What’s Going On?
Major companies have used point-of-sale and panel data for decades to discern what’s going on with shoppers. In addition, most have endeavored to establish a strong base of consumer insights to understand how consumers feel about their products and brands. What’s been missing, until fairly recently, was any connection between the two or any insights regarding how consumers feel about their shopping experience and why they make the retail decisions they do.
Fortunately, in recent years the field of Shopper Insights has emerged. More and more companies are jumping on this bandwagon and creating Shopper Insights organizations to leverage qualitative and quantitative research focused on understanding shoppers and their behavior.
The In Store Marketing Institute defines Shopper Marketing as, “the use of strategic insights about the shopper mindset to drive effective marketing and merchandising activity in a specific store environment.”
Getting Beyond Consumer Rationalizations
So how does one go about understanding the shopper mindset to uncover strategic insights? How do we get beyond consumers’ rationalizations about their shopping behavior to truly understand what motivates and drives the shopper along their purchasing journey at not only the functional but also the emotional level?
Well, it isn’t as easy as you might think. And the really tricky part is that when we ask people straight out, they’re seldom able to tell us how their decision-making process works or why they feel as they do. These things occur at a much deeper level, and people are seldom conscious of the inner workings of their own minds, so you really need to know what you’re doing to reveal motivations beyond their awareness. What’s more, taking a look at the shopper only within that shopping environment is a little like trying to understand an apple by studying just its peel.
Rolling In The Deep
At Brandtrust we’re leading new thinking in the Shopper Insights space with our Shopping Inquiry® methodology which leverages social sciences-based methods to go beyond rational and functional behavior and access the emotional context in which shoppers’ decisions are made. It’s not sufficient to just understand the WHAT of shopping behavior in the retail environment. We need to understand HOW people move from being consumers to being shoppers. We need to lay bare the underlying emotions and mental models that guide the WHY of their shopping behaviors.
Understanding Pre-Shopping Is Key
One of the keys to how we unlock the mental and emotional models that influence shopping behavior during a Shopping Inquiry® study is that we make a point of understanding a consumer’s relationship to the product and category as deeply as possible before we set foot with her in the visual chaos of the store. This background of insight enables us to link her behaviors to her emotions in a rich way that lets us parse what’s going on in that retail environment at a much deeper level of understanding.
Once we’ve unlocked that critical path and have come to understand how a person goes from the relatively straightforward consumption mode (“I need more shampoo”) to the more complex shopping mode (“when and where and how do I go get more shampoo and do I stick with my preferred /store/brand/size/variety or will something new catch my eye?”) it becomes much easier to see how the shopping experience at any retailer either supports or does not support the emotional and functional mental model the shopper is carrying around inside her head. This is the key to getting rich, deep shopper insights that provide a solid foundation that endures over time.