Shoppers Make More Purchase Decisions In-Store: New Study
By Jack Grant

With a prolonged recession, high unemployment, and a persistently challenging economy, most  U.S. grocery shoppers are looking to save money where they can. Trimming back the weekly food bill is a place to start. So when does a consumer decide to buy certain products? Is it when making a shopping list at home, when perusing the store circular online, when cutting out the Sunday newspaper FSIs, or in the store?

Three of four shoppers – 76% to be exact – are making that decision in-store, says a new study.

“The findings from the study clearly tell us that as in-store and shopper marketing professionals we have some areas for opportunity and improvement,” said Richard Winter, president of the Point of Purchase Advertising International (POPAI), which conducted the research. “Even as other emerging mediums and technologies alter the path to purchase landscape, this study underscores the importance of planning the in-store experience to win over shoppers where it matters most – at the point of purchase.”

The trade group’s 2012 Shopper Engagement Study paved the path for in-store research by using a combination of groundbreaking EEG and eye-tracking technology to attitudinal findings and shopper interviews in-store.

So what does today’s shopper look like compared to the shopper of yesteryear?  The study found five key findings that in-store and shopper marketers should note when developing and implementing shopper programs. Those findings are:

Today’s shopper is making more decisions in-store than ever before. They are more empowered than ever before to make educated and responsible buying decisions. Surprisingly, more shoppers are using in-store marketing and branding cues to make an overwhelming portion of their purchase decisions. Today’s in-store decision rate has reached an all time high of 76%. To determine the in-store decision rate, purchases are broken down into four categories: Specifically Planned, Generally Planned, Substitutes, and Unplanned. The in-store decision rate is calculated by taking the sum of the purchases that fall under Generally Planned, Unplanned, and Substitutes categories.

The in-store decision rate is one of the most reliable measures because it is based upon pre- and post-shopping interviews; that is, what a shopper anticipated to purchase versus what they actually purchased. Given the uptick in this key metric, it is clear that retailers and brands who fail to provide the in-store marketing and education the shopper seeks out risk pushing shoppers into the arms of retailers and brands who are embracing in-store marketing.

If you’re not putting your brand on ‘display,’ you’re less likely to put your brand in the shopper’s basket. Today’s shopper has more product choices than ever before – from organic labels to premium labels to private labels. If manufacturers are not using in-store marketing to put their products on display, they’re likely losing out in the battle to get those products into the shopping basket. The study found that nearly 1 in 6 brand purchases are made when a display with that brand is present in store. The product categories in supermarkets with the highest brand lift were toaster pastries, pickles/relish, dishwashing soap, and pet supplies. 

Overall, a clear pattern emerged suggesting that displays in general are best targeted to a core group of loyal, female
stock-up shoppers, even when she shows elements of high degree of pre-store planning in the form of list making and circular use.

Retailers are not fully maximizing the multitude of opportunities that exist to enhance the in-store experience. Today’s shopper spends less time – but significantly more dollars – during the shopping trip. Whether it’s using easy-to-find product displays in secondary locations or working with brand marketers to develop customized in-store display materials to reflect the unique retail environments, retailers have plenty of opportunity to turn their in-store marketing up a notch. It is worth noting that in 1995, nearly half (47%) of displays were placed in secondary locations. By 2012, this number has risen to 60% as retailers have embraced the notion of cross promoting items and locating displays away from the home aisle.

Compelling creative not only sets apart in-store marketing, but it can turn the subconscious shopper into a conscious buyer. Today’s shopper can choose from a huge number of SKUs on the shelf. While most are unaware at the number of cues and visual information they are processing on a subconscious level, one thing is certain: When presented with a compelling and visual display, they become engaged and conscious to the value proposition being offered. When asked if they recall seeing any in-store displays, nearly six of ten shoppers (56%) remember seeing in-store displays. Endcap and free-standing displays were cited most frequently.

The study found that a notable number of eye fixations (13%) were made on in-store displays. While this number may sound low in the field of eye-tracking and neuroscience, it is quite high. Moreover, 66% of all observed “grabs” resulted in a purchase, which underscores the importance of capturing the shoppers’ attention and getting them engaged with the product. 

Shoppers who use debit/credit cards are more susceptible to impulse purchases and make more decisions in-store. Those who use non-cash payment methods find themselves with greater flexibility to spend more than they plan to – and they do. They buy larger quantities and make more unplanned purchases than their cash paying counterparts.

Shoppers fare poorly at accurately predicting how much they are going to spend at the store each visit. The average shopper misjudges the amount she will spend—either high or low-- by 35%.  Even when accounting for impulse purchases, nearly six often shoppers (57%) still spend more than they planned. Not surprisingly, shoppers are least able to accurately predict how much they are going to spend on items they do not plan to buy. Those who “overspend on impulse items” do so by more than 200% of what they expected to spend on impulse buys.

To view the complete findings from the topline report of the study, visit

Follow CPGmattersEzine on Twitter
                                                                               June 2012