Chapter 7:
Common Mistakes in Shopper Behavior Research

One common mistake in shopper behavior research is to rely on one data source for shopper insights. The most powerful insight is when different information sources are combined and triangulated to provide a comprehensive shopper view along the path to purchase. It is important to capture the conscious and subconscious drivers of behavior. Relying on qualitative research alone to make decisions about how to influence shopper behavior can result in research shortcomings. Strong shopper insight work typically involves quantitative insight generation to understand different behavior and patterns.

To ensure strong shopper insights, it is important to test in situation to measure real shopper behavior. Focus groups or online surveys have their limitations as they rely more on attitudes and stated/intended behavior versus actual behavior.

Another mistake to avoid is focusing solely on shoppers. It may sound as if “shopper insights” is just about shoppers – but really it is about shopping. Non-shoppers are just as revealing as shoppers and sometimes more so. For example, if you have target shoppers who never buy your product, have switched to another store or don’t even shop your channel, they can often reveal powerful insights about the gaps in the shopping journey.

The theory and practice are sometimes different. The theory of shopper insights tends to be cleaner and less confusing on paper than the practice. But the good news is that once you start regularly digging for insights with the right approach, it’s like panning for gold – you get better at combining theory with real-world experience.

How To Make Shopper Behavior Research Actionable

Shopper insights are sometimes fascinating but in practice the best shopper insights need to be actionable and focused on specific business objectives.

There is a difference between observation and interpretation. An insight is not an explanation of what is going on, but an explanation of why it is going on. People often think some interesting discussion about what they have observed in-store equates to shopper insights. It does not – those observations are the raw material from which the insights need to be deduced.

Once key behavioral insights have been uncovered, it is important to test different nudges to measure what will then shape behavior going forward. This test and learn approach is key to understand how to best understand and change shopper behavior.

Leading organizations that leverage shopper behavior research can develop principles that work for signage, shelving, planograms, merchandising, placement, assortment etc. A principle-based approach helps to manage the complexity of different executions across the multitude of retailers and store formats.

How to Present Shopper Insights Data

Digging into shopper behavior can be intriguing and often it is tempting to report all sorts of things which have been understood, even if they do not have an equivalent potential for impact.

It can be helpful to summarize the big insights. Three to five is typically a perfect number. Big picture summaries which rapidly drill into actionable examples make for easier internal buy-in.

Bringing the insights to life in the form of shopper profiles, video, eye tracking and providing a comparison through comparison to norms can help engage stakeholders. Some organizations have such sketches, brought to life with images and words, on their walls to help remind them of their shoppers and what they want. A team-based approach to internalizing and then developing implementation tactics can help valuable shopper insights to be implemented and utilized to drive business growth.