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Role of Consumer &Shopping Insights in Marketing

The best way to initiate discussions onconsumer insights is to quote former Harley Davidson President and CEO, Richard Teerlink, about what the legendary motorcycle brand epitomizes for an American:
“The adventurous pioneer spirit, the wild west, having your own horse, and going where you want to go – the motorcycle takes on some attributes of the iron horse. It suggests personal freedom and independence”.
By associating their bikes with an all-American insight of freedom and individualism shared by the whole community, the company created not only a motorcycle, but an American icon and a devoted group of riders (HOG) who shared the kindred spirit of pride in ownership!
Talking about consumer insights, Harish Bhat (CEO & MD, of Tata Beverages) mentioned in his Business Line article (May 9, 2014) that marketers should actively seek insights by observing consumers with a keen eye.
Obtaining Consumer Insights
Consumer Insights may be describedas deep unarticulated veracity about consumers that expound their behavior and bonding with brands in novel, distinct ways which may be leveraged to modify or change consumer perceptions& attitudes through marketing communication.
So how can these insights be obtained and understood? The best possible way is to observe consumersin action and listening to their conversations both online and offline. For example looking back to the exemplar growth story of today’s generic brands Dettol& Band Aid, their success is mostlyattributed to consumer insights consumers were using these products in their homes.
The 80-year old brand Dettol in India was initially marketed as a disinfectant in hospitals and for injuries and wounds in households. But close observation &listening to consumers, a very useful insight emerged that it was used as a disinfectant in the shaving process and also for floor cleaning. This helped the company to communicate the product as an effective disinfectant for several different applications that later helped it to garner more than 80% market share in the total antiseptic liquid market today.
Band Aid has a 36-year marketing history in India. The launch, acceptance and growth of this brand may be totally attributed to consumer observation & insights. The first step was to win a place for the brand in an Indian market that traditionally believed that the wounds heal faster when the red liquid medicine (Tincher) was applied and the wounds were kept open. The application of Tinchercaused burning sensation for children who feared it. The companyintroduced a red color compound (benzalkonium chloride)in its band plaster as a non-painful red medicine and convincingly communicated to the mothers about the need to cover the wounds to prevent dust infections. The second important insight that required attention was the need to keep these plasters dry for homemakers while working in their homes. They also were the people who often used these bands for minor injuries caused by knives, scissors or needles. The result was the launch of water-proof Band-Aid; also different shapes for different sizes of wounds! All the above important observation & insights resulted in the brand garnering a 60% share in the bandages category.
In her new book, the Never Before World, RamaBijapurkar has provided many interesting insights on behavior of consumers and their purchase decisions. One illustration is given below:
“A young worker in her building bought a new Honda motorcycle paying a premium to the list price because stock was limited at that particular dealership. His old bike was on the verge of a complete breakdown and had to be replaced urgently. When he was asked as to why he could have not bought an older model at a cheaper price he replied that for the next 3 or 4 years he will not be able to buy a new bike. So he wished to buy the latest model now so that he could still stay current for the maximum number of years. The value proposition: willing to pay a little more for owning the latest model as the future was uncertain”.
The above insight highlights the aspirational values of the young consumer wanting to be on social parity withhis peers and at the same time fulfill the functional and conditional values (Sheth-Newman Gross Model of Consumption Values) of performance, budget and fashion.
Some Important Shopping Insights
Observing consumers while they are shopping can be a source of some very important consumer insights as aptly described in the book: “Why we Buy – the Science of Shopping” by Paco Underhill.He discovered over 900 aspects between the shopper and the store. These insights are termed as shopping insights.
Three important measures that need to be monitored by a retailor to enhance relationships with customers are: the conversion rate – percentage of shoppers converting to buyers, the store interception rate which is the percentage of customers who have some contact with an employee and the waiting time: the amount of time spent in waiting which can directly affect their satisfaction.
In our society today, everyone is in a hurry! There exists a“dead zone” region (mentioned by Paco Underhill) in the entrance areas that must be kept free of any buying materials as customers normally rush through these areas and do not glance at anything except for the store timings! Also the quick shopping experience could be improved by freeing the hands’ tactic of providing a counter where customers could rest their stuff. Ease of shopping can increase the buyer conversion rates!
The store interception rate definitely improves the shopping experience and also reduces shop lifting! This has been comprehensively demonstrated by the sales people of Nordstrom (The Nordstrom Way by Robert Spector and Peter McCarthy) who are known for their extraordinary customer service leading to customer relationships of epoch durations!
Underhill stated that if the waiting time for shoppers is too long, their impression of overall service plunges. Customers tend to remember negative details longer that may hurt the reputation of the store through word of mouth. Also placing a chair for men while ladies are shopping almost doubled the amount of shopping!
A Consumer Research Insight
One interesting insight that was obtained while doing research on middle-class urban Indian women was on how women decide when to buy what for their family members versus buying for themselves. The following lines describe a respondent’s buying behavior with regards apparels purchase:
This respondent preferred making all purchases for the family herself and at the retail outlets where the prices are at the lowest. But for her own clothes she was willing to take the risk of buying online without even personally seeing the products. She was satisfied with the products and services online. The reasons for doing so as expressed by her are:
“Online is better than offline, it is hassle free, do not have to go through the fatigue of going physically to the stores to shop. It is very convenient. The designs shown on
line are trendy and similar variety is not available at retail outlets. Prices are reasonable and sometimes cheaper. Payment has to be made only after the delivery is made at the doorstep in a period of one month”.
She also described an incident wherein she had to return a dress ordered online that was paid for on delivery, due to it not conforming to the material as promised by the website. The dress was taken back and her payment was reimbursed in 15 days. This incident did not deter her from continuing shopping online! Does she represent the new generation of empowered young, confident consumers?
Consumer Insights as a tool for business growth
Insights are a profound understanding of consumers’ motives, values, desires and aspirations that determine their lifestyle, their thought pattern and their bonding with the brands. These can be leveraged to be developed into a profitable business idea, to change consumer attitudes and behavior through marketing communications and aid strategic decisions that ultimately drive business growth.
New product development process and brand communication are mostly designed based on insights derived from consumer markets.A most recent example is that of the Oreo Cookies:
The people at Oreo told consumers to “Eat the middle first and save the chocolate cookie outside for last”. The insight was that – children love what they instinctively discover for themselves. The clever part is that tens of millions of individual Oreo eaters still think they came up with the idea first as is reinforced by the Oreo advertisements!
Certain insights help to change certain behavioral situations as was the case for P&G Pampers. The marketing campaign focused on the very important insight on the mother’s heartfelt desire to see her baby playing happily, learning and developing well. A baby free from wet nappies for a longer duration is undeniably most welcome for a young mother! So the “Pampers Active Baby with 5 star skin protection”- comfortable fitting diapers that keeps skin dry for up to 12 hours was launched & promoted with great success!
The point of payment in retail stores where there is often a waiting line, display of small but important or attractive necessities often triggers unplanned but desired purchases by consumers! This may be observed in all self-service departmental stores. This helps in increasing the volume of sales and also reduces the boredom of waiting in the line of payment!
There are several more examples of successful brands that have been developed and built on interesting consumer insights. It is not an exhaustive list!
In conclusion, it may be stated that observations and insights do play a critical role in designing marketing strategy, enabling cost-effective product positioning and communication and profitable business growth.