We all know that great shopper marketing begins with shopper insights — the same way a great day starts with a healthy breakfast. More often than we would like to admit, we start without either. The common obstacles cut across both situations: time, money, and inspiration.
An insight is like a jigsaw puzzle, in that the picture only becomes clearer as more pieces are put together. Brands often have limited time and money to conduct specific research on their shoppers, but have great research that provides insights into consumer motivations and purchase barriers. However, to create programs and communications that drive demand, we must first understand the fundamentals of how our target consumer shops and where in the process we need to focus our efforts.
To help close this gap, we developed a quantitative research tool that helps us better understand the foundations of the shopper’s behavior, identify outages and translate that knowledge into informed activation that creates brand demand. This tool helps us understand the demand cycle, rather than simply tracking and recording the shopper’s interactions with a brand along the path-to-purchase.
In marketing, we often refer to the 80/20 rule — where 80 percent of your sales come from 20 percent of your shoppers. After conducting demand cycle research on more than 1,000 shoppers across divergent categories — from high-value, high-involvement durables to everyday consumer packaged-goods brands — we see another 80/20 rule emerging: We have found that about 80 percent of shopper responses are consistent across diverse categories and that 20 percent vary by category.
The 80 percent are the simple foundational truths of shoppers today, while the 20 percent can lead to breakthrough insight that can become the basis for differentiated activation. Let’s take a quick look at the 80 percent, or the things we know are true about shoppers today:
Women still represent the largest group of shoppers. Across fast-moving packaged goods to durable household goods, women continue to make the shopping decision, so your message needs to speak to them. That said, we cannot ignore that men’s role in shopping is evolving. Seventy percent of dads lay claim to the fact that they do the grocery shopping; unfortunately, only 36 percent of moms corroborate that fact.
Almost everyone plans — on average 80 percent. Thanks largely to the digital tools at our fingertips, we’re all doing at least some type of planning in virtually every category. As expected, the more involved and expensive the purchase, the more shoppers research. Today’s shopper is both empowered and increasingly habitual, requiring marketers to transform how and where we speak to them.
Shopping, according to shoppers, is a highly rational activity. In reality, we know that shoppers buy when they have an emotional connection that transforms a brand from a need into a want. The problem is that research respondents remember behavior far better than they do emotion. Think back to a habitual task like shopping: Do you remember what you did or how you felt?
Only about a quarter of shoppers are brand loyal. Higher loyalty correlates with higher involvement. A 2011 Accenture survey confirms that 24 percent of consumers characterize themselves as brand loyal, while almost an equal number (23%) describe themselves as having no loyalty at all.
People like to share. Sixty-nine percent of shoppers recommend their favorites to their friends. In a 2011 study by Fleishman-Hillard, Hearst and Ipsos Mendelsohn54 percent of US female internet users said they felt a responsibility to help friends and family make wise purchase decisions.
Social media, specifically Facebook, is becoming an enabler of sharing. However, the correlation between liking and buying is not always direct; consumers who “like” a brand report that they were “somewhat” to “much more likely” to purchase that brand. What is clear is that most shoppers see digital, including social, as a way to get discounts. Consumers’ top expectation (67 percent) when “liking” a brand was to be “eligible for exclusive offers.”
More than half of shoppers have smart phones and 40 percent use them while shopping. Nielsen found 29 percent of shoppers surveyed described themselves as “mobile shoppers” who use their phone to review in-store price comparisons (38%); browse products through their mobile web or apps (38%); and read online product reviews (32%). While these figures haven’t reached majority status yet, the trend is clear and growing.
So, 80 percent of the research confirms that, for the most part, we are trying to engage a female shopper who is using digital, social and mobile tools to find discounts, make rational purchases and then share their success stories with family and friends. Now it’s time to turn our focus to the 20 percent of insights that provide inspiration and differentiation for our brands.
To find that inspiration, we go back to our jigsaw puzzle. We now combine our demand cycle learning — which provides the shopper fundamentals — with our other consumer and shopper studies to see what picture emerges.
Wine. We found that low loyalty levels among wine shoppers were a function of their constant desire for variety. As with many categories, wine shoppers plan at the category level and then do the bulk of their research in the store. To find the taste profile they prefer, they use varietal descriptors to guide their purchases. Our brand had historically focused communication on its rich, country-of-origin heritage, which did not provide the shopper with strong cues about its taste profile.
Pairing the quantitative research with qualitative shop-a-longs confirmed that, by focusing on country of origin, we were missing the lion’s share of shopper visits. Knowing this, the solution was to create programming that drove brand display outside the store’s country-of-origin section and leveraged point-of-sale that focused more on the brand’s varietal and taste cues.
Electric Toothbrushes. Like many small appliances, sales of electric toothbrushes spike around the holiday period every year. Yet we know that half of category purchases are trade-ups and 94 percent of shoppers purchase electric toothbrushes for themselves. So, how could we translate this information into an engaging message that would break through and engage our current consumer?
Given that our shopper and consumer are almost always the same in this instance, we were able to integrate consumer insights with shopper behavior to find the solution. Shoppers are looking for permission to buy, or as it is referred to in the holiday season — self-gift. How could we give them what they want — a great new toothbrush — but without the guilt of buying it for themselves? The answer was to remove the barrier-to-purchase by creating an emotional connection paired with a rational guarantee. A promotion that did just that was implemented broadly offline, online and in-store during Holiday 2011 with much success.
Shelf-stable Juice. In executing research for packaged-goods brands, we consistently see lower involvement and a greater focus on convenience and savings. The goal is to drive engagement by elevating the conversation with the shopper. Often with food and beverage brands, it is about finding the emotional space in which the brands can play. Given the low involvement, the goal is to pair an efficient message with a relevant incentive where the core shopper is looking.
For example, grape juice can clearly play in the wellness space with all of the health benefits it provides. Simply conveying “100 percent juice” served as an umbrella for many of the desired attributes. But where to say that to have the maximum impact? To best understand, we compared and contrasted the behavior of our target shopper across key retail chains. For our shopper mom in Ahold, the answer was to pair information and incentives online. Safeway shoppers focused more on store rewards and recommendations, and were more responsive to mobile communication. The key was to pair a simple, effective communication with a relevant incentive where the shopper was looking.
Actionable insights come from the intersection of understanding consumer motivations and shopper behavior as it relates to the category and brands. Great insight is not developed in isolation. The more inputs that go into insight development, the richer the outcome will be. These insights build on the 80 percent of what we know to be true to create the 20 percent that inspires action or brand demand.