Shopper Insights Explained

Research Basics

Shopper Insights Explained

Among today’s businesses, there is a concentrated focus on improving the quality of shopper insights and shopper research as a whole.  The goal is to learn as much about customers’ buying habits and shopping behaviors as possible. Unfortunately, even though brands know that they need shopper insights, very few actually understand the scope of the topic and even worse, they really don’t know how to use the information they collect. 

This guide to shopper insights will help explain the concepts behind shopper insights and detail how to put the information into action for the mutual gain of the customer and the company. 

What Are Shopper Insights?

Before we begin, it is important to discern the difference between “information” and “insight.” Information is simply that; hard facts and numbers. It’s essentially all the data that you get from various sources. This can be sell-out data from Nielsen or any other data source.

On the other hand, insight is what you interpret from the information, it’s the knowledge you gain and is designed to answer the “why”. For example, you may look at research that says customers aren’t ordering the same thing every time, an insight will link that to other information that allows you to understand it’s because of seasonality, a promotion etc.

Shopper data systems and research can provide you with a wealth of information, but you’ll only get value from it if you can properly unveil insights from it. Of course, not all information gathered independently always produces an insight, but if you have a plan in place to connect data from various sources,  you should be able to use the information cohesively to find insights.

How Shopper Research and Data Assist Shopper Insight

When you conduct shopper research, you’re not just looking at shopper behavior, you’re also examining the attitudes that drive those behaviors. Shopper data, on the other hand, only provides you with the end result of that behavior. While you can’t use either by itself, you can use both to validate the other and create meaningful shopper insights. Your results can be made even more powerful by bridging your shopper insights with your consumer insights. 

For many brands, the line between shopper and consumer is blurred; this can make gathering and isolating data difficult. But, for all intent and purposes, the general belief is that a consumer doesn’t have to physically enter a store to become a shopper. A consumer becomes a shopper the moment they make the decision engage with a store, either in person or online.

There is, however, a distinct difference between consumer insight and shopper insight and retailers need to be able to recognize that distinction, especially because the questions being asked and the resulting actions being taken serve two entirely different purposes. 

That certainly doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use consumer and shopper insights together. In fact, when these two elements are used in unison, they can provide a retailer with an even deeper, and more thorough understanding of their customers. A report published by the American Marketing Association, stated that even “greater insight can come from relating consumer and shopper insights.”

What Does Shopper Insight Involve?

The six elements every successful proposal needs to have include Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How. These same elements are used in most shopper research programs to learn more about the shopper. 

As brands need to know as much information as possible, there are a few additional elements used in most research platforms, including How Often, How Many, How Much, and How Long. Here’s a breakdown of the information these elements provide the insights team:

  • Who: The Who is a profile of the company’s target shopper.
  • What: The What is what the shopper buys right down to the product, size, serving size, etc.
  • When: The When is when the shopper buys the product (on Wednesdays, at noon, at holiday time, etc.).
  • Where: The Where is the location where the purchase is made (in store, online, etc.) all the way down to the aisle in-store or the online channel.
  • Why: The Why is not only the reason why the shopper buys a product, but also why they don’t buy another, similar product.
  • How: The How details how the customer makes the purchase. Do they plan to make the purchase, do they decide after browsing the store, or is it an impulse buy?
  • How Often: The How Often element relates to the frequency with which the shopper buys the item (daily, weekly, monthly, annually, etc.).
  • How Many: The How Many element details how many people buy the item and from where. It also records how many of any given item are purchased.
  • How Much: The How Much element records how much the shopper spends at the store during one visit or over the course of a predetermined period.
  • How Long: How Long indicates how long the shopper spends inside the store or in a particular aisle.  

When it comes to shopper insights, there are certain things the shopper can tell you, and others it cannot. For instance, a shopper will be able to tell you what they currently think about your product, as well as what they like about it and what they don’t like. But, most shoppers won’t be able to tell you what they would prefer to see in your product or how they may feel if you were to change a certain aspect. 

Methods Used to Gain Shopper Insight

In order to gain meaningful shopper insights, shopper research should involve both exploratory and evaluation methods in order to gain a more holistic view. By including these two methods, you will learn what the customer says they will do and what the customer actually does. There can be a significant difference between the two and having the answer to both is typically what provides the key insight into the shopper’s behaviors. 

Relying on brief in-store interviews won’t provide you with the deeper level of data you need to know in order to make effective marketing decisions. You can’t rely entirely on focus groups either because the sterile environments in which the consumer is being questioned sometimes results in dishonest or disconnected answers. 

At Cleria, we collect multiple shopper insights that are then possible to connect with other data. For example, looking basket sizes (e.g. how much of a category a consumer buys) alone is not very insightful. However, when you combine this data point with brand usage for example, you can see your customers are buying more or less of your category vs. the average or specific competitors. By connecting insights, you make all of them stronger and more insightful.

Shopper Insights Are Powerful If They Are Retailer Specific

Developing shopper insights is not a static process. It changes by channel due to the fact that every retailer has shoppers who exhibit behaviors that are unique to each channel. There will be some common elements among similar retailers, like who the shoppers are, what type of shopping trip they are on, or buying decision type. However, every retailer’s shopper insights program needs to be unique in order to formulate more accurate insights about the behaviors of their customers. You as a bran can help retailers get there by giving them the shopper insights you uncover.

Even within the same shopping channel, behaviors will change. For example, take two grocery stores; one might be more commonly used once a month to stock up on certain items, another might be more popular for quick trips during the week. In such a comparison, the shopper may be the same but other factors are certainly different, from the duration of the shopping trip, to the type of purchases being made, to the shopper’s in-store attitude and behavior.

Determining Which Shoppers to Target

When you’re putting a shopper insight program together, it is recommended you don’t look at the patronage as a whole. Instead, you will want to target one type of shopper – your ideal shopper. According to Copernicus, the “best target shopper is the one that’s most profitable for a brand’s programming.” To determine which shopper is most profitable for you, you need to include specific profit-related criteria in your shopper survey, including:

  • Current spending in the category
  • Current brand share
  • Market basket analysis
  • Price sensitivity
  • Behavior in different channels
  • Prices paid in different channels
  • Lifetime value

You’ll also need to answer the following three questions:

  • Which shoppers do I target?
  • At which retailer locations and/or channels do I target shoppers?
  • How do I most effectively market to my target shopper with a campaign and shopper program?

How Can Retailers and Others Benefit from Actionable Shopper Insights?

Shopper insights can be immeasurably beneficial to any business that sells goods or services, but more specifically it proves essential to retailers, consumer goods manufacturers, retailer marketing agencies, and any other types of business models that serve retail customers. The following is a quick example of what these types of businesses can expect to gain from using effective and actionable shopper insights.

Retailers: Retailers can gain a deeper understanding of their shoppers, including where else they shop and why. This will add to the retailer’s understanding of their competitive landscape and provide them with important information relating to the shopper’s habits throughout the year.

Consumer Goods Manufacturers: Shopper insights can provide consumer goods manufacturers with a better understanding of shopper trends and changes in their Path to Purchase, and this can help them improve promotional strategies and marketing plans in collaboration with retailers.

Marketing Agencies: Retail-focused marketing agencies can use shopper insights to learn how shopper behavior, expectations, and loyalties differ across various retailers and channels (including the ecommerce channel). This will help said agencies tailor smarter and more channel-targeted strategies based on in-store and digital influences - allowing them and their clients to build out more effective marketing programs.

How To Apply Your Shopper Insights

A good shopper insights team will be able to analyze collected information, extract insights, and create a story that explains exactly what is going on and why. Once you have a surmised explanation, your next step will be to determine what implications are being produced as a result and develop an action plan.

The action plan should entail how to stop unwanted shopper behavior and how to promote desired shopper behavior. Most likely an action plan will lean one way more than another, but no matter what shopper insights will provide you enough value that you will be able to do something, and have a positive outcome. 

At Cleria, we're delivering shopper insights to multiple brands, from small startups to large global brands. Reach out to us if you're interest in learning how they are being used.


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