Who doesn’t know the following situation? You’re out in the store to buy groceries when a particular product catches your eye and you spontaneously decide to buy it.
And you’re far from being alone with these impulse purchases. In fact, studies have shown that a large amount of purchasing decisions are still made spontaneously directly at the Point of Sale (POS).
For that reason, knowing how shoppers perceive a product in-store and what ultimately leads to a purchase decision is crucial for a company’s success in retail.
Getting that kind of information is, however, not always easy. Many people don’t like being bothered with questionnaires or surveys when they are out shopping. And obviously you don’t want to annoy potential buyers to an extent that they end up not buying your product after all.
This article aims at diving deeper into why you should generate good shopper insights, what to do with them once you have collected them and how you can get that kind of data in a fast and comparably cheap way.
What Exactly Are Shopper Insights?
The idea of gathering shopper insights isn’t a new one. The concept goes back at least 75 years. Learning about what makes people buy a product when they are in a store became especially important after World War II, when self-service retailing grew rapidly in the United States.
Then and now, creating good shopper insights requires an in-depth study of factors influencing the shoppers’ perceptions in-store as well as their shopping behavior. However, it isn’t only about the behavior itself but also the factors and influences that drive this kind of behavior. Combining this information with general shopping data, i.e. sales figures, results in valuable knowledge about what makes people buy your product but also what potentially keeps them from doing so.
Over the years, shopper insights have evolved into an important piece of the overall marketing strategy of brands as well as any research related to it.
Shopper Insights ≠ Consumer Insights
An important aspect when talking about shopper insights is to make a clear distinction between these and consumer insights. For some people the difference between the two might be slightly blurred. So, let’s just quickly get things straight on this one.
The most important difference between the two is the object of study. Shopper insights are concerned with those people who go into the stores (or get on the internet) and buy products – the shoppers. They don’t necessarily have to be the ones using the product after purchase.
For consumer insights, by contrast, it doesn’t matter who bought the product. In this case you only want to know what people who actually use your product – the consumers – think about it. So, what’s basically important to understand is that it isn’t always the consumer himself who’s buying a product.
Due to this distinction, information and knowledge derived from shopper insights is used differently than that derived from consumer insights. While consumer insights provide guidance on marketing and communication aspects of a brand, shopper insights help companies determine the best strategies and tactics to increase their in-store sales.
Once you start collecting both shopper and consumer insights and then combine these two, you will be able to create a powerful understanding not only of what people like and don’t like about your products but also to what extent the shopping experience influences the purchase intention (i.e. likeliness of shopper to buy your product).
Why Are Shopper Insights Important?
Making use of the internet to search for, compare, and buy products has become completely normal in today’s interconnected world. The rising digitalization doesn’t only influence and change where shoppers buy but most importantly also how they make their purchasing decisions. At the same time, our connectedness leads to a growing amount of information about shoppers and their behavior while making these decisions.
What kind of product is a shopper looking for? What is he/she generally interested in? How does he/she approach the product search? What makes him/her prefer one product over another one?
In the online world, understanding this and retracing a shopper’s path to purchase based on this information has become a lot easier in the last years. In order for stationary retail to keep up with the strong competition they’re facing from online shops, they have to figure out a way to also gain this kind of knowledge about their own (potential) shoppers.
Now, collecting the right type of data might require a not negligible amount of effort. When done properly, however, it can give retailers and brands a competitive edge over other companies not doing this kind of research.
Admittedly, online shops will probably always track a lot more information about their clients than you in stationary retail will ever be able to do. Still, even with today’s opportunities to buy stuff without ever having to leave the house, surveys show that many people prefer to actually go into the city and to the stores to shop. This, in turn, offers an opportunity for you as a retailer which online shops don’t have: You can engage with your shoppers face-to-face on a daily basis.
That means that you can see them while they are browsing your store for a product, you can talk to them, you can help them and give them advice and, therefore, get to know your clients and their preferences while shopping better.
Now, you might ask yourself: How am I supposed to know what shoppers want by just observing their behavior in my store? Well, you probably can’t. But there are still various options for you to obtain the information you need to make the right decisions.
How to Collect Shopper Insights
Methodologies to create shopper insights are manifold. You can go with the classical method and use short interviews, you can also work with focus groups (though for this one you might want to engage a professional market research agency) or make use of the internet and offer an online survey. You could, for instance, have a QR code printed at the end of your receipts which will take shoppers directly to the online survey. In order to increase participation, think about offering a discount, a coupon or some other kind of reward.
In addition to opinions and perceptions make sure to also collect information about your shoppers’ demographics, how often they purchase something from your store, how many shoppers come and go in a day, a week, or a month, and how much time they spend shopping in your store.
Once you’ve collected a good amount of data, it is important that you don’t just read through it once and accept it as it is; you have to dive deep into the results and analyze the knowledge that you’ve just gained. Based on this data you can, for instance, create buyer personas. A buyer persona semi-fictionally represents your ideal shopper. Use as many details as possible in order to decide where to invest your time and maybe even money to improve your shoppers’ experience in-store and consequently increase your sales.
Now, there might not be the one ideal shopper for your business. It is, of course, also possible to create more than one buyer persona. Yet, having too many differing ideal shoppers might leave you with no viable result after all. Therefore, make sure to cluster your shopper insights as much as possible in order to not end up with too many different personas.
Your buyer personas will then enable you to better understand how your shoppers perceive your store and what influences their purchasing decisions and consequently adjust your store accordingly.
As mentioned before collecting comprehensive shopper insights – no matter if you do it yourself or with a professional market research agency – requires a lot of time and money. When you decide to use your own staff, employees will spend quite some time questioning shoppers and not do work they would usually do. Using a professional market research agency will most likely require less of your own or your employees’ time but it is also a good bit more expensive.
So, what to do if you neither want to spend a lot of time nor a lot of money on collecting the data?
Mobile crowdsourcing may be the solution for you.
You just have a few general questions you would like to ask potential shoppers? Using a mobile crowdsourcing platform, you can reach thousands of real shoppers in almost no time.
You want to know what real shoppers think of the shopping experience in your store? Make us of a mobile crowdsourcing platform to reach people that are already near your store and have them pay you a visit and answer your most burning questions simply via their smartphones.
It really can be that easy. And the best thing about it is that you generally will have to spend a lot less money on the results than when engaging an actual market research agency. Additionally, you should be able to reach a lot more people than by just asking shoppers that come into your store anyway. This means you get even more data that you can analyze and use for future improvements.
Knowing the people who are your (potential) shoppers is essential in order to provide them with the best possible shopping experience and, thus, the desire to buy products from your store. But it’s not only important for store owners, it is also important for brands and producers of products. How should a product appear in store (or even online) in order to raise the desire to buy it?
The best way to find out information like this is to ask the shoppers themselves. This, however, isn’t always as simple as it may sound. Finding the right way toward getting all the data you want while still making sure to not annoy potential shoppers can be difficult. Additionally, creating thorough shopper insights often requires a considerable amount of money.
This complexity may result in many companies eventually deciding against the generation of shopper insights, which in turn can lead to a severe disadvantage compared to competitors that do have this kind of data. Other companies invest the time and money to collect shopper insights but afterwards fail to use them in the right way. The possibility to thoroughly analyze the gathered information and consequently derive implications on how to improve the shopping experience is what actually makes this data so valuable. So, don’t make the mistake to collect data, read through it once or twice and then just let it be.
Learn who your shoppers really are and what they expect of and want in a product for them to ultimately make that purchase.