Shopper experience research for store marketing

/ 12:35 AM October 24, 2014

QUESTION: Your MRx column last Oct. 17 had right above it an interesting article by Mr. Josiah Go on Store Marketing. The article heralded store marketing as “the next wave of marketing.” But is there something really new in store marketing?

We’re a group of MBA students. We’ve taken up store marketing as a course in “category management.” This practice dates back to the 1980s when P&G initiated it in partnership with WalMart. It seems to us that what’s new is just the name. It’s been rebranded from “category management” to “store marketing.”


But that’s not our question. In our MBA marketing class, someone raised the point that what’s usually new in marketing comes from consumer behavior research. So will you please let us know what consumer behavior research in the store setting is new that justifies the emergence of this discipline predicted to be marketing’s “new wave?”

ANSWER: Many of us in marketing and those of us who are authors often write more “for effect” than for the truth. I’m not saying we’re lying. I’m saying we often exaggerate for the sake of catching and holding our readers’ attention.


So what’s new about store marketing? In particular, what’s new in consumer behavior research for store marketing? There’s really nothing that’s substantively new. But what’s new (if you may call it that) is a strong resurgence among both marketers and researchers in their interest and attention to the practice and to the supporting research for store marketing.

Shopper behavior research for store marketing use is old, very old. The research is about the shopper’s 2 basic behaviors: her buying behavior and her post-buying behavior, which is her brand usage behavior. In the 1950s and 1960s, the larger portion of P&G’s research budget for testing new or redeveloped products was devoted to what it then called “step-by-step consumer usage testing for a new product.”

When I returned to the country in mid-1970s, for product testing, that was the kind of research I did the most. A year after my return, the government under martial law then commissioned me as the nationwide social marketing director for the marketing of contraceptives starting with condom.

Because condom (as one of the family planning methods in the government’s population program) was selling way below its sales quota, I trained two program assistants to do a shopper observation research to find out why shoppers are not buying the condom brands. This observation study was done in Cherry Foodarama on Shaw Boulevard. It was essentially a step-by-step buying behavior observation research.

As Josiah Go’s article claims, such in-store shopper behavior research is insight-rich. This is true of course when the research design and data analysis are both correct. Let me illustrate this insighting power by summarizing my Cherry Foodarama observation study.

The two researchers were able to observe some 100 shoppers (mostly women) on different days. Spreading the observations this way was done in order to take care of the data variations across those days. The complete details including the observation research methodology are available in my seminar PowerPoint deck of “In-Store Shopper Behavior Tracking Seminar-Workshop.”

Here’s a data summary of the sequence of observed step-by-step shopper behaviors:


1) 83 percent of shoppers passing the shelf displaying the condom brands stopped to look;

2) 19 percent of those looking, picked up a piece to inspect, but 72 percent switched to the next aisle but returned to pick up and feel the product pack;

3) 91 percent of the 72 percent returnees switched aisle because some other shoppers were in the condom displaying aisle;

4) 88 percent of those who picked up and inspected the product put a piece or 2 in their shopping cart;

5) 95 percent of those who picked up the product put it underneath some other grocery items;

6) 70 percent of those with the condom pack put it back in some nearby shelf or display rack lining the entrance to the check-out counter.

Steps 3, 5 and 6 all clearly indicate the shopper’s problem—she’s embarrassed and therefore needed saving her sense of propriety.

When I showed the findings to my distributor, the sales director was ready with the solutions: transfer the condom packs to the supermarket section with its own cashier, which was the cosmetics counter. Somehow, he was able to persuade the cosmetic section head to accept our condom brands as “cosmetics.” In addition, the selling and buying were to be in non-verbal terms. On a small detached Post-It paper, the buyer indicates the brand and quantity she wants and the seller writes on the back the amount to be paid. Then the seller places the bought product packs in a small brown bag, not in a transparent plastic bag.

After nine weeks, the condom stocks were all sold and continued to be bought thereafter. The campaign was so successful that it provoked the Catholic Women’s League to declare a national boycott against the condom campaign.

We should illustrate the observation study on consumer product usage behavior as well as examples in today’s setting. But we have no more space to do those. We’ll continue next Friday when we will explain why there is a resurgence in store marketing and store marketing research.

Keep your questions coming. Send them to me at [email protected].

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TAGS: Business, dr. ned Roberto, Josiah Go, marketing rx, shopping, Store marketing
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