Surina Sayal

"Shopper insights differ between location, format and gender": Harish Bijoor

An insightful discussion was held between panelists at the In-Store Asia 2011 on the role that shopper insights play in in-store activities in the country.

The two-day In-Store Asia 2011 expo, convention and awards event, organized by VJ Media Works, kicked off yesterday in Mumbai where an interesting panel discussion ensued around the theme of this year's event of 'Insight before Activity'.

"Shopper insights differ between location, format and gender": Harish Bijoor
Panellists Rahul Saigal, vice-president, retail, OgilvyAction, Naveen Keswani, assistant vice-president, customer marketing, Kraft Foods, and Gopi Krishnaswamy, chief executive officer, Insight Instore, Jim Lucas, executive vice-president, global retail insight and strategy, DraftFCB, along with moderator Harish Bijoor, CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults and chairman, steering committee, In-Store Asia 2011, discussed the subject of 'validating the role for insight in in-store activity'.

Saigal of OgilvyAction shared the example of a unique insight they found while working on the quick-service restaurant, Subway. The challenge was to increase consumption of the Coca-Cola brands. They found that while footfalls were increasing and so were sales, beverages were not seeing big growth.

They carried out a research on customers who were not buying the beverages. Those not buying could either be the ones who took takeaways, or those who ate at the restaurant. The research revealed that the kind of people coming to these stores were people seeking healthier and affordable food options, which was why the 'Sub of the day' sometimes saw higher sales at Rs 75, than some others priced at Rs 125. The team replaced Coca-Cola with its other brand, Minute Maid, a juice, and paired this with the Sub of The Day as a combo, for those seeking a healthier option. Minute Maid's sales went up by 500 per cent following this.

Keswani of Kraft Foods (owners of the Cadbury brand now), shared that the company worked on the insight that when a consumer walks into a store she's not thinking of just buying chocolates, but why she needs to buy it. She may want to buy chocolates for herself, or to share with a friend or a loved one. Working on this insight, the company rolled out visual and verbal cues in-store, where segmentation was done in terms of this knowledge with banners reading 'Treat for me', 'Buy for Someone' and 'Gift a chocolate'. "Many times verbal cues have to be backed by visual cues in-store," said Keswani.

Discussing the importance of the smell and the feel of a product, Bijoor said, "Shoppers are like animals, they like to touch, feel and smell before they buy." He gave the example of a coffee brand that had good packaging, but also backed this by putting some of the coffee aroma on the pack.

"Shopper insights differ between location, format and gender": Harish Bijoor
Lucas pointed out that for fragrance brands, too, what works is the touch and the feel of the actual product, and not the scent alone. For a category like this, insights are different across the globe. In a Latin American market, for instance, the fragrance needs to be more intense, he suggested.

Bijoor also shared that having a popcorn machine in-store increases not only the appetite to eat, but also goads shoppers to shop more.

He questioned whether 'sensory branding' had taken off in India, to which Saigal of OgilvyAction replied that it had not. "Also, the question of who will invest in the infrastructure needs to be answered - the retailers, the brands or the media companies?" he asked.

The discussion moved towards the rationality of purchase decisions. According to Bijoor, "the consumer is irrational, while the marketer is too rational."

Saigal backed this and added that shoppers rationalise buying decisions, but this doesn't mean that those are rational decisions. "A geek may, for instance, think a particular computer or tech product is better, but he may still buy an Apple product. He may love Apple for whatever irrational reason."

Bijoor also questioned Keswani about how people irrationally buy chocolates. Keswani replied that the decision here is 'impulsive' and not 'irrational'. Bijoor also suggested that a chocolate brand could perhaps assess the consumers' health and then offer them specific products. It would be a rational tactic. For instance, Keswani pointed out, Cadbury had launched the Cadbury Lite variant for diabetics and the health conscious, but this had to be pulled back eventually as it did not fare well in the market, with even diabetics choosing to indulge in the original variant at least once a month, rather than bite into the Lite variant.

Bijoor also quizzed Lucas of DraftFCB on whether insights can be brought in from one country and applied to another, to which Lucas answered that while insights can be global, this can also be dangerous. Therefore the insight of 'left-to- right' and 'right-to-left' eye movements while shopping may be more universal, but some insights might bomb when applied in another country.

Krishnaswamy of Insight Instore pointed out the example of a beauty brand they worked with that had to change its communication after its first roll out in the country because they realised that the Indian woman's perception of beauty was very different from those of other countries. The panel agreed that insights differ from place to place.

They also discussed how insights differ across store formats as well. For example, while some may communicate better to men via modern trade formats, they may choose to speak to women through traditional formats or kiranas. Keswani pointed out a key lesson his company learnt. Amongst the customers who bought chocolates, 60 per cent of kirana shoppers were men, as women, perhaps, were not as comfortable going to kirana shops, as they would to modern departmental stores.

Thus, besides location, format and gender also play an important role in understanding useful shopper insights.

The panel also discussed the growing importance of digital and technology for garnering insights from modern as well as traditional store formats with the increasing use of eyeball tracking, in-store compliance tracking, assortment of in-store product tracking and more.