One of the major challenges companies face is gaining an understanding of what drives a consumer to make a particular purchase.  Taking the necessary steps through market research to better understand shopper insights is one of the most important things a growing company (or any company for that matter) can do.  Ultimately the shopper’s decision to purchase or not purchase a product speaks louder than anything else.  Shoppers are influenced by all sorts of factors that lead up to their decision to buy or not to buy.  Your company may have developed a massive marketing campaign to hammer consumers with coupons, television ads and social media messaging – all of which helped get the consumer to the point of making a purchase.  However, all that might go out the window at the actual time of purchase.  The big question is, you did everything right up to that point from a marketing perspective, so why did the shopper select a competitor’s item?

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Gaining a full understanding of these influential factors that shoppers face at the point of purchase isn’t easy.  However, market research with shoppers/decision-makers is a great way to recognize what drives the consumer to making a particular purchase.  There are quite a few methodologies for garnering data on shopper insights.  For the best results, methodologies are often used in combination with one another.  Each methodology serves a specific purpose and has its own strengths, and in turn, its own flaws.  Here are a few examples of qualitative research methodologies that can be used to unearth shopper insights:

  • Shop-Alongs.  This is the biggie.  This methodology is still relatively overlooked, but is one of the more appealing and fastest growing approaches in market research.  What are shop-alongs? Click Here.  Shop-Alongs bring the research to the environment where the shopper is making these important decisions.  Whether that is a convenience store, drug store, grocery store, electronic store or department store – the research is conducted on-site with real life consumers.  Through the use of an experienced researcher, participants shed light on their decision-making process while they are making it.  Shop-Alongs are great because they are conducted in real-time.  With some other forms of research, participants have to think back or have to be asked to recollect a purchase decision they made three months ago.
  • Intercept Interviews.  Like shop-alongs, with intercept interviews you are reaching out to consumers while they are in their true shopping environment.  Intercepts are great for capturing the mindset shortly after a shopping decision is made.  Intercept interviews allow for selective screening, which help the research team gather feedback strictly from targeted consumers (i.e., the observation of a particular shopping behavior or the purchase of a particular item).
  • Observational Research.  Observational research is a great way to view someone in an uninfluenced environment.  This “hands-off” (or Laissez-Faire for our French audience) research methodology allows for the researcher to observe consumer behaviors and actions in the shopping environment.  This is captured through eye-tracking research, behavioral cameras or even having someone stationed in a position strictly to observe and record what they see.
  • Focus Groups.  Unlike our first three suggested methodologies, focus groups do not take place in the actual shopping environment.  I don’t think a grocery store would be too keen with a research firm setting up a table for 12 directly in the canned food aisle.  Therefore, focus groups rely on the moderator to put participants back into that decision-making mindset.  Unlike most on site research where time is of the essence to the consumer, focus groups allow for more detailed probing of responses.  Focus groups are a great setting for gathering and testing ideas – they really allow time to explore thoughts, decisions and influences on shopper insight (beyond just the decision).

These qualitative research methodologies will help close the gap between the initial intentions and considerations a shopper brings to the environment, and their final purchase decision. 

There is a lot of thinking going on between the time a consumer becomes aware of your product and the time when they actually make a purchase.  Using market research on other metrics such as awareness, perceptions and usage are all very important, but at the end of the day the biggest question for a lot of companies is “why did they/didn’t they buy my product?”  Shopper insight research answers that.