BrainTrust Query: In-Store vs. Out-of-Store Behavior

Discussion
Jul 18, 2011

Manufacturers study their consumers, focusing primarily on behavior outside retail outlets. Retailers focus on the behaviors of shoppers in stores. Often this research is a disconnect.

Parker Hurlburt, vice president, research at Acosta Sales & Marketing, reported results of some research on pre-store and in-store behavior at the recent IIR Shopper Insights in Action 2011 conference in Chicago:


  • Eighty-four percent prepare a list before shopping, except for quick trips for which lists are not prepared;
  • Seventy-seven percent of younger people or Millennials prepare a list;
  • Eighty-four percent of shoppers are influenced by circulars from the stores.

How does what consumers do before their store visit influence in-store activity?

Consumers most often write a product or category on their list and have the brand in their head. If a product or category from an aisle is not on the list, consumers do not go down the aisle. Mr. Hurlburt suggested that maybe the store circular needs to include an item from every aisle to attract consumers’ attention when they are preparing their lists.

What about signage in the store? Which signs do consumers see?

Tom McCann, director, retail usability research for Staples, Inc., reported on a study to determine how consumers engage with promotional signage. A group of consumers answered pre-study questions, wore tracking glasses while shopping, and responded to questions after shopping.

On average, consumers take 17 seconds to go from their car to the store and spend about two seconds looking at the signage outside the store. Consumers are watching traffic, navigating around outside barriers, and taking care to not run into other consumers.

Once inside the store, shoppers go to the aisle of interest and run around to other aisles. When purchases are complete, the shoppers relax and meander on their way to the checkout line. When shoppers fix their gaze on a sign, it lasts for less than a second. The mind processes about five words a second. The signs receiving less than a second of attention at Staples were the external signs in the store window, those outside the sight line and free-standing signs.

Discussion Questions: What areas of behavior are most important to study in-store and out-of-store for consumers? Where do you think the greatest misconceptions lie in the way retailers plan their promotional materials?

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17 Comments on "BrainTrust Query: In-Store vs. Out-of-Store Behavior"


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Joel Rubinson
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

This way of thinking feels old school to me, in a digital age. Is the research you do online at Bestbuy.com in-store behavior, or not? How about the Google search that you did to wind up there? In the digital age, the store is brought into the living room and via mobile, the living room is brought into the store. Study path to purchase in an enlightened way and this classification of in-store vs. out of store will become less relevant and meaningful to how you think about creating growth via shopping strategies.

Phil Rubin
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

The question of in-store versus out-of-store consumer behavior is not an “either, or?” question. The consumer purchase cycle, from pre-consideration through post-purchase behavior, is more complex than ever. Trying to understand the specifics for a given segment of customers and for a specific brand, much less a specific channel, cannot be over-simplified. It can, however, be an area of continuous improvement through greater understanding obtained through analysis, testing (i.e., live in-market) and further analysis.

Tony Orlando
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

Getting a consumer into your store requires great promoting, but selling them extra stuff while they are in your store is the key to success. How your merchandise is displayed, sampling, SMILING, and providing a value experience hasn’t changed since the beginning of time.

Treat them right, and they’ll come back, regardless of the ads you put out.

Dave Wendland
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

I agree with Phil Rubin’s comment. The biggest mistake manufacturers (and retailers) can make is separating in-store and out-of-store behaviors.

The entanglement of these two consumer activities is what ultimately drives shopper decisions. Einstein called entanglement as “spooky action at a distance.” I believe that although it may appear spooky it is a mystery worth unlocking.

Dr. Stephen Needel
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

I’m not sure the premise is correct–I don’t think manufacturers spend much time thinking about consumer behavior out-of-store relative to what they do when they are in the store–it’s not the distinction that is important. Manufacturers want you to be predisposed to buy their products–sometimes that involves out-of-store marketing activity and sometimes in-store activity.

And I’d be very skeptical of the percentages quoted. Go to the grocery store for an hour–you will not see 84% of shoppers with a list. Impact from feature ads would be much stronger than we see if 84% of shoppers were influenced by the ad.

Steve Montgomery
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

As Merrs. Rubin and Rubinson noted the distinction between in-store and out-of-store influences on shopping behavior is going away. Although the study would seem to indicate the power of store signage on decision making is less than people might have thought, I still believe signage can play an important role, but as indicated, the message has to be short and to the point.

One final thought; we have known for some time that people head to the spot to make their predetermined purchase and then take a more leisurely approach to leaving the store. We try to interrupt their path on the way to the counter rather than on their way to the areas that generate the greatest amount of purchases.

Max Goldberg
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

Retailers and manufactures need to understand the entire chain of events, from deciding to buy something to making the purchase. Only studying one aspect of the decision will not provide the whole picture. Manufacturers and retailers need to come together and cooperate on this type of research, as both will benefit from its results. Anything less is educated guessing.

Michael L. Howatt
Guest
Michael L. Howatt
9 years 10 months ago

The issue should not be whether or not the consumer notices the signage, it is about what the influence is on their purchase. If the consumer knows exactly what they are going to buy when they enter the store, no amount of signage will have any effect. However, if they want to buy “printer paper” then yes, signage or some other promotion could have an influence on their behavior. The trick is to know which categories can be influenced and which ones can’t, overall. This can only be done by what I call “Voice of the Consumer” research.

Mark Baum
Guest
Mark Baum
9 years 10 months ago

Out of store, companies are studying and trying to influence consumers. In store, consumers become … shoppers. As many commentators noted, both are important, but often consumers make the decision (to paraphrase, The Bard), “to buy, or not to buy,” when they are shoppers–in real time. The disconnect occurs because companies often do not tie consumer behavior and shopper behavior together.

David Zahn
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

Michael Howatt has a good insight worth repeating. It is the level of influence and not the duration of exposure. Another point I think is worth understanding is that there is a fallacy in thinking of the shopper as exhibiting a particular “behavior” (singular). The shopper exhibits MULTIPLE behaviors that changes aisle by aisle, category by category. The impact, influence, and persuasion offered by the in-store activities will ebb and flow by the shopper’s level of engagement by category.

Understanding how the store helps the shopper to accomplish their “jobs” by providing products to meet problem-solving requirements is the next battlefield. To date, the industry has tried to do the equivalent of create improved health through studying the results of autopsies. Sure, there is insight to be derived, but it is not the ideal way to accomplish the results sought.

David Biernbaum
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

This is an excellent point–that retailers concentrate on what consumers do “inside” the store, while branded manufacturers tend to focus on what the consumer does, and who he or she is, outside of the retail store. Truth is, consumer behavior is extremely dynamic and should not be over-generalized in any one regard.

Lisa Golloher
Guest
Lisa Golloher
9 years 10 months ago

I agree that there needs to be a more holistic understanding of the path to purchase and drivers/influencers at each stage regardless if they’re in-store or not. However, I think that there’s another point worth mentioning is also the follow-through understanding of the behavior and not just the current purchase. The stats regarding “list preparation” and “circulation impact” are interesting but do they actually lead to repeat purchase? If 84% prepare a list, how many follow it and how many brands vs. categories get placed on the list on a weekly, monthly basis, etc. You can’t just stop understanding shoppers at the check out, it’s a continuous cycle of insights.

John Karolefski
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

I dispute the notion that manufacturers focus “primarily” on behavior outside retail outlets. The most important corporate title in recent years at CPG manufacturers is VP or Director of Shopper Insights. They are extremely focused on behavior in store.

What is the area of behavior most important to study in-store? Clearly, it is the path to purchase; more specifically, what draws shoppers away from the race track perimeter to venture into the center store, and how long do they stay there? Is it a display? A destination department? Other?

Herb Sorensen, Ph.D.
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

First, with some exceptions, it is simply not true that “Retailers focus on the behaviors of shoppers in stores.”

I acknowledge that there are a growing number of retailers availing themselves of the types of studies Tom McCann is reporting, and those particular numbers look highly credible. However, they are very far from the norm for retailers. In fact, one of the top retailers in the US told us that they do NOT interview shoppers in their stores, but rely on internet and other “outside the store” research to study their own shoppers. This, in spite of the fact that we have interviewed tens of thousands of their shoppers, in their stores across the country, on behalf of supplier brands.

Otherwise, the 84, 77, and 84%’s referenced here are simply incredible to me. There is no way on God’s green earth these numbers can be true about shopper behavior IN STORES, but they sound about right for shoppers’ self-reported behavior as determined by an online survey.

Dione Lewis
Guest
Dione Lewis
9 years 9 months ago

Balance is the key. Creative and attractive window displays are the biggest influences clothing stores have in drawing the customer in. The experience inside the store would determine if the shopper returns or decides to shop strictly online.

D. Ken Shaw
Guest
D. Ken Shaw
9 years 9 months ago
I can easily put myself into a consumer mindset, and I then give this topic thought. If getting into the store is a hassle of any type will–to me–put a negative spin on my emotions. A hassle from the store, being, shopping carts in the way, too many people in front of the entries waiting for something, or having a chat, too much vehicle traffic in front of entries, etc. These are annoyances, and can be store controlled. Thus, I feel the store isn’t what I want in my favourite store! I will shop, albeit with less enthusiasm, and the, annoyance trigger is more sensitive. That is when I really appreciate good, clear, well placed signage’ to get to what I am shopping for. I have found that several stores are quite lacking in proper sign usage, i.e. the only product signage is placed high up at the far end of an aisle and I can barely read it from the other end. Very annoying! I WANT to know, quick and easy, what aisle I… Read more »
Kathy Oneto
Guest
Kathy Oneto
9 years 9 months ago

Shopper marketing still is getting attention, but it seems all the new-found tools in the marketer’s toolbox may be stealing the show. Marketers are still interested in understanding the path to purchase and are investing here. The question is whether they’ll see it in an expanded view, versus still being about solely what happens inside the store. More and more, what consciously happens in the store is influenced by what happens outside the store.

Regarding retailers promotional materials, I don’t think there is one tactic that is going to work best for every brand other than incremental display activity. Beyond that, an in-store tactic has to be relevant to the brand and product and have excellent, effective execution.

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