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Insight Blog

Read the latest thinking from the crossroads of marketing, insight and technology.

What is Shopper Insight and How Can It Be Measured?

Johnathon Dodd of G2 makes an important distinction between shoppers and consumers. Shoppers buy, but consumers use. Traditionally, marketing and market research practices have focused on the consumer. How do they perceive a product? How do they use it? But in an increasing amount of cases it is not the consumer that is buying the product – it is the shopper.

However, making the distinction between shopper & consumer research is a surprisingly challenging task. The Hartman Group recognised this difficulty, in an attempt to define the various types of shopper insight. The conclusion of their report is that shopper insight has transcended and evolved from the traditional paradigm of measuring what happens at the point of sale. Now, shopper insight encompasses a broader goal – to understand the role that the shopping experience plays in purchase intention and brand loyalty.

This places the spotlight on the interplay between brand and shopper, rather than brand and end user. In many cases shoppers can also be the consumers of products, however the consumption experience is different to the shopping experience. Consumption experiences are only one of many factors that affect shopping behaviour. This has left many researchers with a tough question to answer: with a scope so broad, how is possible to measure and quantify shopper insights?

Introducing Purchase Intention

Purchase intention, in its most simplistic form is a statistical probability that determines how likely a shopper is to make a purchase. However, the elements that influence purchase intention are a contentious topic for both practical and academic researchers alike. Wood & Scheer (1996) described a model which has become the foundation for the modern concept of purchase intention. In this early iteration, expected benefits of the product and expected costs incurred to purchase the product led to perceived value, which was the key indicator of purchase intention.

This has inspired a variety of theoretical frameworks that attempt to explain purchase intention through increasingly complex means. Suki (2011), for example, broke the model down into the following five core components: perceived value, benefit, playfulness, price and ease of use. In addition, the paper explained the additional influence of gender, age and education on the process.

Another example is provided by Lau. Kwek and Tan (2011) explains how quality and customer satisfaction impact purchase intention. In particular, this model focuses on ease of use, website design, assurance, personalisation and responsive as the key drivers of customer satisfaction.

What to Measure

So, with disagreement rife in the research community – which factors should you measure? Our experience in measuring shopper insight involves three aspects of purchase intention in particular: when, where and how do customers buy? Answering these three questions is critical to understanding the shopping habits of those that purchase from you.

By drilling down into each, there are many more questions that become apparent. Do customers prefer to shop online or in store? What is it about the experience that attracts them to this channel? How are they led to the point of purchase? These are just a few of the multitude of questions that you could ask. In order to identify and explore the shopper persona in full, we believe a more unique exploratory approach is required.

While this does borrow from the purchase intention model, it is more dynamic than a single score. The purpose of this approach is to develop personas of different shoppers that have different wants, needs and habits. By tailoring marketing, in-store and customer service to each type of shopper, it is possible to personalise the experience and increase overall purchase intention.

How to Measure Purchase Intention

Of course, the next question that must be answered is how should purchase intention be measured, and what tools are used to develop the shopper personas. Our approach uses a range of creative market research methods to generate in-depth qualitative insights and truly get to grips with shopper personality traits. By combining online question boards, smartboards, diaries and report cards, shoppers have a range of options to provide feedback. Each form of feedback engages with a different aspect of customers’ day-to-day lives, ensuring a holistic and complete understanding.

Online question boards are a form of longitudinal focus group that allow users to build collaboratively on the thoughts of others. By using question boards to probe and investigate shopping habits, customers are able to discuss their preferred channel as well as what attracts them to particular products. Smartboards are interactive image boards that can be integrated into question boards. After defining areas on a board, participants are able to comment on different areas of the image. By tagging their sentiment and comments, this allows brands to build heat maps of marketing materials – testing the success of marketing materials, packaging and more.

Diary studies are a more personal and intimate recording of shopping habits. Giving participants particular tasks to complete enables you to track participants through their daily routines. Discover how they go about their shopping and purchasing behaviours. Of course, due to the instant nature of diary feedback, real-time data collection ensures more accurate insights into emotion and thoughts.

Overall, we believe a new approach to shopper insight is required. It is not enough to score shoppers on their purchase intention. We must look for the rich insights and seek to understand their daily behaviours. Using this information to develop personas can form the basis of marketing campaigns, customer journeys and more.

We love to hear from you too. How do you gather shopper insights? How do you integrate insights into experiences and tailor them to shopper personas? Let us know in the comments below.

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Maria Twigge

Written by Maria Twigge

Maria is an active member of the UK market research industry, regularly presenting new and engaging topics at industry events. With over 9 experience guiding the FlexMR’s research services, Maria builds strong long-term partnerships with clients, providing insight to effectively translate client needs into action. You can follow Maria on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.

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Topics: Shopper Behaviour, Insight Innovation