When Touchstone Partners was set up in 2002 the role of shopper insight was still in its infancy, emerging from the discipline of category management. Shopper marketing was something only a small number of the most enlightened manufacturers talked about. And so, there was a real need to distinguish between ‘Me’ as Consumer and ‘Me’ as Shopper. Without this differentiation, manufacturers were struggling to get to grips with how to effectively target shopper behaviour as well as meet consumer needs.
Fit for Today
Some 20 years later, today, here at Touchstone, we firmly believe that this differentiation is too limiting and can be counterproductive. We see more briefs these days to understand why sales performance isn’t quite where it should be from a more holistic perspective. For instance, rather than assume that it’s a shopper marketing challenge or a merchandising issue, it could be a brand positioning challenge or trying to meet a need that doesn’t exist in the particular selling channel being targeted or a certain location in-store with poor adjacency. Or simply, that repeat purchase is poor because the product just doesn’t taste very nice or the pack, while looking beautiful, is a nightmare to store or open.
Given the speed required for manufacturers to gain a return from their respective brand pipelines, with the pressures to demonstrate sales growth and generate cash, it’s no great surprise that many of these aspects are not perfected before hitting the selling environment. To succeed in an ultra-competitive landscape all aspects of how a brand presents itself in the selling space will impact on its performance.
It's that selling space which provides a huge context around how consumers and shoppers think about and purchase your products. One thing is for sure, not appreciating the complex relationship between the Consumer and Shopper entities is a sure way to miss out on the opportunity.
Working With The Evolving Purchase Journey
For example, with so much resource and information at our fingertips, and with the ability to start and complete a full purchase journey without leaving the sofa, we morph from consumer to shopper mode and back at almost lightning speed. We’ve seen this first hand on many projects ranging from buying large, electrical items through to daily lunch orders. In fact, certain generations are buying food for now, without leaving the house, multiple times a day.
Would this be counted as a shopper or a consumer issue? Finding a location through which pictures look the best for serving me a nice lunch, choosing through a menu, identifying accompanying tastes to meet my mood, my level of hunger and then working out who can deliver it to me the fastest at the best cost with any potential loyalty benefits.
Avoiding Unintended Consequences
Whether in consumer or shopper mode, we are all still human, and subject to our intrinsic instincts, needs and biases. Modality does not matter! What does matter is the need to understand seemingly innocuous adjustments to products or services that can elicit a change of behaviour at the point of purchase by targeting an intended or unintended basic human need.
There are business disciplines such as innovation and pack design which have traditionally fallen under the remit of the consumer insight teams. To succeed, they should also be assessed for shopper insight implications. If it does not get bought, it won’t get used as the old adage goes...but likewise, if it doesn’t get used, it won’t be bought again.
A new pack must successfully convey the brand promise and be functionally usable – but it also needs to stand up for itself on shelf and communicate the promise in a way that attracts the attention of a habituated shopper who may be more interested in the promotion on the next product along. All this has huge implications for brand manufacturers.
The Human Challenge
We must understand that our clients view the world, deliberately, from certain perspectives as this gives them the opportunity to differentiate, compete, invest differently [to their competitors] to drive their business forward. This will shape the choices they make in terms of where and how they bring their assets and brand activities to life in the selling environment.
Here at Touchstone, we have always believed to really understand shoppers we also need to understand their context – how they consume the category we are researching; who else in the household they buy for; the role of that category and the brand in their lives and so on.
The implications for us are that we find we need to be more sensitive to the interplay between Consumer mode and Shopper mode – in terms of how we design our research, our surveys, our samples, our questionnaires, and our analysis but also, we need to have skillsets to equally understand Consumer needs and Shopping behaviour.
That is precisely what we are building here at Touchstone. The beauty of our industry is that insight has never been more challenging, nor more fun! We continue to equip ourselves with the skills our clients need to help them succeed.
Expert in Shopper | Consumer | FMCG | Leisure and Culture
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