A blog series on Shopper Marketing

By Cyndi Pyburn

The potential of shopper marketing solutions is rooted in its focus on gathering consumer insights when they are in the shopping mindset and applying these insights to influence their purchase decisions.  However, time and time again, there is much confusion around a consumer insight and a shopper insight.  These terms are often used interchangeably but they are quite different.  Here is some clarity around the two.   Research findings that tease out and clarify the underlying truths….

  • in the pre-shopping state are consumer insights
  • at the point-of-purchase are shopper insights

If it’s easier, you can think of the consumer as the ‘user’ and the shopper as the ‘chooser’.

These consumer and customer insights, however, together, need to translate into a great shopper marketing idea – one with the ability to attract, engage, motivate and lead to product purchase.  Ultimately, if used effectively, these insights can improve brand loyalty and increase spending.

Let’s illustrate with a product most of us can relate to — jam. 

In ‘The Art of Choosing,‘ Sheena Iyengar discusses the limitations of too much choice.  Consumer research demonstrates that consumers want a variety of flavours in their jam selection – they love the idea of choice (consumer insight).  However, they overestimate their own capacity when shopping for these choices (shopper insight). 

To prove the point in a test, Iyengar set-up a jam tasting booth near the entrance of a specialty grocer.  Every few hours, the booth switched between offering an assortment of 24 jams and an assortment of 6 jams.  As might be expected, 60% of the incoming shoppers stopped when an impressive display of 24 jams was offered, but only 40% stopped when a more modest selection of six jams was displayed.  However, when these same shoppers went to the jam aisle to choose a jar, the shoppers who had seen only six jams had a much easier time deciding what to purchase. 

Researchers discovered that a small assortment helps narrow down choices whereas a large assortment leaves people confused and unsure of their own preference.  Of those who stopped by the large assortment, only 3% ended up buying a jar of jam – far fewer than the 30% who bought a jar after stopping by the small assortment. That works out six times as many purchases from the small assortment compared to the large assortment.

To improve the customer experience journey, Iyengar recommends four shopper marketing solutions:

  1. Cut shopper alternatives. The aspect of ‘less is more’.  When Procter & Gamble narrowed 26 varieties of Head & Shoulders anti-dandruff shampoo down to 15, sales jumped by 10%.
  2. Create confidence through recommendations. In some categories, you can’t get away with offering a small selection. When offering a wide variety, you have to help shoppers navigate the complexity so they will have a positive choosing experience.  Helping shoppers to rank and structure their choice gives shoppers confidence in their choices. Give them easy access to expert reviews and recommendations.
  3. Categorize shopper options. The LCBO does a great job of this.  Wines are categorized by white and red, by country, by varietal.  Vintage wines have their own domain. Shoppers can easily navigate to the category that interests them and then choose from a small selection.
  4. Condition shoppers for complexity. Shoppers can handle a large number of options if they start off slowly and move toward more complex choices, all the while building their confidence.  A good example is car options.  Moving from simple choices – automatic or standard to engine size to bountiful options such as colour – both interior and exterior – consumers can handle their colour preferences as they have progressed from low choice to high choice. Rather than offering every choice immediately, progress through stages of more simple choices.

Next time you are shopping in the jam aisle, take note of how many choices you have.  How is the shelf organized? Can you easily find your brand?  Flavour?  Can you easily make a choice?