You’re likely familiar with marketing research that focuses on consumer behavior, but shopper marketing requires a different approach, and it’s important to understand the differences between them. Consumer behavior research addresses what products people want or need and how to use marketing to stimulate the purchasing of said products.
Shopper marketing, on the other hand, deals with all the other aspects of product interaction, specifically what product marketers and distribution channels can do to stimulate purchases made while shopping. There are several quantitative approaches you can utilize to answer frequently asked shopper questions including Shopper Segmentation, Retailer Loyalty Study, Path to Purchase, and Shopper Decision Hierarchy.
Common Shopper Marketing Objectives
Shopper marketing goes beyond the in-store experience to include pre- and post-purchase experiences too. It’s critical to have consistency across all consumer touch points to build a strong retail brand. The pre-purchase experience involves publicity, advertising, sponsorships, etc.; the in-store experience consists of store format and layout, product assortment, signage and displays, services, associates, ease of checkout, cleanliness, convenience, etc.; and the post-purchase experience is made up of customer service, product quality/attributes, loyalty programs, social networking, etc. When conducting shopper marketing, it’s also helpful to understand that the retailer and the manufacturer of the product have different objectives. While both want to know how to satisfy consumers and shoppers and grow the category, retailers are more interested in learning what will drive shoppers to purchase the category at their store, while manufacturers want to know what will drive shoppers to buy their brand and category.
When considering shopper marketing research, you may look to answer some of these common objectives/questions:
- Do we want to be viewed as a Thought Leader?
- How do we integrate in-store tactics to provide value?
- How do we gain greater control/input over category, aisle, department and/or retailer decisions?
- Are we addressing key competition (defending, confronting, differentiating, etc.)?
- How do we execute a shopper-centric shelving strategy?
- How do we build a case for new product(s) or businesses?
Shopper Segmentation – Understanding the “Who”, “What”, and “When”
Shopper Segmentation applies traditional segmentation research to shoppers of a specific category, department, and/or retailer and helps organizations recognize and target the varying needs of shoppers. Resulting segments may be based on a variety of shopper attributes including category buying behavior, trip type, drivers of retailer choice, and attitudes towards the category. With Shopper Segmentation, you can also evaluate your category through a deeper dive into specific shopping trips by product category. Shopper marketing strategies often vary by channel since visits to certain types of retailers are usually done with different shopping “missions” in mind.
Retailer Loyalty Study – Understanding the “Where”
Understanding key drivers of loyalty by retailer or channel at the category level is necessary for identifying opportunity areas for growth and improvement among current customers and relative to other retailers. This kind of study can help answer a variety of key questions such as:
- What is the “size of the prize” for a retailer in the category?
- How loyal are shoppers in terms of shopping at a particular retailer instead of another in the category?
- What drives loyalty?
- How well is the retailer delivering in the category compared to other retailers, from the shoppers’ perspective?
- What are the barriers to shopping at a particular retailer in the category?
In a Retailer Loyalty Study, respondents assess stores on 50-70 total attributes addressing topics such as product and brand assortment, store shelving and signage, shopability, promotion/price, store/associate knowledge and expertise, and convenience. The resulting data will allow you to assess performance within each retailer and retailer to retailer.
Path to Purchase – Understanding the “Why” and “How”
Today, shoppers have more information at their fingertips than ever before. They have more choices and more control in decision making. As a researcher, you want to understand the shoppers’ Path to Purchase to determine where your company can make the most impact with marketing, find ways to simplify the path to purchase, and identify opportunities to guide shoppers. There are four key steps to understanding the Path to Purchase:
- Identify the steps and map out the path to making a purchase
- Understand behaviors at each step and what information the shopper is looking for
- Determine usefulness and amount of influence each step has on the final decision
- Understand how shoppers feel about their experiences on the path to purchase and its effectiveness
Two additional steps that may be beneficial depending on the purchase experience include 5. Identifying the key influencing paths through cluster analysis on shopper touch points, and 6. Deriving the relative level of influence that the touch points have on the choice of your brand vs. a competitor, plus the choice of the store, for the purchase.
Surveys would ask a sample of shoppers about their experiences after making purchases. Questions could address the steps the shoppers went through related to planning, information gathering, etc. and the sources they used, specific information gathered, the helpfulness and importance of each source, and questions related to their feelings and attitudes about each stage in the shopping experience.
Shopper Decision Hierarchy – Understanding the “What”, “Why”, and “How”
Similar to Path to Purchase research, understanding the Shopper Decision Hierarchy provides insight into how people shop. But instead of focusing on what shoppers buy, Shopper Decision Hierarchy emphasizes what shoppers would buy instead and helps you identify the variables that shoppers order their decision process around, how they decide which products are similar and which are unique, when they will switch, and when they’ll leave and buy somewhere else. Therefore, the resulting drivers of choice reflect a potential product substitution or the decision to walk away without making a purchase. This research supports a shelf layout that will make sense to shoppers by facilitating easier shopping (because potential substitutes are shelved near each other, so choices can be made more easily). In a survey, shoppers are asked to rate the similarity of brands in a category using whatever criteria they consider important. You can then apply a hierarchical cluster analysis to the brands to produce Shopper Decision Trees. By applying Shopper Decision Hierarchy research, you’ll gain a better understanding of your category, brand, and the occasions for which your products are being used.
Whether you are the manufacturer or distributor, driving category growth is your number one priority, and creating loyal customers by satisfying shoppers is critical to your success. There are several shopper marketing quantitative approaches you can take to understand the detailed Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How related to shopping your category. The insights learned will help you optimize the pre- and post-purchase experiences, as well as the in-store experiences of your shoppers.