It's surprising to me how many retailers are not actually shopping with their customers. As companies who are in the business of serving the constantly evolving needs of shoppers, it is important to shop alongside customers to better understand their behaviors and attitudes around the point of purchase.
One of the favorite components of the work I do is actually shopping with moms, a form of untraditional research we call “shop-alongs.” In my opinion, there is no better way to get candid, authentic feedback and uncover insights around the purchase decision process that can optimize the way companies market to moms. For retailers to be most effective at selling to moms, they need to have a thorough understanding of how moms shop and how products can fit into her family’s routine.
I often work with category managers at grocery retailers and distributors responsible for stocking shelves with products such as meats, olive oils or personal care products. Much of the data they use to make decisions for their category is based off sell-through rates of individual products. While that information is indeed critical, understanding more about the person buying that product, makes it that much easier to meet shoppers’ needs. A direct consequence is better new product development and promotions that fit best into moms’ lifestyles. I’ll sometimes ask category managers questions like, “what type of shopper buys this product?” or “how much do third-party certifications mean to your shoppers?” It is rare they are able to answer my questions.
Shopping alongside moms in the retail environment puts you right in the middle of her buying experience.
Here are just three things we can learn from shop-alongs:
Insights learned from shop-alongs can potentially impact visual merchandising, packaging, in-store and online education, social media content and marketing communications. One of my clients recently used insights from our shop-along studies to completely revise their product packaging to better appeal to moms and emphasize attributes and certifications that are most important to them.
In addition to learning about how and why moms shop, shopping alongside moms can offer a unique opportunity to make a real connection with them. Moms tell me that after a retailer has reached out to them in person through a shop-along, or invited them to an in-store event, they feel much more connected and inclined to be loyal to the company.
Besidesretailers, shop-along research is also useful for brands, promotion boards and distributors hoping to better understand and accommodate the needs of moms. Has your company ever conducted a shop-along study? What did you learn? Let me know by commenting below or tweeting to me at @LisaMabe.