September 8, 2006
- by Robert E. Stevens, GENESIS II (The Second Beginning) E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Those two little words seem to be the current Buzz Words. But what do they mean? You can find Shopper Insights referred to as a group within a Company, reports, research techniques, types of data, and even conventions. Regardless of what it is, the conclusions we draw from the work should adequately reflect an understanding of shoppers' habits & practices, decision making, desires, and/or preferences.
My concern is that because of the popularity of the Buzz Words, the reader seldom looks beyond the numbers in the report. Just as with any other research method, there will be degrees of error. Unfortunately, the reader is seldom aware of the potential error in the research. For example, last week we received a call from a consumer research company. They interviewed my wife about stores where she shops. The interview basically dealt with the physical properties of the stores which made the recall experience easier. According to my wife the interview was easy and well designed.
However, I heard a few of the questions and I thought there were multiple meanings to some. For instance, she was asked to rate the stocking of the stores. I asked what was meant by the word stocking. She was thinking of the shelves being full. I wonder how many people thought about the diversity of brands and not the number of units on the shelves. As an old stock boy, I would have first thought of the quality of the appearance, that is were the items fronted on the shelves, were the labels fronted, were items stacked too high on the top shelf, etc.? What did the client mean by the word "stocked"?
At a recent conference, a complete presentation was given based on a single focus group meeting. Can you imagine conducting a FGI among a group of first graders and asking them which store they liked better and why? Suppose that they responded that they prefer store "A" because they had more free samples. Would you go to the Trade and recommend that they can increase their shopper evaluation by giving away more free samples? This was not the example presented at the conference, but it could have been.
I must admit that under the current business practices, I have trouble separating consumer research from shopper insights. Unfortunately my training in shopper insights came about a half century ago. One of my first studies involved the introduction of a new product into the trade. We stocked the shelves, set-up a video to record shoppers' actions, and placed a hidden microphone in the central display. Not only did we tabulate the brand sales relative to competition, we also recorded the percent of shoppers that looked at the brand, the percent that picked it up to look at it and read the label, as well as the percent of shoppers who looked at the brand and then placed it in the shopping cart vs. those that placed the brand back on the shelf. All the above plus a shopper intercept interview.
I remember a few years ago having the opportunity to look at the Beta Test data from Herb Sorensen's PathTracker® Technique. What an "eye opener" for me. I would have never believed that 46% of the shoppers' trips covered less that 25% of the store. Or that 78% of the shoppers spent 20 minutes or less shopping. Or what percent did and did not go down each store aisle. Now these are real Shopper Insights.
My take-away from this experience is much like my Grandfather's description of Bourbon. "It is all drinkable but there are very few excellent brands and a lot of very poor brands." The same, in my mind, is true for Shopper Insights. It is aIl data but very few with excellent data and a lot of questionable data. If we assume that "Shopper Insights" is about understanding the shopping experience, what should be our focal point. Three things should be of prime interest:
How and where can this information best be obtained? It is not in a Focus Group setting, or a telephone interview, or even through an internet interview. It is best obtained at the point and time of the purchase decision.
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