Last week it was reported that UK retail sales remained flat in September, for the second consecutive month. This has confounded analysts’ expectations that the figures would grow, amid the recent optimism that our economy is on the mend. The news will also have been a blow to many brands and retailers hoping to see an uplift in sales in the run-up to Christmas.
But were we wrong to expect shoppers to be back in our stores as soon as the first green shoots started to appear? Or has a more fundamental change has occurred in the way people behave?
According to a recent survey Saatchi & Saatchi X has carried out, 68% of shoppers have increased budget setting. On top of this, 57% have increased price comparisons between retailers and 61% are using more coupons. And with the planning comes an increased use of the freezer.
Not only are the above changes taking place but once shoppers get to the store they are sticking to their plans more. In fact three out of four shoppers claimed to buy only what is on their list. This means people are shopping with blinkers, immune to the various temptations that new products, treats and impulse purchases can offer.
This type of behaviour enables shoppers to feel more in control, just as deep price promotions give shoppers a feeling of satisfaction at “getting one over” on retailers. The initial driver may well be financial, but the real benefit is the emotional reward for shoppers.
Other behavioural changes that have occurred are a reflection of our changing lifestyle and the demands placed on us. Shoppers are now more socially and environmentally conscious, time poor and over worked than ever before. They are more task orientated and solution focused.
By being aware of these factors and focusing on making the shopper’s life easier, brands will be able to engender long-term loyalty as well as short-term sales lifts. By putting more emphasis on helping shoppers, and in doing so removing barriers to purchase, brands and retailers have the opportunity to drive brand and category growth. We call this approach ‘shopper marketing’.
Although shopper marketing is an approach that is more often associated with brands like P&G and Coca Cola, there are many others that have been using this approach without us, or maybe even them, noticing.
A good example is IKEA. The Swedish retailer always has a trend focussed theme. It’s recent ‘Home is where the heart is’ theme was reflective of how much extra time people were spending at home because of the recession.
Ikea is also an expert in designing outlets around the shopper’s needs. It guides shoppers around its stores, offers inspiration with complete solutions, provides pencils for making notes, tapes for measuring and it anticipates and answers questions at specific points, going out of its way to improve the experience for the shopper.
Apple too has built its concept stores around the shopper experience, and Sainsbury’s built on its successful “Try something new today” campaign with its “Feed your family for a fiver” and “Love your leftovers” initiatives to reflect its shoppers’ mindset at that time.
More recently, Tesco has been putting the shopper at the centre of its marketing, having just announced that it would soon be offering customers making BOGOF purchases the opportunity to pick the free item up at a later date. Tesco is also redesigning tesco.com to make it more intuitive for online shoppers.
Because the way people shop is changing it is more important than ever before to have a deep understanding of how to connect with them.
Group president of P&G’s global feminine and healthcare operations Melanie L. Healey recently spoke about the importance for brands to be “purpose-driven” and have a clear sense of the role they play in the lives of consumers.
Comments like these are becoming more common. By focusing on the end game and asking yourself “what will improve the shopping or buying experience for my customers?” brand managers will be able to create stronger bonds and eventually turn shoppers into brand advocates.