Know the shopping missions

Improve ROI On Your In-Store Merchandising Budget
October 3, 2018 Omnibus

THE COMMUNICATION NOISE

While a typical grocery supermarket at any given moment holds up to 50.000 different products, a typical shopper buys only 300 of them at max. Not monthly, but yearly.  Just think about house cleaning products, detergents and also the products on the shelves of every kitchen’s prince – the refrigerator. The prevailing pattern is the rotation. Many of the products are bought over and over again. Describes Siemon Scammell-Katz in his book The Art of Shopping (2012):

“For low-involvement categories – those categories that we shop for quickly and are perhaps not that interested in – 69% are repeat brand purchases.”

In stores, one consequence of this habituation is that people discard the cues and narrow down the options by not paying attention to messages received. Many attempts to get the attention for the products outside the “chosen 300” are clearly just going down the drain. The communication noise is enormous. By definition.

A LITTLE TWIST ON THE HIGH TRAFFIC POSITIONS

In this noisy & competitive environment, the battle for promotional spaces and secondary displays makes an everyday’s menu of CPG companies, suppliers and key account managers. For the few selected category captains with higher promotional budgets, the primary targets are the relatively limited and highly expensive positions on the main aisles (displays, pallets, gondola endings). The reason is that those high traffic positions are the most efficient – or so is believed.

Our on-going research of shopping paths calls for a different perspective. Basically, we can identify 2 types of product expositions in the stores:

  1. the ones that fit into the shopper’s scenario though not necessarily previously planned (favorable)
  2. the forced expositions – don’t fit into the customer’s scenario and seem uninteresting or even intimidating for the customers.

Sheer focus on the high traffic positions might well miss the target because the forced expositions are either overlooked, not accepted as valid alternatives or even triggering negative reactions from customers.

But the results might get improved. The much better approach – especially, when you take an ROI perspective – would be to connect and engage the shopper when his/her cognitive curtain is open and gets into a “category buying mode”.

How do you that?

By understanding and addressing the basic reasons for store visiting = shopping missions for your products.

SO – WHAT IS A SHOPPING MISSION?

You can take it as a very basic stuff. The prime motives for visiting the store.

“Get a quick meal”

“Something for family dinner”

“Indulge me”

“Guests are just around the corner!”

“Catch a bargain”

“The refrigerator is empty and we’ve run out of …”

All these are examples of shopping missions.  The visitor has a plan, enters the store, then more or less sticks to it!

Though still mostly overlooked – especially due to prevailing approach to shoppers on the category level – the shopping missions determine how buyers make their decisions within the categories. The shopping missions are the keys to understanding of shopping behavior of the store visitors!

FROM THE WHO TO THE WHY

By discussing the shopping missions and attached motives, we have made a fundamental shift of perspective. We no longer think only of the WHO but emphasize yet mostly neglected the WHY of the shopping.

Each mission has its own motive, time, budget, and goals. The mission is then fulfilled by purchasing items in the set of different categories. It’s like leaving the trail within the store. That’s also why just one category focus seems to narrow for understanding how customers really behave and shop. You can see the shopping missions as the frames that direct attention within the store. Our shopping paths research discerns different patterns of movement within the store -> all of them directly connected to shopping missions.

FITTING INTO A SHOPPING MISSION

Now, following the supplier’s angle, let’s link shopping missions to the products.

We can provide the following definition:

The more frictionless a product blends in the relevant shopping mission, the better the possibility of the sales success.

  • Frictionless means position a product organically (almost unnoticeable) as a prominent option within a mission. Why’s that so important? Just as TV viewers immediately switch the channels during the commercials, so the shoppers immediately notice the invasive communication and build the psychological fence against that. By an organic approach – the alert signals don’t turn on, in contrary, the customer sees a product as a solution.
  • With a product, we actually mean an extended “product” – the brand, the package, the message, the price points & the product itself must fit in a mission as much as possible. Don’t try to push bundles into a quick meal solution. Heavy or unconvenient glass containers might also turn off customers. Etc.

As mentioned, considering the shopping missions might heavily impact the ROI – because less frequented and therefore less expensive store spaces might serve as valid targets for secondary positioning. For example, to enter the quick meal mission there are actually very few hotspots in the supermarkets – and the high traffic action aisle isn’t one of them!

To sum it up – customers footfall might be very easily overestimated. As a supplier, you can bombard the customers with expensive messages but still heavily miss the recipients. We suggest an alternative approach: respect the customers’ mindset by answering the following questions:

  1. How do people use my product?
  2. Based on the uses – what are the most relevant shopping missions for my products?
  3. What is the most appropriate brand, package, product, price point, store position for a particular mission we’d like to address?
  4. How do I extend the frame of the shopping mission and upsell?

The solutions based on shopper missions might also open up the doors of the retailer – because many of them have already found out that category view simply doesn’t fit the reality of shopping. The point is confirmed also by a name of the study of such huge data crunchers like Dunnhumby: Don’t think format, think mission.

Our research pages provide additional evidence for the value of shopping missions. Check it out.

In case you have any questions, I’d be glad to answer! Perhaps we might even discover interesting actionable insights together.

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