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28 Sep 2014
posted by: Amanda

Case study; the difference between what shoppers think they do & what they actually do when shopping...

There are numerous reasons why shoppers don't do what they think they do when shopping ...from simply not remembering to outright lying, but why is this the case?

1. They can't remember

They bought 30 items yesterday, how can we really expect them to remember whether they noticed the promotional ticketing or not in soft drinks?

2. They never took that much notice at the time
FMCG is our life, not theirs and unfortunately (for us) buying groceries is not as exciting as buying a new pair of shoes or a new car.

3. They post-rationalise
Pasta sauce you say? Well let me think, erm no I have some in the cupboard so I definitely wouldn't have browsed pasta sauce in Tesco's yesterday... really?

4. They like to think otherwise
No, I definitely didn't browse Ice Cream because I'm watching what I eat right now.

5. They lie
No, I definitely didn't buy a ready meal as I'm a home cook and rarely cut corners.

For a myriad of reasons, you can't always rely on what shoppers think they do. One of our clients had this exact experience. For years they had held a belief that shoppers avoided the confectionery aisle. They had built their entire shopper marketing strategy therefore around driving shoppers into the aisle. The reality was quite the opposite...

The facts

Adrian is the Category Marketing Director for a major confectionery manufacturer (aka Choccers). All Choccers research to date said that confectionery shoppers avoid the confectionery aisle in the supermarket. As such, Choccers were pursuing an out of aisle shopper engagement strategy. We found that not only did shoppers not avoid the confectionery aisle, but that it was one of the busiest aisles in the supermarket!

The challenge

Sally is trying to be good. It's Tuesday night and the usual rule is no chocolate Mon-Thurs. Along with the wine rule & that's exactly what Sally said in the market research survey she completed at home last night. But, it's been a long day and Sally's favourite chick flick is on tonight so instead of avoiding the confectionery aisle, Sally goes down it and buys herself a treat bar of chocolate.

The solution

Does this sound familiar? The number of times I heard my Mum say, 'I only went in for bread & milk and came out with a bag full!'. In many cases, without willingly or knowingly, the reality is that what shoppers think they do, did or are going to do can be very different to what they actually do when they start shopping. So many things influence us every day and shape our decisions that the reality is that unless you are observing & talking to shoppers whilst they are in the store making the shopping decisions, their accounts are unreliable. That's why we focus cleanly on in-store behavioural & attitudinal shopper research in order to overcome the fundamental inaccuracy between what shoppers say they do in post-event research & what they actually do in real time shopping.

The results

As for Choccers, they immediately changed their strategy to an in-aisle engagement strategy focussed on cross-segment browse to purchase - which was where the real problem was - and grew the category as a result. They still subscribe today and continue to learn about how the shopper is evolving in their behaviour and have since moved on to an even bigger in-store opportunity now that the cross-segment purchasing has improved.

So all in all, there is a big difference between what shoppers think they do and what they actually do when shopping. Be sure to base your shopper marketing strategies on the right insight! 

Good luck!