Shopper insight: in touch with your inner shopper

Ken Copson of kenretail explains how going shopping forms an important part of the agency’s approach to retail marketing. 



Dabbling. It’s just not something we do.

Up and down the country however, hundreds, maybe even thousands, of full-service agencies have decided to have a dabble in retail marketing.

At kenretail, our thinking is different. We focus our creative and strategic collective minds exclusively on the wonderful world of the shopper, and the places they like to hang out. Which is convenient, because as it turns out, we’re all shoppers too. Albeit with wider eyes and mobile phones full of photos of in-store displays.

Getting in touch with our inner shopper is what helps us to understand why we buy what we buy. And in turn, when is the best time to communicate with the shopper and more importantly, what to tell them.

With 76 per cent of purchasing decisions now made ‘at shelf’, these messages are critical in convincing customers to pick up your brand when your competitor is on a half-price promotion.

So what’s our secret and how do we work out what you need to be saying? It’s simpler than you might think. We go shopping before we start.

It’s how we tackle every retail challenge that’s thrown in our direction. We don’t just concentrate on your product and brand, we look at the ones around it, and then step back to take a look at the bigger picture. All the time keeping our eyes on how the shoppers are behaving – or in most cases, not.

Jumping out in front of an unsuspecting shopper, clutching the dreaded clipboard is a surefire way to make most flee. The few that are prepared to share their thoughts probably won’t be entirely honest if they’re embarrassed about the three-pack of Pot Noodles they’ve just dropped into their basket. Focus groups and online surveys are no more likely to reveal the inner workings of the customer’s complex mind. Watching them in action, on the other hand, is much more telling – as is a little discreet eavesdropping.

Shoppers have a tendency to switch to autopilot when they’re on familiar ground. Our challenge (and yours) is to cut through the noise and snap them out of it, getting your brand onto their shopping lists in the process. Of course, it’s easier said than done, but we have our own tried-and-tested approach that gives great results.

Getting started

As we’ve already mentioned, we start by putting our hands in our own pockets and going shopping for your product as well as competitors’. What better way to start? We’re already in the shoes of your target audience and it’s no surprise how enlightening that turns out to be. We spot the things that might persuade us to choose your brand and crucially, what might convince us not to.

With these insights, we can get to work on finding a way to solve your specific retail challenges. But that’s only half the battle. We need to remember that shopping is in fact the UK’s biggest leisure pastime, and it’s your responsibility to delight shoppers along the way. Because if you don’t, your competitor will. 


Of course, whatever you do has to work with your brand’s above-the-line campaign, otherwise shoppers won’t know what they’re looking for once they get to the shelf. At the same time, you need to get noticed in an environment where everyone is trying to do the same.

So, is it as simple as rolling out something so unusual and amazing that shoppers won’t know what’s hit them? Well, in a word, no.

Playing by the rules

There’s an extra challenge that we have to take into account, and that’s the retailers, their agendas, rules and regulations.

Above the line, you can control everything about your brand and how it’s represented, but put your product on the shelves of a big retailer and your precious brand guidelines are in peril. And your delightful brand-centric ideas? They might just be in the firing line too.

That’s when the third part of our approach rides in to help. We use our knowledge and experience of each of the big names on the high street to make sure that all our creative solutions work with the retailer. We know that a campaign that benefits the retailer, as well as your brand, has a much better chance of getting by unscathed. We also know that playing by their rules doesn’t mean we shouldn’t bend them a little when the time’s right. Being bold and brave with an innovative idea can excite your retailer as much as the shopper, and having them on board is a huge advantage. 

More than just price

Why just fall back on discounts, when there are problems to be solved?

At kenretail, we advocate a ‘more than just a price approach’ , encouraging our clients to focus on solving shoppers’ problems and thereby generating “real” value.

We know shoppers need solutions more than ever and their primary motivation on entering any store is solving everyday problems such as, ‘How do I get grass stains out of a school shirt?’ 

It’s impossible to guess how a washing powder will perform until you’ve actually washed with it. Price could entice you into switching to a brand outside your normal repertoire, but if the performance and quality falls short, your discount makes this single sale uneconomic and worse still taints the brand for weeks or even months to come. 

The key is to present your brand in a genuine and useful way so that the occasion or solution fits perfectly. This allows the product combined with its price to represent real value. Put simply, claiming a frozen pizza is perfect for ‘that romantic dinner’ or that your luxury biscuit is your ‘one moment of solitary indulgence’ is probably going to fall short of expectations no matter how good the product is. If we can combine products and solutions in a clever, clear and concise way at the supermarket shelf, the price becomes less crucial and the solution becomes priceless.

What’s bugging you?

You have a problem. Maybe more than one in fact. But at kenretail we like problems. Big thorny ones, little niggly ones, even the ones that fill you with dread as each Sunday draws to a close. So, give us a ring and share yours with us and together we’ll get to the bottom of it. We might even take you out shopping with us. 

Ken Copson
managing director

205 Fort Dunlop
Fort Parkway
Birmingham B24 9FD

Telephone: 0121 384 9728