CPGmatters: Campbell Soup Challenges Belief That 70 percent of Buying Decisions Made at Shelf
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from the monthly e-zine, CPGmatters.
The long-held belief that shoppers make 70 percent of their buying decisions at the shelf may not be true after all.
New research from the Campbell Soup Company proves instead that shoppers make 80 percent of their decisions to fill a specific food-consumption mission before they enter a supermarket. This is true for mainstream, center store categories with recognizable brands such as soups and shelf-stable juices, according to Phil McGee, director-shopper insights at Campbell.
The Campbell study differs from others by attempting to explain the path to purchase. In other words, rather than simply map the “who, what and where” of the path, Campbell’s research explores the “why, how and what could be,” said Mr. McGee.
“Context is king,” he emphasized. “Goals within context drive shopper decisions. If my goal is to buy for tonight’s meal and I’m in the supermarket, I’ll decide one way. If I’m planning for the weekend, and I’m home flipping through circulars, I’ll decide another way.”
To better understand how context affects decision making, Mr. McGee describes the notion of shoppers’ proximity to consumption. “The further away shoppers are from the time of consumption, the more aspirational they are when considering choices; this means health benefits become more important for foods that shoppers will be eating in the future. By contrast, shoppers in the store buying for meals they’ll eat soon focus primarily on sensory appeal and taste expectations, and secondarily on value,” Mr. McGee explained.
Generally, though, the study found the battle for value often takes place outside the store. Observed Mr. McGee, “Shoppers have already decided by where they go to shop that a particular store will give the best value for that particular trip. The retailer is a proxy for price, and shoppers generally won’t try to nickel and dime once there.”
The comprehensive study examined U.S. adults in eight different phases of research, including eye tracking, in-store observation and interviews, online interviews, in-home ethnography, EEG (electro-encephelograph) monitoring and mobile eye tracking. Within each phase, Campbell attempted to cover as many stages of the path to purchase as was practical — including living, planning, shopping and experiencing — in order to understand decision making activities and influencers within and across stages.
“This work taught us that people aren’t making their lists or shopping decisions only when they think or say they are,” he emphasized. “Ideas may come to mind at seemingly random times, like when going to sleep or driving to work. In fact, rather than two or three moments of truth, we find there are infinite moments of truth across the path to purchase. The good news is that some of those infinite moments are more influence-able than others. These are what we call ‘pivotal moments of influence.’ An obvious high proportion of these pivotal moments occur outside the store. Knowing where, when and how decisions are made helps shopper marketers make more efficient and effective investment choices.”
Discussion Questions: Do you agree that the retail industry has been wildly overestimating the extent to which purchasing decisions are made in-store? If so to any degree, how should that affect shopper marketing in-store and out-of-store?