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The COVID crisis has changed how people shop – these four routes help your product be bought

We all know that online shopping has grown dramatically since the COVID crisis began but for most categories physical stores are still important for the vast majority of purchases.

Our latest shopper research shows that the crisis has made the instore shopping experience more complex and less pleasant. The shopper is focused on speed and efficiency. Their brain is less available for browsing because it is distracted by social distancing and fear of other people.

So how can you ensure that your merchandising strategy at point of sale is optimised to embrace these changes?

Before COVID, we identified and worked with, four shopper decision pathways. These pathways are still relevant but the ongoing COVID situation has made it even more critical to optimise merchandising strategy to deliver the best shopper experience in your category. We have reviewed and updated these pathway archetypes to help find appropriate ways to adapt your merchandising strategy and make your product shine.

The pathways depend on whether the product is straightforward to understand or if it is more complex or technical and also on the shopper’s level of involvement, that is, whether or not they engage their emotions or worry about making a purchase they might regret. Shopper research is recommended to determine which buying pathway is the most relevant for your product and to test possible implementations before adapting your merchandising strategy.

1 – The simplified path

This is typically implemented for everyday products such as groceries. The health crisis has made it more important than ever to make these purchases as quick and easy as possible for a stressed shopper – the longer it takes for a consumer to find a product, the less likely they are to buy it. The retail environment needs to be customer-centric, with clear, organised, colour-coded shelves and sign posting optimised to help customers navigate the store, the shelves and the benefits of each product. A product must go to the shopper, and not wait for the shopper to come to it.

2 – The sensory pathway

Shoppers follow this pathway when buying products in a category that engages them and that are relatively familiar and easy to buy, such as make up, beauty products, chocolate and clothes. Merchandising designed to leverage emotions in the consumer works here. It should arouse the senses, starting with visual. This is ‘retailtainment’, where consumers desire to be immersed in and entertained by the shopping experience but also providing the sense and purpose that the COVID shopper is seeking.

“Try before buy” is a key need for these categories, so this must be now rethought in a contactless mode. Solutions like digital tools with augmented reality can allow testing of products such as make up or glasses, and contactless sampling solutions can be provided.

3 – The instructional path

This is for functional products such as light bulbs, tights and sticking plasters that are more complex but whose purchases have relatively low involvement. As there is low involvement in these categories, it is important to remove barriers and make the product easy to buy. The shopper can be reassured with merchandising that educates them and reduces the chances of making a mistake. Products should be organised with clear signposting prioritising their benefits to consumers rather than just their technical properties so consumers can make quick choices without needing human assistance from customer service.

4 – The guided path

This is a high involvement category for complex products like electrical and white goods, sports shoes/trainers or health supplements. Here it remains necessary to provide expert and customized advice to consumers at the point of sale. But COVID is the occasion to re-prioritise human advice and to enhance the quality of information available both instore and on online. The retailers that succeed with be those who give shoppers 100% safe product experience solutions, the ability to compare offers and access impartial reviews of the products.

Knowing which decision pathway works for your product is vital for nailing your merchandising and advertising strategies will hugely impact whether your brand is a success.
Completing thorough research to understand your category in key countries, taking account of the maturity of the market there, listening to shoppers AND watching them in a real purchase situation means that merchandisers can get to know customers and optimise their shopping experience both offline and online.

At Strategir our expertise is in diagnosing shopper behaviours through both direct and implicit measures. Our recent research helped us to gain deep insights on how to adapt to the new shopper needs, values and purchase process after the pandemic, whether related to retail execution or to product range and features. If you want to discuss more about how to put your products in their best light to appeal to consumers, please contact Jackie Tarran or Cecile Velasco.


An efficient way to put consumers at the heart of product development

With brands facing tougher competition than ever, it has never been so important to put the consumer at the heart of product development and create new products and services that appeal to consumers first time. Knowing the needs of the customer and designing offers that meet them is crucial, and luckily, with the right tools, it is a process that can be very efficient.

To illustrate, we worked with a large multinational brand owner to bring users in at the earliest possible stage of the innovation process. Their R&D team wanted to investigate the performance of a new technology for delivering fragrance in different personal care products and how to communicate fragrance features in each category.

We decided to combine typical fragrance evaluation with U&A questions and a KANO model to create a powerful consumer need based segmentation. KANO is a consumer centric model used to map product features according to two key dimensions: product satisfaction and need fulfilment. It is agile, implicit, dynamic and perfect for helping embed the customer at the heart of the product development process.

In the model, innovative ideas and product features progress around a cycle. Initially they are exciting and new, delighting consumers. As they build, they drive performance but, over time, customers get used to the new features and competitors catch up. Then, a performance feature becomes expected, a must-have characteristic. Later users become, at best, indifferent to it or, at worst, it can detract from product appeal as other new features take over. This means that user research needs to be ongoing in order to identify erosion of excitements and opportunities for new delighters.

Using this model, several fragrance samples were evaluated in four product categories. The fragrance characteristics were mapped to identify those that excited consumers and those that were must-have features per category. Interestingly, there were no ‘performance’ sector attributes. This suggests an opportunity to develop the features that are currently ‘exciting’ and, in time, to build product differentiation and drive performance with these features.

The consumer segmentation we ran helped understand the role of fragrance in scented products across the categories. Our segmentation revealed three groups of users. Two larger groups, of similar size, and a smaller, but important, emerging group. These three groups had different profiles and expectations. The two larger groups had dramatically different vocabularies for describing a fragrance. One was much more limited and focused on a particularly driving descriptor, while consumers in the other group had a much broader vocabulary.

Our findings showed that fragrance was the very first purchase criteria for the three groups for these product categories and identified that the successful mix for each group was different.

As a result, the R&D team understood the best ways to meet the needs of their users and were able to provide successful development briefs to create optimised products for the different groups.

Using consumer centric tools such as KANO adds huge value to product development research. Brands can use the findings to integrate the key expectations of consumers into the final product or service and develop clear communication of its benefits to reinforce brand values and strengthen market codes. It helps brand owners to be at the forefront of market change and in the best position to compete in the context of the current shifts in both market and retail landscapes.

To discuss how you can use Kano for your product development nd how it gives brands the knowledge they need to appeal to consumers, please contact: Dorte Torpe Hansen


Virtual showroom – real answers: how can VR help retailers build the best CX

“Everything you can imagine is real”, however sometimes your imagination needs a bit of help! With an innovative approach, we brought Pablo Picasso’s thought to life creating a cost-effective solution that delivers real immersion in imagination.

1. Project

POINT.P, a leading building materials retailer, wanted to improve a new showroom concept with the help of customer feedback, before starting construction! Building a new showroom can present high costs at a high risk, however the brick and mortar is still key to generate a strong and emotional customer experience. In particular in the world of building materials where the visual and tactile experience is irreplaceable.

Sometimes imagination doesn’t match reality, impacting businesses negatively. Our innovative methodology minimises that ‘expectations vs reality’ factor, bringing ideas to (real) life and the future to the present. To help POINT.P achieve their goal, we asked respondents to walk through a virtual showroom using a 360° Virtual Reality Immersion device and then asked them for feedback. This allowed respondents to fully immerse and concentrate on the space, offering them a virtual and yet realistic experience which made their answers more accurate and reliable.

2. Key elements

For the success of the project advanced technology was paramount; we’ve adopted Samsung Gear VR 360 equipment, an extremely flexible solution that allows us to conduct the test anywhere in the world easily.

Another fundamental element is the accuracy of the virtual surroundings and the fluidity of the movements around the shop, which are essential for the legitimacy of respondents’ experience. Building a virtual shop may be less expensive than building a real one but it’s not necessarily easier. One of the main challenges we had was to create the most realistic rendering possible and provide the experience of a seamless visit.

Another challenge was to be able to display digital services during the virtual exploration (e.g. videos and on-screen activities) without interrupting the navigation flow. Our Image and Technology Team integrated controllable explanatory videos in the VR showroom.

3. Results

Thanks to new generation technology and realistic rendering, the in-store experience can be mimicked in detail, offering businesses the opportunity to minimise the ‘in hindsight’ variable and complete successful projects the first time.


In reality

Flooring area: Optimisation of light, furniture and digital services

The benefits of this 360° immersion have been significant, both for the business and for consumers.  Customers dived into the showroom exploring the different concepts, material choices and dedicated spaces with no external disruption. POINT.P gathered reliable and valuable learnings with actionable feedback on how to improve the key elements of the showroom and the overall CX. Detailed customer-driven feedback also facilitated internal decisions and led to a quicker validation of the strategic concept for a new store. Four showrooms have already been built using this approach, all of them are a real success for the company, which is planning new openings in the future.

Knowing that brick and mortar can be trialled is a precious opportunity for retailers; a store, a hotel, a museum, a public place, a train station…there’s no need to jump in the dark anymore, we can turn the light on!

To discuss how you can use VR for your shop, promotion or shelf, please contact: Dorte Torpe Hansen


Canny promotion sees sales volume and value increase

With a frenzy of shopping activity beginning every Autumn, Christmas is a key time of year for most B2C retailers and brands. So, how can brands ensure their promotional strategies will work, maximising sales and minimising what they give away?

Our work with a major confectionary brand shows how we helped them move away from their traditional Christmas promotional strategy to sell more while decreasing the volume discount they offered.

Faced with fierce competition and increasing supply-chain costs, this brand wanted to reduce the cost of their give-aways with promotional offers such as ‘buy one get one free’ or ‘buy one get one half price’. With the need for gifts and special treats for the family, chocolate plays a significant role in many consumers’ festive celebrations, meaning there are huge opportunities for brands that get their strategies right. We know that removing special offers tends to damage the performance on the whole Christmas chocolates category, especially in volume. So, when changing their strategy the brand could not afford to make the wrong choices.

With these risks in mind, we helped the brand pre-test their promotional ideas to get accurate sales forecasts for each option. We were able to assess the best promotions for the brand to utilise in their strategy, by estimating the sales performance of each promotional device (penetration, volume and value). This meant they could maximise sales, while minimising what they gave away.

Super realistic immersion in a seasonal shop environment

Using our flexible micro-model was necessary to get a full picture of the promotional options at hand. Because of the large size of the chocolate category, we needed to immerse buyers in a realistic and real-size environment of the Christmas chocolate universe. With so much variety and so many promotions, a to-scale experience was crucial in understanding the authentic behaviour of the consumer. We were able to expose respondents to a real size video-screened virtual tour, with each island, promotion and product enhanced using 3D digitisation to increase the realism of the experience.

Flexibility to test different scenarios that we could not do in real life

The experience requires realism, but testing the promotions in a real shop does not provide enough flexibility. In a video screened virtual tour consumers can view multiple promotions at once, which cannot be achieved with an in-store experience. We were able to test different scenarios and possibilities that could never have been recreated in real life. Our method means we can control what we test and isn’t dependent on the logistics of an actual supermarket.

For accuracy: Flexible micro-model using AI-modelling of individual behaviours

Our micro-model accounts for each buyers’ behaviour and response to different offers, providing invaluable information at such a key time. For successful sales forecast prediction, every consumer is considered as unique throughout the modelling process. This means recognising that individuals buy from different repertoires, in different quantities and see and react to marketing collateral differently. These behaviours then need to be recreated using powerful AI and then inputted into the right context purchase through a realistic setting. By getting these steps right, brands can unlock consumers’ real behaviour to make risky decisions risk-free and boost their confidence in sales volume forecasts.

By using our full micro-model, it was possible to project the penetration, volume and value of the various scenarios that we tested for the brand’s Christmas promotional strategy with two of the brand’s products. We worked out that although one product would benefit from a ‘buy one get one half price’ offer (purchase quantities would drop, but there would be a potential to recruit more customers), a different product would actually suffer (this offer would be far less attractive than that of its main competitor). We were able to identify the optimal option to move forward with, see the potential opportunities to consider and the promotions that would be risky to go ahead with. This ultimately allowed the brand to optimise sales and beat the competition in the key festive season.

For more information on forecasting success of promotions or new products, contact Dorte Torpe Hansen


Why shopper motivations are more relevant than emotions

More and more brands and agencies are using implicit measurement to provide a holistic understanding of how consumers make decisions. Indeed, anyone lucky enough to be at ESOMAR Congress in Edinburgh last week would have come away thinking that behavioural science in the insights sector is a becoming a mature discipline.

However, many brands are still making packaging decisions based on conscious thought – measuring consumers’ attention and preferences by asking rational questions. Even when they are using implicit measurement tools, many brands only analyse the unconscious emotions and not the underlying motivations that drive those emotions, and which in turn drive purchasing. In fact, many marketing initiatives fail because they are not implicitly evaluated, failing to understand the consumer implicit purchase motivations.

Marketers need to know consumers’ implicit purchase motivations in order to make safe business and marketing decisions themselves. Consumers make implicit decisions when looking at packaging, company logos and product colour and shape, to judge whether a product is attractive and relevant to them. All sensorial input is implicitly evaluated by the brain and if this evaluation is positive, it will ignite a purchase intent. Implicit evaluation happens incredibly quickly – between 300 and 1500 milliseconds – and has a high influence on decision making – a much higher influence than explicit evaluation (conscious mind).

When it comes to implicit measurement many companies will be looking purely at the emotion that resonates in those 300 to 1500 milliseconds, whether that’s happiness or disgust, anger or surprise. Understanding these emotions can be good indicators in better understanding the potential success of consumer goods, however, to get the full picture you will also need to understand what is motivating those emotions.

Whenever a consumer buys something there is an implicit and unconscious cost-benefit equation. We pay for something in exchange of the fulfilment of 2 sets of motivations, functional & psychological. When we pay for something the area of the brain that feels pain is activated. When we satisfy our motivations the area of the brain that is associated with reward is activated.
To have a positive cost vs benefit equation, a brand must satisfy the consumer’s most relevant motivations. By doing so the brand will have a higher perceived value, power of attraction and influence on the purchase decision.

By unlocking these unconscious motivations we can unlock the real reasons that consumers buy a product. Allowing brands to pivot their positioning, packaging and communications, improve campaigns and regain dwindling market share. A biscuit brand, for example, found that through explicit testing consumers stated their purchase motives centred on the perceived health and nutrition aspects of the product and brand. However, when tested implicitly we found that the primary reason mothers were buying the biscuit for their child was to reinforce their mother child bonding, while the secondary motivation was ‘appraisal’ they chose this biscuit over alternative own label brands because they wanted to be seen as a good mother.

Understanding these deeply embedded psychological motivation which influence the purchase allowed the brand to increase the impact of their communications tools by evoking these motivations across all of their consumer brand interactions, and five and a half months later the brand was back to positive growth.      

There are many quotes from business leaders like Henry Ford and Steve Jobs that suggest consumers don’t know what they want until they’re given it. However, that’s not entirely true, we’ve just been asking the wrong part of the brain. We just need to go beyond the rational and even beyond gut emotion, and get to the real motivations and drivers of human behaviour.

If you wish to know how to measure your consumer’s implicit purchase motivations, contact Dorte Torpe Hansen and don’t get left behind.


Unlock pack power by incorporating 360VR and implicit purchase motivations in pack evaluation

More than ever, the role of pack is crucial as the retail environment becomes continually more competitive.

Designing a new pack is challenging and launching it is often risky. A brand needs to be sure that its pack is impactful, motivating and aligned with brand values.

Strategir is relaunching Packagir® into a new generation of packs test that include virtual, to better predict shopper response, and measurement of implicit motivations, to ensure that the pack meets the true motives for buying.

At Strategir our pack testing solutions integrates the 3 key conditions for designing powerful packs to help marketers make their pack launches a success.

1. A pack has two lives

Over the years, we have seen that the biggest risk to pack success is in-shelf performance. A pack must succeed in both its ‘social’ and ‘private’ lives to be successful.

In store, a pack must win shoppers, who have little or no conscious control over what grabs their attention. It must be seen, recognised, attract and establish its positioning.

Once bought, the pack has to convince consumers. It must tell them the right story, build on its positioning and meet expectations of use, handling, information and image.

2. Context counts

Most people underestimate how the way we think and act is affected by context. Yet shopper behaviour is influenced by psychological biases which have developed over time.

As people don’t know how they make decisions, it is essential to set a realistic environment to connect them to the retail situation and allow them to behave in their usual way.

Immersion has been long been one of our areas of expertise; from a life-size shelf of real products, to a full-size poster, a video projection and now 360 virtual reality.

This latest innovation is the result of 3 years multi-award winning research and development from our partnerships with Samsung and then Firmenich on the impact of VR on respondents and the quality of results.

Now, we have incorporated our agile 360VR into our flagship pack testing solution, Packagir®, to better understand consumer behaviour.

3. Unlock purchase motivation

Neuroscience teaches us how we make decisions and the how important the unconscious is in them. Modelling reveals, and allows us to prioritise, the deep and genuine motivations of consumers.

The Beyond Reason Implicit Motivation model (BRIM), hacks the purchase decision by unlocking the unconscious motivations that drive purchase decisions in mere milliseconds.

The methodology and model developed by our partner, Beyond Reason, focuses on understanding the functional and psychological motivations against which a new package is instantly evaluated. These motivations drive purchase if they outweigh the pain of the price.

In our case study, measurement of their functional and psychological motivations pulls apart two packs that were not separated by traditionally elicited attributes. With this, the marketer can launch a pack that is in line with brand values and consumer motivations. Without it, they could have been forced to choose the pack on internal preferences without really understanding any risks that could be associated with the brand.

New Packagir® more efficiently measures pack performance in its 2 lives, delivering more predictability and more truth from our interactions with consumers.

Click here to find out more