Back to Basics: 4 Ways Researchers Can Understand How Consumers Shop

Beverage Aisle

The science of how consumers shop has become a critical element of the marketing mix because marketers know that most of their work must be done at the shelf – where consumers are ready to buy. In the past, brands mainly focused on package format and graphics. The launch of energy drinks in a slim can is a great example of the impact package design can have. The unique slim-can design captured attention in the overcrowded carbonated drinks aisle and even allowed the product to overcome price commoditization. Because the slim can separated energy drinks from other carbonated beverages, it allowed for an 80%+ price premium!

Since then, shopper marketing has gone well beyond the package and basic category planning. The strategies are getting much more intricate. Volume building strategies, for example, optimize shopper flow to keep shoppers in the store longer and organize sections based on activity, solution, or meal planning. There’s a reason that salsa and dips are on a hanging rack directly in front of the chips! Another intricate strategy is about enhancing profitability by separating premium items from mainstream, so shoppers can’t do the price comparison, and providing easy opportunities for high margin impulse purchases.

Thoughtful category planning strategies influence what winds up in a consumer basket which is why getting feedback direct from the consumer about their shopping habits, behaviors and decision making processes is so important! Syndicated data can’t provide that deeper insight to make the high impact recommendations, so shopper insights teams are focusing much more on qualitative research than ever before, and validating actions before going to market.

Here are four ways that researchers can and should understand how consumers shop to help them maximize their product sales:

1. Understanding Products in Market: Shopper Journey

Exploring shopper considerations right in the store provides actionable guidance for product, package, and category leadership. By targeting groups of heavy and lapsed product users, a brand can understand the influences affecting choice at the point of purchase. You can identify game changing opportunities such as findability, visible appeal cues (eg. cold condensation), or competitive health claims, by including:

  • A store visit activity
  • Image uploads
  • Qualitative feedback

2. Understanding Retail Dynamics: Shopper Journey

Beyond proximity and price, shoppers have definite loyalties for their store. Agile research can explore consumer need states and drivers in choosing shopping venues, and understand factor importance by audience type. Agile research can also uncover exceptional, undesirable, and ideal experiences to refine marketing and service offerings.

3. Category Planning: Shelf Set Assessment

Shelf set market tests are costly and time intensive, but extremely valuable to drive category growth. A quick read of options can help to prioritize and optimize design to improve probability of significant impact in the market test.

4. Optimizing Marketing: Point of Sale Assessment

Since so many decisions are made at point of sale, the messaging must be powerful, but time is generally super tight by the time a marketing program reaches POS materials, and research is often foregone. Agile research can allow quick reads on design for creative prioritization and optimization before sending to print.

To learn more about how agile market research can help not only your consumer insight strategies, but also your shopper marketing methodologies, download our shopper insights case study today!

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