Making the case for shopper time management

Discussion
Oct 06, 2015

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from the Mark Heckman Consulting blog.

Ask any retailer what their shopper’s average trip length is or how fast shoppers buy once they are in one of their stores, and you will likely get blank stares.

Aside from some attention to expedite the checkout process, retailers continue to assume that their shoppers relish looking for new ways to invest more of their time exploring aisles and alcoves, reading labels and scrolling through directories. In 2015, this is nothing more than a retailer’s fantasy. As a result of this misguided mentality, store footprints have continuously grown over the years and, along with them, a corresponding decline in shopping efficiency.

As the chart below indicates, the faster shoppers buy, the more they buy. Conversely, the longer it takes for a shopper to make a buying decision, the less likely they will make one at all.

Shopper time management chart 1

Source: Dr. Herb Sorensen, “Inside the Mind of the Shopper”.

To put a finer point on it, food retailing study after study tells us that as much as 85 percent of the shopper’s time is wasted navigating massive stores with extraordinary amounts of products, exploring and seeking, but not buying. Aside from the most ardent price shopper, "time" is the shopper’s most prized possession.

Shopper time management should be the first logical step in a shopper centric merchandising plan. Dr. Herb Sorensen, noted expert on retail shopping behavior and author of the top-selling book, "Inside the Mind of the Shopper," lays out a new road map for retailers. He refers to this map as the "Five Vital Tenets of Shopping Behavior."

Every step of this process is focused as to how the shopper shops, not how retailers would like them to shop.

Shopper time management chart 2

Source: Dr. Herb Sorensen, “Inside the Mind of the Shopper”.

In high volume retailing, even step-wise, incremental gains in shopper efficiency can produce significant impact to the bottom line. It’s time to incorporate the element of the shopper’s time in the mix of merchandising metrics. Those retailers that do so will find their time-starved shoppers thanking them with more of their dollars and enduring loyalty.

Why do retailers largely downplay the “time investment” part of the shopper’s journey? Do you agree or disagree that shopper time management should be a critical part of merchandising metrics?

Braintrust
"Survey after survey point to consumers having a time crunch, yet retailers make stores difficult to navigate, and manufacturers are content to crank out endless line extensions, rather than truly innovate."
"There is a persistent myth in retailing that the longer you keep a shopper in the store, the more they will spend. As far as I can tell, there is no empirical basis for this belief, other than a vague correlation between time in the store and basket size."

Join the Discussion!

18 Comments on "Making the case for shopper time management"

Notify of

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Max Goldberg
BrainTrust

Retailers who neglect customer time management do so at their own peril. Survey after survey point to consumers having a time crunch, yet retailers make stores difficult to navigate, and manufacturers are content to crank out endless line extensions, rather than truly innovate. Is is any wonder that consumers are buying more online, where they control their time and can select delivery preferences?

Joel Rubinson
BrainTrust

I think a lot about shopping time. I think shoppers have a mental budget for time. I think that if retailers found ways for shoppers to be more efficient (say, via mobile apps), they might find that coupling that with exploratory experiences would lead to a little change in time as shoppers redeploy their time savings to increasing their unplanned/impulse purchases. Not a proven theory yet, but I’d love to do an experiment relating to this principle. The bottom line: retailers who are not measuring time in-store are not even positioned to move down this path I am suggesting.

Tom Redd
BrainTrust

Retail time management is number one in some areas like grocery, but barely makes the list in apparel and CE. Food shopping is the place to have the store staff with vest that say “I Know Where It Is, Ask Me” CE is a space to mark store staff with buttons like “PC expert/TV Nerd/Game Freak — Ask Me!”

Shoppers spend too much time finding people that really know products. Store team knowledge is a huge loyalty driver.

Chris Petersen, PhD.
BrainTrust

The product-centric strategy of the past was based upon getting consumers to “linger longer” in-store so that they would discover more to purchase.

This article demonstrates the dramatic shifts in the shopping behavior of today’s omnichannel consumers. They have already done a lot of discovery online before setting foot in-store. If they already know what they want, time wasted finding it can be a big detractor.

The shopper journey today is “situation and context” specific. Mobile apps that enable consumers to control their experience online and in-store are paying big dividends in terms of letting consumers decide how they want to shop.

The key for retailers today is that the decision on time needs to be consumer-centric. Retailers need to understand the ROI of empowering consumers in ways that they can chose to navigate based upon preferences.

Ken Lonyai
BrainTrust

There seems to be a myth that the longer a shopper is in a store the more they spend, as if there is a 1:1 logic of time to dollars. I agree with Herb’s five step process of focused shopping trips that maximize the return on time for shoppers and return on merchandise for retailers. Ultimately, it’s better to have a focused store that targets a segment of consumers. Instead of expanding target market segmentation, expanding market share by flowing more shoppers through a store effectively is the way to go.

Cathy Hotka
BrainTrust

The idea behind keeping the shopper in the store as long as possible hearkens back to the days of women as domestic goddesses … but they’re attorneys and marketing executives, and have to get those soccer cleats as efficiently as possible.

Target understands this, and puts ceiling signage in stores to help customers find what they’re looking for. Department stores which are in decline might want to do the same thing.

Richard J. George, Ph.D.
BrainTrust

I believe because they don’t understand its impact on purchasing. I agree with Herb. Plus, we know two simple heuristics in addition to those he has noted: 1. The longer customers stay in the store the more they buy. 2. The quicker we get them out the quicker they come back.

I have completed research published in the European Journal of Marketing which highlights the use of store brand or private label as a shopping trip time-saving device. It appears that these offerings may work across purposes if the retailer’s goal is to prolong the time spent in-store.

Ben Ball
BrainTrust

“Get ’em in the store and then sell ’em some more!”

That was merchandising 101 when I was a store employee at what has now become a leading Carolina’s chain in the ’70s. And it hasn’t changed much for many retailers. Dr. Sorensen’s work has proven the value of understanding and respecting shopper’s time over and over. But it is not as easy to understand or to execute as the simple mantra I learned long ago.

Perhaps another “simple mantra” is what’s required. I’ll offer the one I use when people who live a more relaxed pace (read, “my family, friends and most other acquaintances”) when they admonish me for some seemingly frivolous whirlwind trip or other foolishness.

“I’ve got a little bit of money and a lot less time”

Naaah … it’ll never work.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

I remember reading an article, maybe 30 years ago, about a new supermarket schematic. The layout was very impressive and innovative, but the theme was all about keeping the shopper in the store longer. Apparently nothing has changed.

As the author says, “In 2015, this is nothing more than a retailer’s fantasy.” The retailer says, “I have a store, if they stay longer, I will sell more.” The problem is the first part of the statement. Mr. Retailer, just because you have a store doesn’t mean the customer cares.

I don’t know the answer, but I am quite sure that one of the biggest factors in the growth of online retailing is the time factor. It is for me.

Mark Burr
Guest
1 year 6 months ago
Speaking from a supermarket point of view, the old rule (and maybe, still the new rule) was/is to put the milk and bread in the back of the store so even on a convenience trip the customer has to travel through the store just to get these items. The idea is that they will more times than not pick up additional items on the way to the back and on the way to the front. For the rest of the store the rule was “Stack ’em high and watch ’em buy.” Kroger and some other retailers have the technology to measure it not only in time from entry to exit, but time at each position, time in each department, and equating the spend as well as traffic patterns. The list could go on and on. The thing is, they made the investment, took the time and gained the benefits. The benefits? Just check their consecutive same-store sales statistics. There is a balance between the customer’s time management and suggestive selling and offering something else in even the shortest trip. Today that can be measured. It can be analyzed. It can be utilized. The heightened balance is making the trip truly… Read more »
Jack Pansegrau
Guest
Jack Pansegrau
1 year 6 months ago

Dr Sorensen, please take your research to Bentonville! And yes, it’s in grocery that it most matters, but why even enter the Supersized Legacy Grocer or a Walmart SuperCenter IF TIME MATTERS … Even with faster checkout, Walmart is simply too big for speed. So TIME and SIZE matter.

In the alternative, apparel stores with ghost inventory and with no selection in sizes, styles or colors end up forcing us to the Internet. Another key consideration: if brick-and-mortar stores wish to remain viable, they must have high in-stock positions. Otherwise I feel like my time has been wasted and I won’t return.

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

All too often, store layouts are designed with the “build it and they will come” mentality. Shoppers’ time constraints are more squeezed than ever. If the retailer is not laser-focused upon the efficiency of the shopping trip within their stores, than there is a huge disconnect with the consumer. There is no question that shopping patterns need to be tactically analyzed and merchandising tactics executed with the learnings leveraged. In a supermarket, why have fresh produce at the start of the shopping traffic pattern, where all the center store products get piled on top, while the produce wilts? This is seemingly basic stuff, however we still have much to learn, evidently.

Peter Charness
BrainTrust

Time is a key element, however, there are other factors that are as or more important. The goal of a great shopping experience is varied, but should always include increasing the basket size. If a shopper spends more time wandering through the store, there is a greater likelihood that the % of impulse buys will go up, and market basket size also will go up. However, other factors come into play such as product display, adjacency, presentation, staffing and promotion. A great shopping trip for both the retailer and the shopper is probably short duration, increased basket.

James Tenser
BrainTrust
There is a persistent myth in retailing that the longer you keep a shopper in the store, the more they will spend. As far as I can tell, there is no empirical basis for this belief, other than a vague correlation between time in the store and basket size. Turns out that larger baskets take longer to select and fill. (That darned arrow of causality!) It’s perhaps more useful to think about shopper efficiency in terms of dollars spent per minute of shopping time. The retailer who helps its shoppers manage time well should enjoy a kind of loyalty advantage. It can welcome and serve more shoppers and book more sales per hour. Time spent is a kind of cost to shoppers. Time-saving convenience is therefore a form of value that can supersede product price in the overall equation. The strategies presented above are valid and important. How else can a retailer seize the opportunity to become the time-saving champion for shoppers? It begins by breaking down time into its six dimensions: 1) Time to access (i.e. to reach the store or shopping site)2) Time to search (i.e. to identify and select product to buy)3) Time to transact (i.e. to… Read more »
Gajendra Ratnavel
BrainTrust

I agree that shopper time management should be critical. Instead of using the IKEA model of getting your shopper lost in the store so they find more stuff to buy, it would be better to adopt the online model for cross selling through suggestions and recommendations based on what others have done. This can be easily achieved with small digital panels located on shelves and a good wayfinding/search application on mobile.

Robert Dyer
Guest
Robert Dyer
1 year 6 months ago
The issue with retailers downplaying the “time investment” consideration for a shopper, from my experience, is that the focus is more on 1) fitting the assortment into the box; 2) positioning the “theatre” departments in the front for the invitation to the customer; 3) positioning higher volume departments/categories near backroom access for operational efficiency or refrigeration consideration; 4) positioning their strategic categories in a primary location, regardless of the customer’s view of those categories. There are a couple of basic category management-driven principles that can be utilized to speed the shopping time for customers, which I sadly note, retailers are losing focus on. First, the usage of the consumer purchase decision hierarchy in the organization of the category, in order to make informed decisions. The lack of usage results in additional dead inventory, increased OOS on the items that sell, and an overall irrelevant assortment for the customer. Second, even if a customer purchase decision hierarchy is in play, typically the planogram development team does not translate it to the shelf to speed decision-making for the shopper at the shelf edge. If this step is not completed, the data analysis and decision-making efforts around assortment are greatly diminished. If retailers… Read more »
Herb Sorensen
BrainTrust

Excellent discussion here, with a few still arguing to waste shoppers’ time in hopes of selling them a bit more. The fact is that retailers, by and large, do more actual sales suppressing than actual SELLING. Let the data speak for itself: What you do not measure… you will NOT manage!

Robert Dyer
Guest
Robert Dyer
1 year 30 days ago

Shopper time management should be a consideration, from store layout design to the usage of the consumer purchase decision hierarchy to correctly arranging category planograms for efficient shelf edge decisions. Shopper time saved provides additional casual shopping, leading to more incremental purchases, higher customer satisfaction and repeat visits.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Survey after survey point to consumers having a time crunch, yet retailers make stores difficult to navigate, and manufacturers are content to crank out endless line extensions, rather than truly innovate."
"There is a persistent myth in retailing that the longer you keep a shopper in the store, the more they will spend. As far as I can tell, there is no empirical basis for this belief, other than a vague correlation between time in the store and basket size."

Take Our Instant Poll

Do you agree or disagree that shopper time management should be a critical part of merchandising metrics?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...