Up Close

Last week I was sat in a dark room, in front of a two way mirror watching some shoppers talk about a particular category. With me were some of the category team from the client company, and whilst the conversation among shoppers was keeping us all intrigued, it was the conversation between us as viewers during a quiet period for the shoppers that was just as revealing.


The most senior of the client team was telling us how frustrating they are finding discussions with trade customers at the moment. It wasn’t the usual frustration around the focus on pricing though – instead it was the frustration at being ‘forced’ to buy into each customer’s loyalty data. The client explained that one customer had essentially told them that to be ‘at the table’, helping guide category decisions, they had to buy the loyalty data.


Does this sound familiar?


I’ve talked about big data before, but this was a whole new angle we’d not considered before. The frustration for the client is that they buy into household panel data to get the big picture on sales and market share, which of course can be split by key retailers and channels. And increasingly they are now finding their budget being stretched to buy into retailer loyalty data – because the retailers argue that’s the only way brands can understand their shoppers.


That understanding is crucial if you are going to develop shopper marketing or category strategies that are specific to that retailer. Increasingly retailers want to feel they are getting something tailored to suit their shoppers, especially in the grocery sector where differentiation is becoming so important. But loyalty data + panel data won’t necessarily give you the clarity that makes the difference.


For a start, both data sets are based on what people have done, rather than what they might have done if the experience instore had been different. Just as importantly, loyalty data is only a view of the retailer’s shoppers who actually use a loyalty card on a regular basis, and a lot of it replicates what is already known from the panel data.


The thing is that big data can’t give you the why behind sales or behaviour. To get that level of granularity you need to get instore and get up close to the shoppers – those who put a product in their basket and those who don’t. What is it that motivates them in the category, and what is it that de-motivates them? How do they make sense of the choices, and is the category laid out to support those choices? Where are the small improvements that will make the big differences to category success and vitality?


Armed with the answers to these questions brands finally have the understanding that is truly based on the retailer’s shoppers, and that will make a difference.


By Danielle Pinnington, MD at Shoppercentric (@shoppercentric)