do. Is it new customers who may not be aware of you? What are some things you need to do there? But that really should be identified. And then you can tailor your marketing message and tactics from there. And if you aren’t sure how to do that, I mentioned it before, but come talk to us. We’ve got a ton of marketing experience on the team.

Joe Walz: We love talking to our members about problems again and how we can solve them. We can help you decide if you should be running more targeted search ads, or if you need to partner with one of our partners like LocaliQ to learn about their new customer acquisition campaigns that utilize things like geofencing. If you don’t know what geofencing is, come talk to us. We can talk about what that is. Or if you need help writing radio ads, whatever you need, you know your market best and we can help you tailor your tactics to it. But just come talk to us. We’d love to talk about it.

Rob Stott: Bottom line, just reach out to this marketing team. These guys are the experts. They know what they’re doing and they’re happy to take the questions you have, or even the ideas and tailor them to your market, your store, your business, and go to work. For me, it’s cool to hear that passion and the ways you guys go about it. I want to give you a chance, do you have a favorite story, a favorite marketing story of working with a member, something that maybe they took an idea, or came to you with a question that you turned around and it ended up being a major win for that member, or even for you guys, for the marketing team.

Joe Walz: Since I was just talking about the new customer acquisition campaigns, the first thing that comes to mind is Silica. So we actually had the shopper marketing team has put together a new webinar series and they actually had Breonna from Silica on there to talk about success they’ve had, because they’ve run multiple campaigns with through this new customer acquisition thing and have seen a lot of really great success with it. I’m not going to spoil it, if you really want to know about it, I’ll do a little plug for the webinar series. We got something we’re trying to do here with the marketing team, but go check that out and learn from Breonna directly, the member directly, on some of the success they saw using some of those solutions.

Joe Walz: But other than that, it’s just had hundreds of conversations with members. It feels like just at Primetime about what they’re trying to do and how we can help and how we can make it as easy as possible. That’s the biggest thing. What are you trying to do? I just really enjoy talking to members and whether it be, are they trying to grow their brand awareness, or how can they spend their co-op dollars on advertising? Again, we’re all about finding the solution that’s easiest and most effective and that they don’t have to necessarily wear another hat for.

Rob Stott: Yeah, definitely. You guys case studies too, I think are something that this could be an idea we’re formulating right on the podcast right now. But I know you guys have done some and then also I know there are plenty more we could tap into you guys for stories and other podcasts as well, be on the lookout for some of those things. Love to share those stories too.

Joe Walz: Way to call us out, Rob.

Rob Stott: I’m here to write, man, I’m ready to write, let’s go to work. Let’s get those stories out there.

Joe Walz: Yeah. Case studies is something we definitely want to do more of, especially as we execute more test and learn campaigns, like I mentioned. We’ve done a few things like testing out Spanish versus English ads in a certain market. And what was the success rate there? But there’s a hundred thousand other things that we’ve been doing, that we’ve got to write about and got to get out there, because this is stuff that the dealers could be doing. So again, appreciate the call out.

Rob Stott: See, I came right to the marketing team and I brought an idea to them and we’re going to make it happen. See that?

Joe Walz: I love it. Let’s do it.

Rob Stott: No, that’s great. Well, Joe, like I said, I knew you guys, and you talked about it, you got a lot going on the day to day, so it’s cool to be able to pull you aside for a little bit and pick your brain and see what’s going on in the world of marketing. So this was a lot of fun and let’s not wait a long time to do it again.

Joe Walz: Yeah, for sure. I appreciate the opportunity. Again, let’s find those problems and help the members solve them. We’re all about it.

Rob Stott: Awesome. Thanks, man.

Joe Walz: Thanks, Rob.

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