Modes of Shopping Behaviour

Modes of Shopping Behaviour
February 2, 2021 Omnibus

Retail shopping missions based on shopping goals are frames of customers’ behaviour in the store.

Some regular shopping mission statements for the grocery stores are:

“Quick meal” / “Healthy quick meal”

“Something for family dinner”

»Fill up my fridge and food cupboards«

“Indulge myself”

“Guests are almost knocking!”

Those statements bring customers into the stores and strongly determine how the shoppers buy individual categories. Of course, stores that already managed to successfully fulfil the goals have a huge advantage over stores that are not successful in that.

Directing the flow of customers regarding different shopping missions is an essential part of store formatting.


During the shopping missions, customers are pursuing their goals.

When we tracked shopping carts and later analysed in-store shopping paths, we came upon different recognizable patterns within each particular shopping mission.

We classified patterns into 4 different modes.  Each mode defines particular customers’ expectations and influences their interest & attention.

The highway mode

Name derives from shopping pattern that resembles those at work while driving on the highway. Shoppers move goal-oriented & fast from points A to B, then to C. Their focus is strictly attached to finding the products from the shopping list. It doesn’t have to be a real list of paper. Maybe it’s a digital reminder or an unwritten form of items. In this mode, all outside stimuli generally mean only disturbance. Shoppers switch to auto-pilot mode. Where is that damn brown sugar of the same brand I always buy? Ok, I got it. How about dishwashing detergent of brand X? That’s the only thing on shoppers mind at that particular moment.

The traffic jam mode

Possibly waiting in a queue before the checkout or service line. Each second usually seems too long, overdue. Though, under a certain threshold, a shopper is open for a thing or two. Within limits. With passing minutes, sometimes seconds agitation increases. Up to a point of general dissatisfaction. Handle with care!

The discovery mode

Shoppers’ attention spans are wider. They are open to new proposals, feel like browsing around, suddenly checking new products. Special offers or seasonal product areas might trigger this mode.

The story mode

The cellar with wine, cheese, sausages, winemaker stories – smells, tastes, flavour, words, colours, a mix of our primary senses, brings experience to life.

The above names were coined by ourselves while preparing insights based on observations and measurements provided by Omnibus shopping traffic research. For 14 days, our team RFID measured the movements of all shopping carts in the supermarket in Maribor (Slovenia). The data was gathered and statistically analyzed first through the dashboard and then via data queries. Further, we added observation material.

Example: a complete particular shopping path as shown on dashboard (c) Omnibus, 2018-2020


On some store visits, customers operate just in one mode. Other shopping trips might blend all the modes together.

Some stores help us switch the modes. And some stores don’t.

Stores that manage to succesfully follow and even set their customers in different modes have a huge advantage over those that don’t. Their shopping basket is higher, customer are more satisfied with the overall shopping experience. Not only this: the shopping modes switching gives customers the unique retail experience that provides an unbeatable advantage over competition which only provides “arranged products and services in an orderly manner”.

Once again, let’s not overlook the strategy of the discounters like Hofer / Aldi and Lidl. They’re the kings of the no-frills, high-speed, highway mode, right? Sure, at every touchpoint they show us how valuable our time is to them.

But another aspect is just as crucial.

Have you ever noticed what happens in the central part of retail stores there? Yes, where the wire containers piled high with items called special buys, like cooking utensils or televisions or gym equipment, is located?

People suddenly stop! More than that: they voluntarily, of their own free will, spend additional time and carelessly browse through the special offer.

And now compare this behaviour to other grocery stores – when was the last time (save from the fruit & vegetable section) you’ve seen such devotion for browsing in regular supermarkets? Probably, you’ll have to think hard.

Yes, in Hofer and Lidl, at certain points people stop. They take time. They browse. They engage. They share attention. Voluntarily. That’s a measure of successful retailing!



Those retailers that help customers in switching the modes voluntarily are more successful than those that don’t.

As customers, we expect that our basic highway mode will run smoothly, without friction. But that’s just the first part of our expectations. We are also more eager to return to the stores that bring us into discovery or story mode. That makes us happy, that makes our endorphins jump.

Understanding and respecting those modes is essential for a successful store format.

A further view on the topic, especially about the dangers of the auto-pilot trap, is provided in our special based on shopping path research.

Here are some questions that could help retailers to trim & improve the performance of their store layouts:

  • What shopping missions are crucial for the success of your store format?
  • How do you manage the 4 main modes within your format?
  • Is your store offering all the modes? Can you mark the discovery zones on a store layout?
  • Do you pay enough attention to providing highway mode in an intuitive, time-friendly manner?
  • Is there a particular traffic jam issue that could significantly increase your customer satisfaction level?
  • How about the story mode – do you include it?

If you’d like to get the answers with us, don’t overlook our #leverages for remarkable store spaces.

This is a product that combines insights from unique shopping traffic research and knowledge gathered from our long-time interest in the anthropology of customer behaviour. #leverages help retailers to reorganize the store layouts for better performance and tight connection to customer flow. As our case shows, in a particular supermarket remodelling resulted in lowering the inventory level by 31% and increase of the sales by 18%.

We don’t claim this figure has to do only with #leverages as clients team successfully introduced some new contents as well. On the other hand, #leverages where the focal point of store remodelling.

For manufacturers:

  • Do you know how your products perform in each mode? Leaving your shelf efforts mainly to auto-piloting might mean troubles not only for the retailer but also for you. Especially, when you know that interested customers on average choose between 180 products in 27 seconds (see our shopping path research).
  • When you use additional locations for promoting your products, do you consider at what positions the most impact will come from?
  • Leverage your wide portfolio of products: why wouldn’t you provide a retailer with valuable insights on shopping missions shown through the lens of your products? Win – Win?

Free PDF #leverages with info and case description is available on the link.  For now, only in Slovenian. If you’re interested in the English version just send us an e-mail or fill the contact form and we will provide an English copy!


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