A second candle on the cake for Labstore South Africa

Labstore South Africa, local office of Y&R Advertising’s digitally-led retail and shopper marketing network, is celebrating the second anniversary of its launch in South Africa – and the Labstorians are taking stock of their challenges and triumphs against the backdrop of an ever-evolving local shopper marketing landscape.

The shopper marketing business unit of Y&R South Africa has not only reeled in new business (with six major client wins spanning across 22 separate brands), but has built a formidable shopper marketing team over the last two years. In July 2016, it was also announced that Labstore SA would form the shopper marketing leg of the newly formed VML and Y&R Africa Group entity, together with Y&R South Africa and digital specialist, NATIVE VML.

“Becoming the shopper specialist nestled within such a powerful and globally rooted Group is a significant milestone for us,” says Carolyn White, Managing Director of Labstore South Africa and Africa. “It signals an industry shift in the sense that shopper marketing is no longer seen as just the in-store activation space, nor ideation in shopper channels only. Shopper-led strategic insights into consumer behaviour and the need for multi-channel solutions that connects brands and experiences, are becoming paramount,” she explains.

According to White, one of the biggest lessons that she has learned is that an agency can’t be all things to all people. “You need to focus efforts both internally and externally. Shopper marketing is not just about getting people to purchase more and more often, but is a powerful means to changing habits and behaviours,” she continues.

In South Africa, the local shopper marketing landscape has seen increased digitisation over the last two years. According to Jon Bird, Global Managing Director of Labstore, this digitisation trend is on par with the largest area of growth for shopping marketing globally – eShopper – defined as the ‘ability to influence the shopper to choose by using digital channels, whether the purchase is made online or offline’. “eShopper is an area of focus for Labstore globally in 2017, and Labstore South Africa is well-placed to leverage this trend with the strong digital specialist expertise of NATIVE VML,” he adds.

Jason Xenopoulos, CEO of Y&R South Africa and NATIVE VML, elaborates on the inroads that Labstore South Africa has made over the last two years in the pitch boardrooms. “Labstore South Africa’s creative and strategic credentials, coupled with a relentless passion to create shopper chemistry for clients, has been instrumental in securing a string of accounts – often on incredibly tight timelines. We look forward to seeing this unit flourish and grow as an individual agency and as a collaborative partner,” he says.

White feels that it is an exciting time to be a specialist in the discipline of shopper. “Three trends that will undoubtedly play an increasingly significant role in the local market include hyper personalised shopper experiences, collaborative partnerships in alternate retail channels, and digital social shopping. And we are ready for it,” she adds.

Across the world, Labstore’s network continues to expand – launching most recently in Milan and Lisbon, with Brussels scheduled for early next year. Commenting on Labstore South Africa’s remarkable trajectory since its launch, says Bird: “I am so proud of Labstore South Africa – they are one of our star global offices, producing great work, making a difference for clients and leading the market in both thought and action. Happy Birthday!”