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Friday, 31 October 2014

Use actual behaviour to understand shoppers, conference told

UK— To better understand consumers as shoppers, researchers need to stop relying so much on claimed behaviour and focus instead on actual behaviour, said Relish Research’s senior partner Monique Drummond at today’s MRS Shopper Research Conference.

Traditionally, agencies have relied on the information they glean from focus groups and surveys, but Drummond and co-presenter Helen Bennie of Shopper Insight warned that much of this post-rationalised information is useless when a consumer enters a store and starts making decisions, many of them unconscious, about what they are going to spend their money on.

Agencies carrying out research for new packaging, for example, spend too much time concentrating on what information they can get out of focus groups. “They recruit very specific people and go on for too long. Two hours is a long time to speak about a small piece of advertising,” said Drummond.

The solution, the presenters said, is to employ technologies such as eye-tracking, which can be used to provide a clearer picture of how shoppers behave while they are actually engaged in the purchase process.

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Readers' comments (2)

  • Thanks for this article James. The main point of our paper was that research is, and will always be an iterative process, and within this, focus groups, depth interviews, home visits, accompanied shops all have a vital role to play.

    As an example, Neil Blackburne of SCA spoke very eloquently about the failure to consider the retail environment when researching their new Velvet Man Size tissues. As a result, they created a pack with little differentiation or standout from their standard size product. Semiotics helped them with their re-design. However, we at Relish would argue that this initial pack issue could have been addressed in focus groups had the right approach been used. For example, if you asked people to draw mansize/large size tissues before showing them the proposed pack, we know they would not have used pinks, pastels and flowers. Similarly, if you asked the client to strip in mock ups of their packs to a shelf fixture and show this in groups, they would have seen and heard the problems with the pack before going to launch.

    Conversely, if you start such a process immediately showing groups the new packs, we all know and have experienced issues such as group bias, the need to please, and this, overlaid with the very nature of the a focus group environment can lead to inaccurate insights and recommendations. We find our focus groups frequently unearth reasons for failure before going to print, production or advertising.

    This leads to the other vital element of the mix, raised at the conference on Thursday – namely the role of the client in the process. One paper showed that a woeful 10% of clients took immediate action in response to the research they have commissioned. It can take a brave client to go ‘back to the drawing board’ and acknowledge the work is not good enough, especially if their packaging, product or advertising agency is insisting otherwise and they have launch deadlines looming. Britvic and L’Oreal’s case studies demonstrated best practice in this area.

    I don’t think many people in our industry would like to see the end of all direct consumer engagement. Our paper’s purpose was to highlight the need to embrace and integrate new and emerging technologies into the research process. Helen Bennie described the discipline of ‘Shopper Insight ’ as a relatively ‘new kid on the block’, in which case we’re determined to welcome this into our gang.

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  • The use of CCTV videos for studying in-store shopper behavior is now actively propagated by many the manufacturers of these technologies. Commonly proposed solutions are - People counting, Dwell Time, Path analysis and Heat Map.

    However there is very little to connect these metrics to actual topline and bottomline objectives of a retail chain. Retailers are already being presented with a plethora of "insights" on customer preferences through analytics from the bills generated.

    Video analytics for retail shopper behavior is nascent but quietly emerging as an additional valuable tool for retailers to build intimate understanding of their shopper's experience.

    How it will play out in the future is anybody's guess !

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