I’m just back from the Path to Purchase Institute’s Shopper Marketing Summit, where a few hundred of the industry’s bright minds go each spring to reveal innovation, talk issues and celebrate the best of the best in shopper marketing. As I shared lunches, seminars and hallway conversations with the attendees, something interesting emerged. There seemed to be new urgency to an age-old dilemma: Should I focus on getting the basics right or invest my energy in innovations that reflect the future of shopping?

Tough question. Especially in today’s marketplace. And especially in shopper marketing, where there’s a responsibility to drive short-term sales as well as long-term gains.

Marketers I spoke with argued both sides of fundamentals vs. future—and you could see their split perspectives represented across the sessions. People were wowed by retail prophet Doug Stephens (author of the new “Reengineering Retail”) who talked about seismic changes around the growing Amazon effect, AI and virtual shopping. At the same time, marketers were intently focused on fundamental, frontline issues like collaboration, compliance and getting higher ROI on their mobile spend.

But the answer to my question—fundamentals or the future—showed up in the Shopper Marketing Effie Awards. Winners (voted by their ability to create strong shopper and financial results) ran the gamut from technological shopping breakthroughs to good, old-fashioned merchandising that solved simple shopper problems. From high-budget Hollywood licensing to viral stunts that cost less than $50K.

It left me convinced it’s not an “or” or a “versus” question. It’s about succeeding with fundamentals and the future.

Yet having the best of both worlds isn’t easy when there’s never enough time, energy and dollars to do it all. I get overwhelmed just by looking at my Outlook calendar, wondering when I’m supposed to find quality “think” time. But I am establishing a few guidelines for myself on where to prioritize in the fundamentals vs. future space.

  • What could kill my current business model? If there’s something lurking like e-commerce, AI or shifting shopper preferences, I must make the time. Put it on formal project status with clear deliverables (like a market test) and clear timeline.

  • What future principles can I adapt into today’s marketplace? The rise of things like voice activation are about reducing steps. So, for example, I can improve the UI/UX of my current, physical marketing to reduce steps and make shopping easier.

  • What’s the shortest route to 10% growth? It may be something classic like improving display compliance, or as breakthrough as adding a pure play retailer to my channel mix. The fast, easy win definitely earns my attention.

  • Where can I find 5-10% of my budget for innovation? To paraphrase one of my financial colleagues, it’s not the “will” but having the “bills” that get things done. All my wish list items need a budget to become reality. So, I’m finding ways to stash a few dollars of every program for learning and innovation.

As always, the P2PI Shopper Marketing Summit challenged me to raise the bar. This year more than any other convicted me to master the basics, but also move beyond them. We can all take heart that there are still lots of strategies that drive results in shopper marketing. So, let’s go explore them together. The best is yet to be. See you at next year’s event.