What Consumer And Shopper Insights Do You Really Need?

VLUU L200  / Samsung L200In a world of “Big Data” it’s surprising that one of the major challenges that we come across every week is a lack of information. It’s not that there is no data; it’s just that many of the marketers we work with perceive that they have little or no useful insight that would help them grow. This is a common problem. The data people have, just isn’t helping them deliver the growth they need! So what data do you need to help make decisions that will deliver significant growth? 

To answer this question one needs to grasp a very simple principle – growth comes from getting people to do something they don’t already do now. For a brand to grow it needs to be consumed more, this means getting more people to use it, more often and in greater quantities. For this to happen, people who don’t already buy the brand need to do so, and those that already do need either to buy more or more frequently. So faced with the challenge to deliver growth, data that tells you where consumption gaps exist and explains how purchase behavior can be changed to deliver this is really useful.

Mike Anthony and I have written at length about this in our new book The Shopper Marketing Revolution, but here’s a simple rationale for holding this point of view:  a consumer can’t wash her hair with your brand if your brand is not in her shower. She might think your brand is fantastic, she might believe that your brand is the only one that meets her specific needs and she may well be aware no other brand can deliver what she needs, but if someone hasn’t bought the brand for her, she can’t use it. Just understanding her consumption needs is not enough – you have to also understand what would actually make her buy the brand.

Here’s a simple view therefore of what insights that we feel are really useful:

Consumer insights:

To define growth opportunities there are really only two types of question to ask:

  1. Who currently uses the category and your brand, how often and in what quantities? Which of these consumer segments could be encouraged to use more?
  2. Who doesn’t use the category or your brand and why not? Which of these consumer segments would use your brand and how could they be encouraged to do so?

A really good usage and attitude (U&A) survey is the best source of data that would help respond to these questions. That said, few marketers have access to “a really good U&A”: Many studies focus on users alone and ignore non-users and several limit their scope to a notional target market which excludes other demographics. Many companies conduct U&A research infrequently, favoring more frequent brand tracking surveys or adhoc “dip-stick” research. As a result, most companies end up with a narrative of existing consumption but little insight into the opportunity for growth. My advice would be to pair back on research that delivers this sort of narrative in favor of acquiring better insight into the opportunity to grow.

Shopper insights:

To realize growth opportunities there are again two groups of questions that need to be resolved:

  1. Who currently buys the category or brand for the consumer segments that could use more? What would make these people buy more frequently or in greater quantities?
  2. Who would buy for consumers who don’t currently use the brand but would? What would make these people buy your brand?

In many companies, data to help answer these questions is rare. For me this needs to change – in the short-term great proxies can be created from shopper panel data and from loyalty card data,  but often these are limited in their scope, either by sampling methodology or by the fact they are derived from a small proportion of the total market. In the medium-term marketers should seek more structured shopper research that helps then pin-point and unblock pinch points in the path to purchase.

It falls to the leaders of consumer goods businesses to seek out better sources of insight in the future. With many seeking to grow whilst trimming budgets, now might be a good time to do away with low-value narratives and focus scarce resources on insights that might deliver results. Simply put its time to stop buying junk that clutters up the decision making process and start investing in insights that really drive growth


2 thoughts on “What Consumer And Shopper Insights Do You Really Need?

  1. Isn’t the availability of “big data” the actual problem here? Since there is so much data available marketers should identify the actual consumption gaps in order to create growth? The question is how can we extract the data that can be used as “foresights” ….

    • I think there is a deeper issue; with so much data flowing into marketing departments, few are equipped with adequate resources both in quality and and quantity to cope. Having said if the data people currently buy is not configured to identify consumption gaps, not matter how many competent people you throw at it, they will struggle to find ‘foresights’!

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