Profile: Joe Wills, Senior Customer Solutions Manager, Pernod Ricard
With a background in fine arts/oil painting, Joe Wills’ path to Pernod Ricard was anything but traditional. From an assistant buying position at Wynn Resorts to mastering JDA space planning at Sears Holdings, Wills then jumped into a traditional CPG category management position with Sara Lee before heading into shopper marketing and hybrid roles.
Please describe your current role.
WILLS: I hold the position of senior customer solutions manager within Pernod Ricard’s off-premise national account team. Working in conjunction with the sales team, my primary goal is to identify and commercialize insights on industry trends, retail trends and consumer shopping habits that support our overall sales objectives. Once key programs are developed and executed I am also responsible for providing post-event analysis that is fed up through our finance team for further ROI analysis. Based in Chicago, it is no surprise that my key customers include Walgreens, Rite Aid, Jewel-Osco, Mariano’s and other Illinois regional chain customers.
Can you share a recent example of your team’s work that stands out?
WILLS: My company has really narrowed its focus to develop purposeful innovation based on insights around the consumer taste profile and where there are gaps in the category and subsequent segments. Based on this approach, we have held the top overall spirits innovation products for a couple of years, first with the launch of Jameson Caskmates Stout Edition in 2015, then again in 2017 with the launch of Absolut Lime. With both of these launches we saw trial and repeat build quickly and over time sales velocities kept on increasing, all while maintaining a full 360 support for the launch.
How has shopper marketing moved forward in the past decade?
WILLS: The question is, how hasn’t it? The non-linear purchase behavior of shoppers now has really helped the shopper marketing function evolve at a rapid rate. I would say that the use of data and research behind a program has helped marketers become more focused and granular to gain the best ROI. As for ROI I know that we are all focused on whether the spend was efficient, but at the end of the day we really need to know if product is being moved off the shelf to shoppers’ homes to really determine if a program was successful and worth repeating.
What is the shopper’s greatest need today, and how is your team or organization working to meet that need?
WILLS: Instant gratification and access to all products at all times. In the adult beverage industry there is a fine line in terms of legally what services and tactics can be executed. We have a great digital team that is starting to really push the needle in terms of content development to educate the consumer as quickly as possible as well as being able to provide instant click to consumption models where possible.
What about shopper marketing concerns you?
WILLS: As we have seen on many social platforms in recent months it would be privacy and transparency. In-store shopper experiences aside, are we as shoppers divulging too much information to our retailers and CPG suppliers? That is yet to be determined. But as shoppers become more intelligent, it is something that all marketers will have to keep in the back of their minds, how far is too far to take targeting, geo-fencing and traditional couponing.
What’s your vision of retail and shopper marketing in 5-10 years?
WILLS: I have a feeling that click-and-collect with click and delivery is really going to take off, especially as Millennials start to turn into small families. We all know limited free time is a huge constraint on families of any size. With that evolution, traditional brick-and-mortar will continue to consolidate and a smaller format of the traditional retail environment will emerge. From a marketing strategy perspective, precise communication tied to product availability is going to be key for successful sales campaigns.