Yes, I did say consumer. It’s not a mistake! Those of you who have subscribed or followed my posts for some time will know that I am a strong advocate for understanding the differences between consumers and shoppers, so I guess this might seem strange. But I’ll say it again. If you really want to build your shopper understanding, you need to start with consumers.
Of course for many organizations this is fabulous news. While many organizations still have little or no formal shopper research, they often do have reams of consumer research. So the good news is that shopper marketers aren’t starting from scratch!
Why should shopper understanding start with the consumer?
It might at first seem strange that shopper understanding should start with consumers. But shopping starts with satisfying consumer needs, so if we are to fully understand the shopper, we need to understand the consumer too. Shopping is driven largely by the desire to fulfill some future perceived consumption need – without understanding that, we really aren’t getting into the heads of shoppers at all.
The consumer helps us focus in our search for shopper understanding
At the heart of great marketing is the concept of targeting. Without targeting our marketing becomes generic. The same is true for shopper marketing. “Which shoppers am I targeting?” is probably the most powerful question any shopper marketer can ask. So, which ones are we targeting? This is where consumer understanding helps.
The shoppers we are targeting are the ones that can unlock additional consumption of our brand.
Shopper marketers need to know which consumers are key to brand growth, as this helps identify which shoppers are key. To grow a brand, consumption has to change. And for consumption to change, purchase behavior needs to change. Consumer understanding helps identify which shoppers need to change behavior for growth to happen. For example, if brand growth is coming from persuading consumers to switch brands, then our target shoppers are probably shoppers of that brand. If our growth will come from attracting consumers to the category, then the shopper may not even buy the category. That difference has a huge impact on the shopper marketing we might want to implement. It also has a huge impact on shopper research. We need to build shopper understanding: not for all shoppers, just for those that are key to our growth.
What do we need to know about consumers to drive better shopper understanding?
More good news for marketers seeking to build their shopper understanding. While consumer marketers really need to know loads of things about consumers and consumption, the knowledge requirement for a shopper marketer is relatively small. Before contemplating shopper research we need to understand what are the biggest drivers of future consumption that the business sees. Your consumer marketing peers should be able to answer the following questions for each growth opportunity:
- Who is the consumer? Note that this isn’t the generic target consumer, but the consumer who is key to this growth opportunity.
- What is their consumption behavior right now? This is a description of what they currently consume, how frequently, which occasions, etc.
- What are we hoping to encourage them to do in the future? For growth to happen, consumers will need to either start consuming the brand, or consume more. Is this penetration, frequency, or perhaps more volume per serve? Is it an existing occasion, or a new one?
- What change in availability to consume needs to happen to enable this? For that new consumption to take place, the brand will need to be available to consume. Where does it need to be available (in the pantry, at the office?) and in what quantities?
These simple questions give us our first area of focus for shopper research. We will focus on the shoppers which can help unlock the largest consumption opportunities.
This focus is key to driving more effective shopper research – whether it is a brand new study or wading through secondary data. Understanding the consumer first is key to key to building shopper understanding effectively and efficiently.
If you’d like to know more about conducting shopper research, please download this free e-book.