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5 Game-Changing Shopper Insights

Retail Management | Shoppers Trends

Every marketer I know is seeking insights, but shopper insights seem to be particularly elusive. Many struggle to define what shopper insights are, where they might find them and what they might do once they have found one. This week, I thought I’d share five of the most impactful shopper insights we’ve found over the years, how we found them and what they delivered for the brands we were working for.

What are shopper insights?

Shopper insights are those little nuggets of information that help marketers see new opportunities to change purchase behavior and increase the consumption of their brands. They’re so elusive because you can’t ‘buy’ shopper insights, they have to be found. For many this is really frustrating, research programs are bought with express purpose of delivering insights but, when the presentation finally arrives, all you get is information. Turning information into insight is a process that involves both art and science, but its generally a process that starts after the researchers leave the room.

Game-changing shopper insights number 1: The consumer isn’t buying

Often marketers assume that their consumer is the buyer of their brand but for one global male grooming brand, we found that 40% of sales were made to women. This meant that a large proportion of the category’s sales were made to people who have no personal experience of using the products. Finding this information was actually easy – an exit poll asked the gender of the shoppers and also asked for whom the purchase was being made. The hard part was persuading the team that a large proportion of female shoppers were not influenced by what their men told them to buy, but by what they saw in the store.

A similar finding played a role in the Old Spice “The Man your Man Could Smell Like” campaign some years back, where it was recognized that encouraging women to buy the brand for their partners might be more effective than leaving the decision to men alone. The outcome in both cases was a more targeted marketing approach that drove share by switching shoppers to the brand.

Game-changing shopper insights number 2: There isn’t one target shopper, there’s many

For a global coffee brand wishing to expand its distribution, we found the key factors that prevented shoppers from buying differed from person to person. Using a shopper study, we found that lapsed brand shoppers and non-buyers could be segmented based on their attitude to the brand, the price point and the availability of products in a local store. The biggest potential segments were those who felt the brand wasn’t for them or that it did meet taste expectations. When the flavor profiles and brand communication were re-configured, market share grew by 15%.

Game-changing shopper insights number 3: The biggest channel isn’t the most important

Whilst working for a global baby food brand we found that mothers switched brand only once. We mapped channel missions across a wide range of outlets and found an interesting insight: On the day shoppers switched brands, they were 70% more likely to visit a pharmacist than their regular supermarket or hypermarket. The sales created by this single visit made this small channel one of the most important for the brand. This created the potential to build a new relationship with a much lower cost channel than the major key accounts the brand had been investing in.

Game-changing shopper insights number 4: Shoppers don’t notice off-shelf activity

For one major dairy producer, we were asked to consider if promotions were working. Having observed shoppers walking straight past promotional ends we decided to test empirically how many had seen a promotion in store – the finding? Less that 7% had! For a brand pumping heavy investment into ends and price off deals this was an uncomfortable insight, but one that lead the team to re-focus investment onto more profitable activity on the home shelf.

Game-changing shopper insights number 5: The brand is more important to shoppers than you think

Ever wondered if retailers care about your brand? Whilst working with a team in Singapore we found that not only was one key retailer failing to convert nearly half of purchase intenders into buyers because shopper’s couldn’t find they brand they wanted, but worse, half of these shoppers left their entire basket behind in-store. Overall the retailer was loosing 14 million dollars in sales every year. This insight lead to an extensive program of re-merchandising and supply chain re-engineering and put our client in a leadership position for three years.

Searching for shopper insights?

In all these cases our clients had done extensive research before we got involved and had failed to gain insight from the data they had bought. Why? They expected to find it in a report. In my experience you’ll rarely find insights this way. Its far better to develop a set of hypotheses about what might grow your business and then look to the data to see how well it supports those hypotheses.

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