Shopper Communication, Channel Execution, Knowledge Bank Blog, Finding New Ideas

Seeing What Shoppers See

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Right, on with the blog…


What do you see in the picture above?

Don’t worry.  It’s not a trick question.  Wally isn’t hiding in there.

Yes, it’s just a bunch of zebras.

You won’t be surprised to hear that we’re not zebra experts.  But we’re reliably informed that every zebra has an individual stripe pattern that is unique to that zebra.  And that zebras can recognise one another by their stripe pattern.

Now, if you’re a zebra that’s probably important, right?  If you see another zebra walking towards you, you’d want to be able to tell it’s your mate Dave the Zebra, not Gary the Zebra who you owe money to.

Whereas for humans, being able to recognise individual zebras is not important.  We’re never going to be in a situation where we need to a recognise a zebra.  Unless you too owe Gary the Zebra money.

Why are we talking about zebras?

Well, when we look at our categories, brands and activities, we see every individual stripe pattern. 

We see the 200 different SKUs in the category.  We see all the messages on our pack.  We see the cost per serve comparisons between products.

But shoppers… they often just see a bunch of zebras.

They see a wall of SKUs in the category.  They see a lot of messages that all look the same.  They see headline prices not the cost per serve comparison. 

There is a BIG difference between what we see and what shoppers see.

To drive growth, categories and brands need to win with shoppers.  To win with shoppers, we need to understand the difference between what we typically see and what shoppers typically see.  Then get really good at actually seeing what shoppers see.

Here are some examples of what we mean…

What We See = the price index on a spreadsheetWhat Shoppers See = the price comparison at shelf.

So, you have a price index of 120 for a new product launch.  You think that sounds OK.  Of course it does.  It’s not a real price.  No shopper has to pay ‘120’.  What the shopper has to pay is £3.60. 

They see your product next to a competitor product.  The competitor is priced at the category average – a price index of 100.  But no shopper pays ‘100’.  The competitor is £3.  Then there is the private label product.  That’s a price index of 80.  But no shopper pays ‘80’.  The product is £2.40.  This leaves you needing to convince the shopper why they should pay 60p or £1.20 more for your brand.  It’s not an abstract challenge on a spreadsheet.  It’s a real challenge at a shelf.

Shoppers don’t see indices, they see prices.  We need to see what they see.

What We See = the 2 minute concept testWhat Shoppers See = the 2 second shelf test.

So, you run a concept test.  The perfectly crafted description of the new product.  It sounds great.  Respondents carefully read through it.  They say they really like it.  They say they will buy it.  You use the results in the retailer sell-ins.  “Best ever test results.”  You hope retailers don’t remember that’s what you said last time.

But then you launch the new product.  Shoppers look at it for 2 seconds (at most) not the 2 minutes (at least) in the concept test.  They struggle to even understand what the new product is.  Let alone understand why it’s good or when they might use it.  They move on and probably never think about the product again.

Shoppers don’t see the detail, they see the headline.  We need to see what they see.

What We See = our categoryWhat Shoppers See = a mix of categories.

So, you go into store regularly (we sincerely hope).  You spend 15 minutes looking at your category.  You scrutinise how your brand is showing up.  How competitor brands are showing up.  You make a couple of notes.  Then you go to another store.  Another 15 minutes looking at your category.  A couple more notes.  Onto another store.  Guess what you look at…?   Yep, you’re looking through your single category lens again.

Shoppers go into store (or online).  They spend 15 seconds in your category.  Then go to another category.  Then another.  Then another.  A lot of the choices they make are between categories, not within categories. 

Looking for snacks?  There are multiple categories in play.  Best snacking option wins.  Looking for meal inspiration?  There are multiple categories in play.  Best meal option wins.  Looking for lunchbox solutions?  There are multiple categories in play.  Best lunchbox option wins.

Shoppers don’t see your category in isolation.  They see it in combination.  We need to see what they see.

The competition between retailers is intense.  The competition between categories is intense.  The competition between brands is intense.

The winners will be the ones that can see what shoppers see. 

So that shoppers see what you want them to see.  What you need them to see.

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