Rediscover Australia

Debbie Schubert

Who would have thought that at this time of the last year one of the biggest problems in planning activation for 2021 would be the closing and blocking of internal borders?

By Poplever director Debbie Schubert.

From an activation perspective, this has been a challenge in drawing up plans for 2021. We have learned over the past six months that the border closure may only be 24 hours away. In addition, no one can predict when they will lift. There are no defined national rules of engagement.

Typically, plans are drawn up and budgeted up to a year in advance. We work on a set schedule and create and execute activations based on major seasonal events that we know will generate revenue. Last year that turned on its head. The plans made at the beginning of the year changed weekly. We adjusted the start times, revised the service schedules and first thought about the safety of our front-line teams based on various government restrictions.

Border closings also meant that events that we had included in our joint business plans simply didn't happen. Events that normally stimulated home snacking were canceled or postponed. Firstly, we have seen the Olympic Games postponed and no one is sure if they fail to happen in 21 due to the pandemic problems despite severe penalties. The POS destined for the Olympics is still in warehouses across the country making some brand teams very nervous. With this in mind, internal border closings have cast doubt on events such as the Footy Finals. It took months for the premiers to negotiate the revised events and location with the sports federations. Then who would have thought that a Melbourne Cup would take place without people?

The constant swap and cancellation of seasonal events has made brand teams nervous when it comes to activating pre-orders in case they don't go through. In addition, freight costs increased significantly in the last quarter. For goods arriving from overseas containers, the cost is three times what it was before Covid. At this point, they don't look like they'll be going back to pre-Covid prices anytime soon.

We need to rethink both our sourcing and online strategies as the bans change the way customers buy goods. This has an impact on budgets as we have to budget for higher costs for goods and extend them across traditional stores as well as online. It means working more closely with retailers to develop a balanced approach to in-store activation plans as well as online initiatives. We need to consider regional boundaries when making plans to comply with the programs. On the positive side, we will see less clutter and noise in the market. Less is more.

The good news for activation manufacturers with local manufacturing arms will be that brands need to find options closer to where they live. Cost versus timing and flexibility. This will thwart the traditional procurement models. Local manufacturing is finally back on the agenda as brands balance time logistics and retail cancellations. Now is the time to rethink Made in Australia to rediscover innovation and creativity on land.

About Debbie Schubert

Debbie is the director and founder of the Poplever Shopper Marketing Agency, founded in 2016. She is an expert in shopper marketing and retail strategy who works both on the client side and as an agency for FMCG shopper marketing and sales. She has worked with large multinationals and startups including Snack Brands Australia, Lion Dairy, PepsiCo, Nestlé, SC Johnson and RB. She has extensive knowledge of the Australian FMCG retail landscape. She was chairman of POPAI (Shop!) For four years.

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