Why We Need to Understand Shoppers


The difference between a consumer and a shopper is a mindset, not a person

One of the first questions we get asked as Shopper Marketers is “what is the difference between a consumer and a shopper?” The reason why this answer is so important is because it raises the question as to whether Shopper Marketing is a distinctly different discipline to Consumer Marketing and what role it should play in your business.
Shopper Marketing is not about convincing people to choose your brand when they do buy, it’s about getting into shoppers’ baskets … more baskets, more often and buying more each time.

This concept of “Consumer vs. Shopper” is relatively easy to understand when the consumer and shopper are different people, in other words, a mother buying for her child would be a shopper buying for a consumer, but it often becomes a grey area when the mother is doing most of the shopping for her household and in many instances, is likely to be the shopper and the consumer.

Irrespective of whether the shopper is the end consumer or not and who they are buying for, consumers switch into a different mode when they enter a store. It is this ‘shopper mindset’ that you need to understand.

Insights from OBSERVISIONTM have shown that consumers switch out of ‘consumption mode’ and into ‘shopper mode’ when they walk into a store. In ‘shopper mode’ their energy and focus is on fulfilling their needs for that shopping trip, trying to remember what to buy, finding what they are looking for and evaluating the prices and promotions on offer to determine whether and how much they will buy.

With all these things to think about, consuming the product is not that top of mind.

Shoppers are far less likely to be thinking about using the product or the brand experience, unless you remind them.

We are overwhelming shoppers. The more we do this, the less they think about using our brands … which is bad news for manufacturers and retailers

The challenge facing retailers and manufacturers is that it is becoming increasing difficult to engage shoppers. They have a wide repertoire of stores that they will shop at. Shoppers are not loyal to retailers, they shop at stores that will best serve their needs at that moment in time; they do very targeted shopping in-store (89% of shoppers only shop 25% of the store) and invariably leave the store without fulfilling all of their needs either because they forgot to buy, didn’t realise that they needed it, couldn’t find what they were looking for or felt that the price was more than they were prepared to pay.


In an attempt to satisfy all these needs and get shoppers to buy our brands, we are bombarding shoppers with product and brand messages. The problem is that everyone is shouting at the same time and rather than being heard, we are simply creating more noise.


The next time you walk into a store, take a look around. In a typical supermarket there are over 600* activations at any one time! *source: PromoCheck


Most of the time we are shouting our brand name at the shopper as they walk past but what we need to be doing is talking to them.


Effective Shopper Marketing requires more than just brand presence, it’s about getting shoppers’ attention and influencing them to buy. Visibility drives awareness but relevance creates conversion.

We need insight into our shoppers needs, thought processes and behaviours if we want to connect with them

Inperspective’s syndicated Shopper Study, Shopper Diary, has revealed that shopper typologies are not defined by what brands people consume or their demographics.

How you shop is intrinsically linked to ‘who you are’… but it’s not that surprising when you consider how much of our shopping behaviour is sub-conscious…


The ‘who you are’ that I am referring to here is that aspect of your personality that steps forward when you walk into a store. Naturally people shop differently when they are buying different categories, they display different levels of involvement, are more or less likely to spend in the category and so on; but our research has shown that the way to engage different shopper profiles and the kind of tactics that are likely to appeal to them tend to be fairly consistent across categories (in other words we see nuances in behaviour, not radical shifts, when we examine their behaviour across a broad range of categories).


To demonstrate the point, the ‘Deal Seekers’ and ‘Stylish Selector’s (two shopper profiles derived from Shopper Diary 2012) have different needs, even though they may be similar in terms of demographics, life-stage and even the brands they consume.


Deal Seekers’ try be responsible. They plan, check prices and / or compare pack sizes to get good value, but they love the excitement of getting a good deal and can easily get carried away and spend more than planned … usually because they were reminded to buy or tempted by a treat or bargain! They often make emotionally driven choices as they are torn between getting a good deal and getting what they want.


Stylish Selectors’, on the other hand, want the best and this is reflected in their appearance and brand choices. They strive for success and want to look the part. They buy the brands they prefer irrespective of price. They buy into premium offerings and are prepared to pay more (in unknown categories, they would choose higher priced items because they believe it is better quality). They work hard and don’t have a lot of time for socialising so buy into products that make them look and feel good.


While these two individuals may appear to be similar as consumers, how you engage them as shoppers is fundamentally different. ‘Deal Seekers’ need some kind of value offer, or perceived value, to entice them and help them justify their purchases; whereas the ‘Stylish Selectors’ are unlikely to even notice this activity. What appeals to a ‘Stylish Selector’ may be perceived as irresponsible to a ‘Deal Seeker’.


In building an effective Shopper Marketing Strategy one of the first things you need to know is how to get your shoppers’ attention and understand what will influence them to buy.


If you want to use your space effectively to talk to shoppers, you need to know how to speak their language and understand their culture so that when you try to talk to them, they stop and listen.