Shopper Research


Shopper marketing is key to consumer goods success. Most consumer goods organizations now recognize this as a fact: that they need to be smarter and more sophisticated in their efforts to win with shoppers than ever before. But to enable this, companies need first to build a deeper understanding of shoppers, and that means researching shoppers and using this information to uncover shopper insights which step-change the way brands attempt to influence shoppers.

Unlike researching consumers, shopper research is still a relatively new discipline for both consumer goods companies, and the agencies which support them. As a result many marketers have been disappointed by the results they have achieved. This is a shame, because there is loads of evidence that suggests that shopper research can add massive value to organizations by improving the effectiveness of shopper marketing activities. And given that consumer goods organizations spend 40% or more of their total marketing spend on shopper marketing and in-store activities, it feels like it’s an important area of the business to improve.

At engage, we’re committed to the concept of shopper marketing and to helping shopper marketers drive long term brand growth. We developed this free e-book on conducting shopper research to help guide marketers and insight managers to get better results from their shopper research projects – feel free to download it, but please read on (because there’s only so much you can put into an e-book!)

There are loads of considerations and decisions that make a difference between shopper research success and failure. Here we’ve pulled together a whole bunch of resources which we think will help you on your way (plus that e-book, of course!)

But before we get into that, let’s start with some basics!


What is shopper research?

Shopper research is any process designed to gather data or information about shoppers: who they are, how and where they shop, what they buy, how much they buy, and what influences their shopping decisions. Like all research, it can be primary (actually going out and creating your own data) or secondary (reading reports or existing databases), and can be qualitative or quantitative. And if you’re not sure on what we mean by a shopper, and why a shopper isn’t the same as a consumer, check this out.


Why is it important?

Shopper research is important, well, because shoppers are important. Shopper marketing is growing fast because companies have increasingly realized that winning with shoppers is just as important as winning with consumers. Think about it. If a shopper doesn’t buy your product, then the consumer never gets it. You may have the best product in the world, but if it doesn’t get bought – then nobody will even experience it!

This has resulted in more and more money being spent on shopper marketing and influencing shoppers. Getting this right is now of critical importance to most consumer goods manufacturers.

Retailers too, recognize the need to understand shoppers. Shoppers are their customers, their lifeblood. In the last few years shoppers now have more choices of where to shop than ever before. Online retailers, specialists, discounters, convenience stores, traditional stores, pound shops, supermarkets, hypermarkets. Retailers have to be better than ever at attracting and retaining shoppers. That means better shopper marketing, that means better shopper understanding, and that means shopper research.

Retailers are investing more and more in gathering data: loyalty card schemes are designed to build huge amounts of data about shopper behavior (and something to sell to suppliers too!)

We’d actually go so far as to suggest that shopper research is now mandatory.


Shopper Research Methodologies

There is an ever growing list of methodologies. The challenge is to know which shopper research methodology to choose. The goal is to create a research methodology which will create meaningful data. Often this means conducting shopper research in or at the stores: close proximity to the actual shopping experience gives better data, though many virtual technologies are now available whereby a shopping environment can be simulated on a PC screen and still give very accurate and meaningful data. There are many research methodologies which can help: here Toby Desforges, President of EMEA for engage, picks his top five shopper research methodologies. Here he picks the best of the rest.


Starting with the end in mind

The starting point of your shopper research journey should be to decide what it is you are going to do with the data. Wanting to understand shoppers is great, but you will get more actionable results if you can focus on this. If you want great results from your shopper research, think hard about the decisions that you are wanting to make, and use this to frame the research approach.


Develop a quality shopper research brief

Key to getting a good research result is a well-developed brief, and shopper research is no exception. For more on developing a quality shopper research brief, check out this post, and our shopper research e-book.

The e-book details more about selecting agencies and managing projects, but there is one more magic secret which we guarantee will make a difference – a key piece of information that is too often forgotten which will help you get much more value from your shopper research.


Get better insights from your shopper research

So our shopper research project is set up for success, and piles of data has arrived. What now? How to ensure we get the best insight out of this. Golden rule number one is – don’t rely on the agency. Even if they are good (and many are) they won’t see everything. Different people see different things so make sure you eye-ball the data too.  Whether you’re thinking about shopper research, or you’ve completed some research and want to get more out of the data, then check out this for more on how to dig out those precious insights from your shopper research, and this to make sure you are aware of the biggest dangers when interpreting shopper research.

So now you are ready to get started on your first shopper research project, or maybe embark on your next one with more confidence that you will get fabulous results. Don’t forget to check out the shopper research e-book if you haven’t already.

So what is stopping you? No, seriously. For many shopper research is expensive and unaffordable. Shopper research projects can be expensive, and can take a very long time (especially if you need to get permission from retailers to research in their stores). Fortunately faster and cheaper methodologies are becoming available. We’ve just pilot launched a methodology which does exactly that and is creating the opportunity for brands to get their hands on shopper data in a matter of weeks rather than months.





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