New research technology has finally confirmed what many marketers have long-suspected – most shoppers shop on autopilot and what they say they do in-store rarely reflects what they actually do. In reality, most in-store decisions are habitual and typical shoppers’ recollection of their purchase choices is less than 50 percent accurate.
A recent front-of-store and impulse category study undertaken by Nielsen utilised a range of new research technologies to quantify the true size of the impulse category, identify and understand high potential shoppers and pin-point the opportunities to drive growth in front-of-store impulse purchasing. Use of technologies such as eye tracking glasses, tablets, virtual store testing labs and neuroscience avoids any reliance on shopper recall, and this passive approach is providing insights not previously accessible via traditional methodologies. Thanks to these emerging research technologies, we are now able to unlock the autopilot part of shoppers’ decision making in-store and use these insights to develop messages which connect with shoppers in a far more effective way.
Today’s retail landscape is becoming increasingly complex. Self-scan checkouts, scan-as-you-shop handheld devices, online shopping and click-and-collect options all allow shoppers to speed up their checkout process, however, these systems mean it is becoming harder to gain insight into and achieve growth in front-of-store impulse purchases. Adding to this challenge, most impulse items also retail in aisles, and are typically consumed immediately after purchase, resulting in low recall.
In fact, if front-of-store was a category it would rank as one of the top 10 grocery categories. Eight in every 10 supermarket shoppers buy an impulse item from within the store, one in three purchase impulse categories from front-of-store, and one in five baskets contain an impulse purchase.
Few shoppers remember much about their supermarket visits. What they bought, the time of day, whether it was a top up or daily shop, if they used a self-scan or operator checkout, length of the queue – most details quickly fade from the memory as shoppers move on with their busy lives. Capturing the attention of these time-poor and attention-short shoppers is no mean feat, especially given the average shopper spends 15 seconds at the supermarket shelf per category, notices less than 40 percent of products, focuses their attention on point-of-sale materials for 1.6 seconds and typically compares prices between just two products.
It is generally acknowledged that there are two touchpoints at front-of-store – joining the queue and scanning and paying for items – and today’s front-of-store design is based on this premise. In reality, however, these two moments combined account for just 45 percent of front-of-store purchases. Nielsen’s front-of-store and impulse category study uncovered three previously untapped opportunities to connect with shoppers:
Neuroscientific studies tell us that our brains take in up to 11 million bits of information every second, including both visual and auditory information, although visual is the primary sense for humans. Our conscious minds, however, can process only 40 bits per second. Our brains process the remainder, but non-consciously, and studies confirm unequivocally that this ‘non conscious information’ impacts our shopping attitudes, decisions and behaviour. With an overload of products, colors and promotional offers, shoppers’ brains tire quickly from navigating the array of aisles and brands, and stop processing effectively after 15 to 20 minutes of shopping. To hone in on opportunities to drive front-of-store impulse purchases, it is critical to improve the layout of displays and merchandising to remove barriers, so that shoppers relax and are open to shopping at front-of-store:
The impulse category has huge potential for growth in front-of-store sales – as much as 150 percent – but in order to realise this growth, retailers and manufacturers must take the time to understand the key drivers, shopper behaviours and most effective influencers in order to capture and maintain shoppers’ attention. Do you know your impulse shoppers intimately and are you innovating to grow your front-of-store opportunity?
For more information on Nielsen’s front-of-store and impulse category study contact Connie Cheng or your Nielsen representative.