In a recent study, 62% of shoppers in a mature, low involvement category interacted with the shelf but failed to buy. Although this experiment featured a staple item which every household needs, featuring highly substitutable brands, almost two thirds walked away from the shelf. So, what’s the problem and, more importantly, how do we fix it?
Give shoppers a reason to buy
Supermarkets are notorious for failing to communicate the benefits of the products they sell. Often, categories within the store are unclear on the different types of products within the category and how these meet various needs and occasions. A buoyant economic climate until 2008 meant that retailers didn’t have to actively sell in stores. Marketing activity was confined to price promotions and volumes continued to rise. Things have changed, and the passive approach to category marketing is well and truly out of fashion. If you want shoppers to buy, you need to give them a reason to do so.
Rethinking category marketing
Retailers can help shoppers make the right decision – that is, to buy rather than walk away. When our client added point-of-sale material (POSM) to the category we described above, conversion significantly improved. This promotional activity succeeded in helping the shopper understand the choices available to them. By observing shoppers in situ, we have been able to demonstrate a clear link between proactive category marketing and increased sales.
Testing campaigns in a virtual environment is one way to establish the effectiveness of a new strategy. Using a virtual store, we enable clients to test out new material to gauge its likely impact and to fine-tune before real store tests. For example, we worked with a client in the spirits category to reinvigorate a category experiencing low engagement in store. Our client needed to improve their “distant ID” and make the shelf more recognizable and appealing from a distance. A new planogram was created, together with a header-board on top of the shelf to entice shoppers. Virtual testing enabled us to refine the concept. The category achieved a significant lift in its ability to entice shoppers to the shelf – up from 24% to 39%.
Ask the right questions
To maximize their effectiveness, category stakeholders need to be able to answer three key questions:
Am I attracting traffic?
Is my category noticeable and understandable from a distance in store?
Are the different types of products available on the shelf clear to shoppers?
Are the sub-segments that meet different need states explained at the shelf?
Is my brand communicating the right message at the shelf?
Is on-shelf communication and pack design meeting consumer goals?
The answers to these lie in understanding how shoppers behave in a store. By replicating shopper behavior in an agile, risk free environment, virtual testing offers a highly cost effective and time efficient way to maximize the effectiveness of category marketing. Combining behavioral and survey data enables us to connect with what people buy and why. Only when we have answers to these questions will we be able to stop consumers walking away from the shelf empty handed. Category marketing is changing. If you don’t give shoppers a reason to buy, someone else will.
James LLewellyn is the UK Head of Shopper. Please email James.Llewellyn@gfk.com or leave a comment below to share your thoughts.