Can Something as Amorphous as “Shopper Engagement” and “Shopper Inspiration” Really Be Measured?
Researchers say, “yes!”
Picture in your mind your most recent shopping trip. What did you see when you first entered the store? How did that make you feel about the store? (I remember being at one grocery store and seeing a tall stack of cases of pop with no signage over it, just sitting there next to the lines of shopping carts, and thinking how empty and boring the store looked.) Now think about the rest of the store. Was there any product or display or signage that captured your interest, anything that inspired an unplanned purchase on that trip? (I remember being at a second supermarket and seeing little signs over each stack of apples describing the unique flavor of each variety. I liked that, because I want to eat more fruit but am hesitant about trying new things. I ended up buying several new varieties to try.)
Now consider these questions:
- Was there anything in the store that caught your attention and thus INFORMED you of a particular product’s existence and/or some feature/benefit of the product? That’s Shopper Marketing 1.0.
- Was there anything that ENGAGED you emotionally? That’s Shopper Marketing 2.0.
- Was there anything that INSPIRED you to act, i.e., to make a specific purchase? That’s Shopper Marketing 3.0.
As an innovator, one of the ways you can help a new product succeed is to make sure that the product packaging – and the combination of messages and visuals used in any other in-store marketing efforts -- achieves the shopper marketing 3.0 level, to not only inform the shopper about the product but to engage the shopper emotionally and inspire them to purchase.
But how can you measure something as emotional and ambiguous as engagement and inspiration? Here are four rapidly evolving techniques to consider.
· Eye Tracking in Real Stores. In 2009, the research firm Sheridan Global launched a new continuous syndicated research service dubbed the Marketing At Retail Initiative (MARI), backed by a consortium of companies that includes POPAI, 7-Eleven, ampm, Ahold/Stop & Shop, Walgreen’s, PepsiCo, McKee Foods, and Hershey’s. This service aims to create a measurement standard for shopper engagement, enabling both retailers and manufacturers to evaluate the relative effectiveness of different retail lay-outs, displays, and promotional offers. In 24 participating U.S. stores, all displays and promotional offers are photographed and databased. Participating shoppers wear glasses mounted with a tiny video camera, capturing their journey around the store and what they look at and what they touch; these shoppers also complete interviews on lifestyle, trip mission, and purchases. The data is then analyzed to learn which marketing vehicles are most effective in capturing shopper eyes, interaction (e.g., reading a package or promotional sign), and conversion to purchase. This system promises to reveal the extent to which consumers engage with different offers in a real-world setting full of complexity and distractions.
· Eye Tracking in Simulated Stores. A “simulated store” can be as simple as projecting a 2D image of a 12-foot section of store shelf onto a wall, and tracking where a consumer’s eye goes as she attempts to find a particular product. Or it can be as complex as a 3D replication of an entire store on a large computer screen, with the consumer using a steering device to “walk” through the store and “handle” products. Such methods are typically used to identify the best of several design options for a package or display.
· Neuromarketing. Companies like Sands Research and NeuroFocus use EEG or fMRI technology to monitor brain wave activity (sometimes combined with eye tracking or other techniques) to pinpoint the specific messages and images that capture and hold consumer attention, engage their emotions, and embed in memory. This technology can be employed while consumers watch video ads, handle packages, or shop in a real or simulated store.
· Facial Coding. If you’ve seen the Fox TV show Lie to Me, you are familiar with this concept. In shopper research, the typical approach is to videotape the faces of research participants while they are exposed to various marketing stimuli; this is often done in combination with eye-tracking. The video files are then analyzed to determine the degree of emotional response (if any) to each marketing stimulus. Typically, seven core emotions are recorded: surprise, happiness, fear, anger, sadness, disgust, and contempt.
Most importantly, business-building results have emerged from these leading-edge research techniques, when combined with in-depth qualitative interviews to understand why consumers are reacting to certain elements of your creative (e.g., recalling emotions of past experiences). Frito-Lay, for example, used neuromarketing research to study female brains and learned they should avoid pitches related to "guilt" / “guilt-free” and instead play up "healthy" associations. Bonduelle, a European packaged salad brand, used eye-tracking research to ensure that their new packaging enabled shoppers to find the desired item and answer decision-relevant questions more quickly, resulting in a 15% increase in sales. With both manufacturers and retailers competing for differentiation and shopper attention, these are valuable insights – and ones that are unlikely to have been found via a simple survey.