Shopper Insights is a Buzz Word…Maybe

Shopper Insights (like “retail touch points,” “share of wallet,” and a host of other) is, of course, a buzz word.  But does it have merit or is it just a new way of packaging the same old thing marketers have been talking about for years?  It really all depends on how we define it.

In it’s infancy, shopper insights focused on a very limited field.  It was all about the in-store experience, or the near-store experience at best.  Unfortunately, shopping is significantly more complex than this and involves understanding both systems of human interaction and what happens well outside the immediate shopping venue.  Yes, everyday life has an impact on how and why we shop.

Individual psychology and the psychological frames imposed by years of structured behavior have a huge influence on the shopping and buying decisions we make. Whether at the store or at home, people have attitudes, beliefs and practices that shape what happens while shopping.

Consider a father shopping for a new hammer.  Because of what his father used, he may make a line straight for that brand without bothering to explore the store or the other hammers. However, with the right messaging and design, he may be willing to experiment. Does packaging influence his decision to pick the object up?  Does it even catch his eye?  The fact is that the shopper has been trained through time to watch for as well as ignore many sales cues.  Design and marketing need to be aware of this.

Outside influences and how we CULTURALLY understand our world is the other, often overlooked, element in the shopper insights equation.  We understand our world through a shared cultural lens.  Tools (along with food, cars, clothes, etc.) are more than things we use for a single purpose.  They have tremendous meaning.  Take the shopping dad example again.  Perhaps it isn’t about shouting the benefits of the hammer in building (after all, he may not build much on a regular basis), but rather calling up memories from his youth.  Maybe it’s about speaking to his need to appear as an able father and the idea that this particular hammer will be carried through the ages, from generation to generation.  Understanding these unspoken motivations helps us define the right promotions, products, messages and pricing at the right place and at the right time.

The point is, that people don’t just read specs and lists of product attributes. They internalize and create stories.  Consequently, shopper insights have had to move beyond the in-store experience and creating the loudest ads to understanding how people shape their world.  It means thinking about shopper insights in a broader sense, but the payoff is tremendous.



Published by gavinjohnston67

Take an ex-chef who’s now a full-fledge anthropologist and set him free to conduct qualitative research, ethnography, brand positioning, strategy and sociolinguistics studies and you have Gavin. He is committed to understand design and business problems by looking at them through an anthropological lens. He believes deeply in turning research findings into actionable results that provide solid business strategies and design ideas. It's not an insight until you do something with it. With over 18 years of experience in strategy, research, and communications, he has done research worldwide for a diverse set of clients within retail, legal, banking, automotive, telecommunications, health care and consumer products industries.

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