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Shopper behaviour happens in store

I am often challenged by clients to assist them in changing shopper behaviour. That’s a really tall order. In my experience, behaviours are deeply rooted, often habitual, stimulus or environmentally-motivated and almost never the result of a single experience.

Now before the Psych majors go all textbook on me, I am not writing to debate definition – you win! My point is simply that if you want to change shopper behaviour you must understand your customer’s current behaviour before you can introduce methodology to modify it.

Here are a few tips that may help you on your behavioural journey.

STEP 1: Get funding
Conceding that this is a hugely laborious task on the scale of research budgets, it is actually one of the more cost-effective tools you can use to understand your shopper. It is also one of the tools often left out of annual planning, so finding funds is often a challenge. So allocate dollars to the effort during annual planning. Substitute “nice to have” research tools for “need to have” behavioural dollars.

Step 2: Get in store
Shopper behaviour has to be observed where shoppers are shopping – in store. This means collecting hundreds of observations, multiple times a day during high and low periods of store traffic. Supplementing this with shopper intercepts helps create a real time real situation that no focus group can replicate. This is my research bias, but whichever method you choose, don’t settle for solutions that put researchers in store where the behaviour is happening.

Step 3: Get together
CPG companies are constantly looking for ways to work in a more co-operative way with retailers. This is the perfect opportunity for the two sides to connect for mutual gain. As a retailer, allowing research access to your store will not only provide you with unparalleled insight into your shopper and their habits but it will open the eyes of your CPG partners to activities that actually influence shopper intention or behaviour. This means less reliance on pricing practices that often lead category erosion.

Step 4: Get tracking
Inevitably the output of your research should lead to action. The results are often the easiest part of tracking any retail initiative. We can look back and see what happened in terms of sales. Are shoppers modifying their behaviour based on the implemented changes? Why or why not? To do this, it means you have to be back in the store and may have to begin the process again so that behaviour can be compared.

Step 5: Rinse and repeat
Start fresh each time. Try not to assume that results from one section or category are going to carry over to the next or adjacent category. Initiate your testing rigor each time and you will stand a much greater chance of modifying specific shopper behaviours.

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