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Thinking beyond your brand: a reminder that businesses of all sizes need to be shopper-focused

By Jaime Silvester, Head of Retail, IRI

I recently joined a session with Add Psalt, a 'change for good' organisation that provides black-owned start-up brands with industry expertise, to help them become a retail-ready brand. And I was struck by the idea of shopper-focused retail for small businesses.

I talk a lot about the importance of putting the shopper at the heart of decision making and shopper-centric retailing. But, while being shopper-focused is something that may seem obvious, especially to those of us working with category strategy and granular shopper data every day, it can often be forgotten by many business owners, particularly those who run small and mid-size enterprises (SMEs). Those who have many plates to spin and perhaps don’t have as much experience in the industry.

Our discussion with Add Psalt focused on how thinking about category and shopper insights is essential when trying to secure listings in retail as well as how to make sure you sell once you’ve got the listing.

The session, led by Add Psalt co-founder Sam Akinluyi, also hosted IRI's Principal Consultant Lindsey Hills, who shared some of her insights and expertise into the psychology behind the shopper. They play a strong role in making a business successful and the lessons small brands can learn from shopper-focused insights are considerable.

The difference between shoppers and consumers
To kick off the session, we went right back to basics. One of the first things business owners need to differentiate when considering shopper-insights is the difference between the ‘shopper’ and the ‘consumer’. In essence, consumers are those who are actively using the product or service that a brand provides. On the other hand, shoppers are those who engage with the product, whether that is through comparing deals, researching the best brand, or being the person to physically make the purchase.

"The shopper and the consumer may be the same person, but they can be in a completely different mindset," explained Lindsey. It is because of this mindset that behaviours will ultimately be different. Shoppers are often in the mindset of “get me in and out", meaning their attention needs to be grabbed quickly and their shopping patterns of buying from bigger brands disrupted.

It is worth noting that the shopper may, for example, be buying for multiple people within a household. The snacks they buy may be for their children's lunches, the soft drinks they're choosing may be for a partner - they may be the one actively making the purchase, but that doesn't necessarily make them the consumer.

Know your shopper

Understanding the needs, wants, and psychology of your shopper means that businesses are aware of the impact they can have and how they can stand out against competitors in a retail setting.

SME owners should really think about the people who are shopping in-store and their motivations for shopping. For example, it’s important to know if you are talking to somebody that is on a budget. Or if they are a premium shopper who loves to cook, wants to experiment and explore new flavours, but also wants to find things really quickly in store. By identifying these motivations, brands can understand what appeals to the individual shopper, so they can attract new prospects as well as existing consumers.

Whilst the workshop was specifically for SMEs, the imperative to be “shopper-centric” is key for businesses and brands of all sizes.  I would go as far as saying that it is essential for any brand to consider the shopper as a key part of a long-term strategy. While the consumer is obviously important, by thinking about the behaviour and psychology of the everyday person shopping in-store, all brands can benefit from better awareness, more consumers and ultimately drive growth for their business. 

So, if you take one thing from this blog, it should be to put the needs of the shopper at the heart of all your retail decision making. Whether that’s decisions about range, innovation, instore activation, CRM or more.

If you’re struggling to put the shopper at the core of your brand or category strategy, then get in touch to find out how my team can help you find more targeted ways to connect with the shopper.


Find out more
Read our “Evolution of Shopper Insights” blog

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