The secrets of attracting and engaging more shoppers in-store when it matters… 

How do all the topics on this page come together to create a store…

Stand out in-store and make more meaningful connections with shoppers…

How to get your next new product onto the radars of more shoppers more often … 

Understand your competitive position from a shopper perspective…

Attract attention and engage shoppers much more effectively…

Discover what shoppers want from adjacencies and product group associations…

Add the shopper to your next category management strategy… 

What happens when real shoppers come face to face with your product on shelf?…

Proven formula for optiminsing in-store stand out and retaining more margin…

Find out how to make your products more desirable to shoppers in-store…

Identify how shopper needs and missions vary at a retail channel level… 

Shopper Research

  • Shelf Analysis
  • What happens when real shoppers come face to face with your product on shelf?…

  • Promotions Research
  • Proven formula for optimising in-store stand out and retaining more margin…

  • Product Research
  • Find out how to make your products more desirable to shoppers in-store…

  • Packaging Research
  • The secrets of attracting and engaging more shoppers in-store when it matters…

  • NPD Insight
  • How to get your next new product onto the radars of more shoppers more often …

  • Department Solutions
  • Discover what shoppers want from adjacencies and product group associations…

  • Channel Solutions
  • Identify how shopper needs and missions vary at a retail channel level…

  • Brand Research
  • Understand your competitive position from a shopper perspective…

Shopper Research
Shopping Behaviour Analysis

"What can I say "WOW", the learning's are great and the opportunity greater."


Are you blind to what shoppers see in store?

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What is Shopper Marketing?

Modern supermarkets aren’t just warehouses full of products, they are carefully planned and managed retail environments that are constantly trying to affect the decisions made by its customers – all thanks to shopper marketing.

You may now be asking; “what is shopper marketing?” Well the exact shopper marketing definition is a source of much discourse, but simply put, shopper marketing is an advertising approach that takes place within the retail environment. By leveraging shopper insights, brands, manufacturers and retailers attempt to change shopper behaviour through in-store advertising, promotion and other strategies.

It is important to note that this is “shopper marketing” and not consumer marketing. Since the main goal of shopper marketing is to change shopper behaviour in the short-term and within a retail environment, it is less important whether the shoppers in question are also the consumers – retail marketing is just interested in making sales.

How does effective shopper marketing take place? The process starts with a brand, retailer or manufacturer really understanding their categories and the behaviours of their customers. With these insights retailers and brands can then work to try and influence customers towards buying different brands than usual or even whole new products that they wouldn’t have otherwise purchased.

If you have ever walked into a shop for groceries, a magazine or anything else – you will have been subjected to shopper marketing – companies will have been trying to influence you into making a purchase you might not have otherwise made.

Some examples of shopper marketing strategy are very obvious; money off coupons and free samples are something everyone is familiar with. Both strategies are looking to impact your decision-making and get you to make a purchase there and then (shopper marketing is less interested in creating long last impressions.) A free sample of food in a grocery store, for example, can catch a shopper right at the time when they are most likely to make a decision based on their appetite.

Other approaches are a little subtler and can take many different forms depending on the product, the category and the target customer base. During football season, for example, snack and drink brands often theme their packaging and run campaigns to promote their products as being essential companions to watching a game – meaning that people interested in the football season are more likely to make impulse purchases of that brand. This is exactly what Carling has done with their recent £10 off football shirts campaign.

Similarly, retail stores will often have themed displays to influence shopping habits and behaviour, this can include in-store sweet displays for Halloween or crates of beer for New Year’s Eve. Such activities can be used to create category growth that benefits the retailer as well as effect change in market share for particular brands or manufacturers.

Shopper marketing techniques can provide a huge benefit to certain channels and can massively increase the value of impulse sales. If you think that shopper marketing techniques are right for you, then SBXL is the company you need to talk to for unparalleled business insight. Our team of experts can help you today, just call us on 01543 255 259 or email us at

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Category Management

Category management is an essential aspect of retail and procurement strategy that allows retailers to optimise their supply and retail processes to maximise profits.

The category management process involves splitting products, and sometimes brands, down into unique groupings and have each function as an individual strategic business unit. This allows each section of a retailer to be managed more efficiently – something that benefits both the retailer and the retail customer (and in some cases the retail supply chain as well.) Good category management is generally good for business.

There are six distinct steps (or eight depending on who you talk to) in implementation of category management for retail. The first of which is to define the individual categories. This is most effectively done using shopper analysis and insight to understand how shoppers view and interact with certain items. This is perhaps the hardest step in the development of a category management strategy, as there are so many different factors to consider – including how different types of consumer will interact with the same product categories.

Once a category has been defined, its role within the company needs to be understood. Is this a destination category for the retailer – do people come to the store specifically for this category and does the company hold a large market share in this category? Or does the category fit a seasonal requirement such as raincoats and swimming costumes? The role the category plays within the retailer’s aims heavily dictates the rest the category management plan.

The third step is insight generation. This step combines customer data, industry trends, shopper analysis, purchasing patterns and any other piece of relevant information together to build a strong picture as to how customers, products and categories interact. The better the research the easier the planning and delivery process will be – proper insight and strategic understanding is the most important resource available to retailers.

Once data has been examined, sales analysed and roles understood, it’s time to start the strategic and performance focused category planning. This is the way a retailer will actively deliver their new approach to a category. This approach could be price based – using special promotional pricing to increase sales of a category – such as a buy-one-get-one-free offer. Alternatively the category plan could focus on marketing and advertising – using in-store and external marketing to drive category growth. In many cases the final strategy will be a combination of many different elements.

The final two steps of category management are planning the final implementation. Developing the initiative – calculating the pricing and scheduling of the campaign as well as planning the actual launch itself – allocating resources, liaising with category managers and suppliers and every other practical aspect. If a company has gone through all of the above steps but not taken advantage of the opportunities offered, not provided improved sales and generally not made a profit because proper planning did not take place – then everything else was for naught. It is vital that actual practical implementation is planned as well as the theory.

After all the steps are complete and new category strategy is active, it is vital to undergo a review. This brings together all of the responsible groups – including the category manager or category captain – to examine every step in the development of the new strategy and the ultimate results, to understand how the brand or retailer can improve that process and add more value going forward.

Are you looking to improve your category management processes? Do you need better insights to create better results? Why not talk to the shopping insight experts at SBXL? You can call us on 01543 255 259 or send us an email at

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Retail Marketing

Retail marketing may be a term that you’ve heard used before, but perhaps you’ve wondered, “what is retail marketing? And how is it different from other kinds of marketing?”

As the name suggests, retail marketing has to do with the management of customer relationships and communications in the retail sector. It considers concepts such as brand positioning and how shoppers interact with the items on their shelves and, generally, covers the development of communication strategies that will drive purchases from shoppers.

Traditional retail marketing focused on the four P’s: the product itself, the price of the item, the promotion strategy and the place or location of sale. This strategy however, has slowly turned in to the four C’s – a new kind of retail marketing approach that seeks to work with new customer behaviours as changes in the market occur; consumer, cost, convenience and communication

These are the four key concepts behind modern, customer experience focused, retail marketing.

Firstly there is the “consumer” or shopper. It is no longer enough to just sell quality products or services, customers can buy a product anywhere and online reviews make product information widely available. To be competitive, retailers now seek to understand what people want and provide them with that – instead of selling a product and telling the target market that they want it through advertising.

Then there is “cost”. Cost is different from price as it goes beyond the pricing of an item set by the retailer. The cost is the value of money required to produce a result for the consumer. This can include real costs – such as the cost of fuel used to drive to and from a store or place of sale – as well as immeasurable costs – such as the cost of one’s conscience, to eat meat at a restaurant.

Instead of the place of sale – such as where on the shelf an item can be found, it is more relevant to consider the “convenience” of a purchase. With improved technology comes an ever growing number of available channels of sale and so the assessment of purchasing behaviour needs to reach beyond the walls of brick-and-mortar stores. Businesses now need to consider whether consumers are more likely to want to order online or by phone. If they’re shopping online, do they often make such purchases on a smartphone or a laptop? Understanding the shopper behaviour of potential customers allows for new sales opportunities for brands and retailers alike by removing barriers to purchase for their products.

Finally is “communication” instead of promotion. Instead of a single direction advertising campaign, the marketing strategy of the modern retail industry is more give and take, using a format that seeks to benefit both businesses and consumers. Outlets such as social media sites are a great way of communicating with customers on a personal level and are proven to improve customer loyalty.

But how do you take advantage of retail marketing concepts? Companies like SBXL offer insight into every layer of the retail shopper experience. As a shopper experts we excel in creating bespoke strategies through data analysis, customer studies and real insights. Our team provides retailing solutions and boosted business for our global clients – providing plans and strategies that make a real difference.

Do you want to know about how best to engage and entice your potential customers? Then get in touch with SBXL and talk to our experts on 01543 255 259 or email

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Shopper Behaviour

What is shopper behaviour? Is it marketing, economics or psychology? In reality, it’s all of these and more!

In the broadest use of the term, shopper behaviour is the study of how shoppers’ make decisions in regards to how they select goods and services – including the emotional, behavioural and psychological factors that precede or follow a purchase. In the retail world, the study of shopper behaviour has been used to influence the marketing strategies of some of the largest retailers and brands to help increase sales of certain products or lines.

The process of developing an understanding of shopper behaviour is a multi-faceted one. There is no individual influence that causes a person to interact with a product in any given way – rather there are many that all come into play at different times throughout a shopper’s purchasing decision process. These influences include internal influences such as a shopper’s motivation or perception as well as external influences, such as culture or social class. This is of course, ignoring issues such as brand loyalty, risk factors and other consumer behaviour modifiers that may impact shoppers at any point throughout the decision making process.

Another layer is added if customers are interacting with an entirely new product. New products infer a much higher risk to purchasers and in cases such as these, the adopter group of the shopper in question needs to be factored in. Early adopters for example, often fit certain profiles that are related to their desire to invest in new technology sooner. Conversely, laggards, the last adoption group – will often put off buying certain products or concepts until they are nearly obsolete.

Despite its complexity, understanding shopper behaviour is vital in the world of retail. This knowledge helps brands develop effective advertising campaigns and retailers optimise the shopper experience through the development of shelving layout, pricing, special offers and other influential factors.

The best way to understand shopper behaviour within any given industry is to undertake market research and analysis, to best achieve an overview based on real people’s experiences, thoughts and processes. Some of the best research methods seek to bypass the fallible nature of the human brain, in which a purchaser may not fully understand their own actions or decisions. Techniques such as eye-tracking or film-based shopper research provide indispensable resources for marketers and give unparalleled insight into purchasing process. This information can then be used to make changes to a store layout or change a company’s marketing strategy in order to increase customer spend and reduce lost revenue.

While some companies undertake shopper behaviour research themselves, many work with specialist companies whose job it is to provide expert shopper research and insight services. These companies already have a deep understanding of what leads a shopper to buy goods and services and can provide customer insights that internal project management might not. Such a service can result in a measurable increase in sales for the client business as marketing strategies are tailored to suite the shopper’s decision making processes.

If you want to learn more about shopper behaviour, why not talk to the experts? Give SBXL a call on 01543 255 259 or email us at

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Category Insights

Category management is a challenging job, keeping up with changing behaviours and adjusting solutions to increase profit. A category manager who attempts to manage categories without the backing of proven shopper research and information is like a car heading in every direction without knowing which is the right one. You need more than just a data to be a successful category manager.

The behaviour of consumers and shoppers changes almost yearly; solutions that worked in a category one year may not work for the next. Retailers need to carefully identify category trends and behaviours if they are to successfully develop a category or brand and offer effective category solutions. High quality continuous shopper insights can help your category management evolve with developing trends – meaning your performance can continue across the years!

How? The answer lies not with data alone but with added insight specialist research companies can give. SBXL offer such services, giving you the ability to understand the shopper’s experience of a category, letting you focus and improve on the real reasons for purchase.

Film based research will show you real reality – there’s nothing virtual about it, just real shoppers, really shopping. This solution lets you get real insight in to understanding how real people interact with real categories. Perhaps you need to understand how people interact with a specific new product. Place a small, unobtrusive camera near the product and let the category insights roll in.

Alternatively, why not try a recorded unaccompanied shop? This SBXL favourite technique is key to understanding the moment-to-moment decisions made by a shopper. During a standard interview you may find that a shopper can’t identify the specific reasons they bought a certain kind of food, but the level of recall and shopper insight offered by this market research technique makes it a great tool for business and category growth.

Utilising eye tracking technology is another great way to aid in the development of your brands and categories. This modern technology allows you to track the eye movements of shoppers and understand exactly what it is they’re looking at. This can help you learn how shoppers search shelves, or how they engage (or don’t!) with advertising and marketing materials. This depth of consumer insight gives you the insider knowledge to develop category solutions that reflect the real ways that people shop in your categories.

If you’d like to hear more, we’d love to chat. You can contact us on: 01543 255 259 or Email:

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Shopper Insights Research

How do you go about undertaking shopper insights research? How do you gain that real, usable data about shoppers, their behaviour and how they interact with your brands and business?

Maybe your company is a big fan of focus groups (hopefully not!), database marketing or a simple post-purchase interview with customers to gain some understanding into their thought processes. While these techniques certainly count as shopper research – do you really gain effective insight from them?

To be competitive in the modern retail businesses your shopper strategy needs more than second hand information that is lacking in accuracy. It needs knowledge and understanding of shoppers and their behaviour, gained from true customer insight – not something you can always gain from a public focus group!

Let’s take a step back for a second. What are shopper insights? And how do they impact marketing effectiveness?

Shopper insights are the results of shopper analysis taken and used to develop an understanding of what people want to buy and how they buy – identifying trends in consumer and shopper behaviour. Knowledge that companies can then use to deliver optimised marketing, category and brand strategies that deliver product sales growth and increase profits within their industry. It’s powerful stuff.

Here’s a free example for you. Current research data has shown that in recent years, consumers and shoppers have become more health conscious when it comes to their shopping habits.

Sugar consumption is on the decline. Sales of regular carbonated drinks have fallen and the UK Government is making an effort to have people cut back on their consumption of sugar. Nearly two-thirds of the country’s households are responding to this effort.

Ask yourself, does this give you any indication as to why or are assumptions made about shoppers behaviour? What are shoppers motivations for not buying as many sugary products? What are they buying in their place? You need to make sure your insights are detailed enough to truly understand your shoppers’ motives.

Shopping Behaviour Xplained are leading experts in shopping behaviour helping you uncover what really goes on inside the mind of your shoppers’. Going beyond traditional methods, we use our experience and creative market research techniques to help our clients understand their customer audience, and help change their advertising and shopper strategy to bring them success within their market.

So if focus groups aren’t the answer, then what is? What should your business do to help bring future success? You need research that really taps into what your consumers and shoppers actually do, not what they think they do or what you assume they do based on data. At SBXL we offer exactly that. No mucking about – just results!

Contact us for research and consulting in the challenging and evolving world of the consumer. You can contact us on: 01543 255 259 or Email:

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Grocery Store Industry

Food retail and grocery shopping are changing in the UK. According to the Euromonitor International report, Grocery Retailers in the United Kingdom, published in February 2017, discounters were the standout channel with a current value growth of 11% in 2016. The growth was due to rising consumer price-sensitivity coupled with ongoing expansion in the leading players’ store networks. Luxury discounting was also a factor.

In the competition for the markets, Tesco continued to be a strong leader in grocery retailers with a 21% value share in 2016. Part of Tesco’s competitive edge came from having a presence in a number of channels. It led with a 24% share in convenience stores, 36% in supermarkets and 20% in hypermarkets along with its presence in forecourt retailers.

In spite of these strong figures, Tesco still felt the impact of discounters and online sales, losing a third of a percentage point in value share in overall grocery retailers in 2016. In response, underperforming stores were closed, the outlet volume in supermarkets being cut 4%. Some of its value share loss resulted from price cuts, as the price of goods in a typical customer basket dropped by 6% between September 2014 and 2016.

The report predicted that the two channels expected to achieve significant value growth at constant 2016 prices were convenience stores and discounters. This is no surprise, echoing long-term trends. It’s back to the price-sensitive consumer heading to the discounters for their main shop and relying on convenience outlets for top-up shops.

Quality and the luxury discounting attracted mid- to high-income consumers to Aldi and Lidl, both of whom plan to continue the expansion of store networks. Discounters are the only channel in grocery retailers to see outlet volume growth. This is despite the weak pound sterling in the forecast period. The explanation for this resiliency is their focus on locally sourced products and their lean supply chain.

The economic recession and growing inflation has impacted consumer behaviour causing them to turn toward cheaper alternatives and discounter stores. Supermarkets reacted through price wars whereby prices were competitively lowered. Lower prices yielded the highest share of food volume sales on promotion in Europe.

The grocery retail market has been, and still is, volatile. In January 2017, Aldi leapt into place as the fifth largest supermarket in the United Kingdom, with continued growth and success.

I’m Phillip Adcock and my team at SBXL have spent more than 20 years studying the dynamics of the grocery industry. If you have any questions about the industry and the way that people shop, contact us via email or call 01543 255 259.

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Customer Shopping Experience

For years, one of the tenets of understanding the customer journey was the need to learn more about the customer experience at every touch point. That is, retailers needed to know about every point of contact that a person has with your store and your brand.

You need to know how they find your business. Is their first touch point a billboard, a sign outside your store, an advertisement, a Facebook post, or a tweet? How does your typical shopper find his or her way into your bricks and mortar store? The touch point is any point of contact that a consumer has with your brand – before, during, and after they make a purchase (or don’t make a purchase). Seeing an advert on television or reading a message on the side of a bus counts as a point. So does reading a Facebook post.

Think of the journey in terms of the customer lifecycle from initial point of contact through to customer service and satisfaction. With the technology of today and the dramatic shift to online shopping, the edges of our lives have expanded. Consumers are no longer tied to a single geographic location. There is a freedom from time and travel components in shopping that changes their experience and touch points in the retail world.

In 2014, Forbes described the internet of things as “the concept of … connecting any device with an on and off switch to the internet (and/or to each other).” It does not merely apply to things but it includes people. We are all connected – people to people, people to things, and things to things. Social media for example has created a massive network, connecting billions of humans. Imagine how complicated dealing with touch points can be with all this interconnectivity. With such a shift towards the internet, there has been an increased focus on how people shop online and how those shoppers respond to all marketing directed at them.

With this ability to purchase items from home, you might wonder how important is design to the overall consumer journey. Is it worth the effort to make an offer that needs to be seen and experienced to be appreciated? Or is shopping in a bricks and mortar store considered a poor use of time? How do online emporiums affect brand loyalty?

If you have any questions about the way that people shop, or want to discuss further, contact us via email or call 01543 255 259.

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FMCG Research and SBXL

If you are going to grab a soft drink or a box of tissues, chances are that you won’t bother comparison shopping. You are thirsty now or know you will be soon and you want your favourite soft drink. You just buy it. Quite simply, consumers buy out of necessity (you need shampoo) or habit or because these items are part of their everyday way of being. These low cost fast moving consumer goods have low profit margins but a huge volume of sales.

How can a retailer effectively market these fast moving items? Is it worth it because the profit margin is so low? I’m Phillip Adcock and I’d like to answer some of your questions. For now, let’s think about trends. What are the current and upcoming fast moving consumer goods?

In 2014, trends in FMCG included things organic, interactive marketing, and social media. Go natural, get your name on a bottle of Coke, share a hashtag on Facebook. That was then. What about now? According to Grocer Jobs, the 2017 trends in FMCG for the UK include healthy food, lager, licensed goods, African products, and flexitarian products.

Inside FMCG reported in January 2017 that the major food trends in the Australian grocery industry leaned toward health concerns. Wellness tonics, purple foods (the colour indicating high nutrient levels and antioxidants), coconut, Flexitarian, and Mindful meal prep were the products moving off the shelves quickly.

Here’s something I discovered, when it comes to the sale of these low profit items, 71% of shoppers who bought them on special offer would have made the purchase anyway.

Using the information gleaned from reports on the trends in fast moving consumer goods, a pattern can be seen. With the experience my team and I have in understanding the retail sector, the power of brands, the needs of the customer, and the value of testing the behaviour of shoppers, we are well situated to help in the development of an effective plan to place and promote huge amounts of fast moving items.

We know most customers will make the purchase because they need the item, with little motivation from special promotions. Sometimes it is as simple as having the item placed so that the shopper cannot avoid seeing it. Prominently placed purple food (in Australia at least) may hit the customer’s impulse button.

Some of my clients like to read more about product placement. However, while the search for data on the latest trends is intriguing, unless you understand the relationship between the shopper and these fast moving consumer goods, trend analysis won’t help your business.

This is where I can help. It is important to have expertise behind you here because more than half of consumer spending is for FMCG. I’ve spent more than 20 years studying the dynamics between retailers and paying customers. If you are interested in discussing how my market research services can help you, contact me via email or call 01543 255 259.

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Retail Marketing Research

In 2017, it makes sense to think that the right social media campaign will increase sales. There has never been a time like now to reach into the homes and hearts of consumers.

The catch is that companies need the right information so that they can tell consumers about their products and brands in an enticing manner. This typically involves the four Ps of marketing. These are product, price, place, and promotion. How do we know which choices we should make as retailers? Research. That’s the answer. Retailers need to understand shopping behaviour.

One traditional way of gaining insight into the customer experience is through a focus group or a questionnaire. Retail market research services asked customers what they liked, what triggered them to reach the point of purchase, take the big step and buy.

It seems like a reasonable way to approach the issue. To carry out effective brand advertising, you need to know what it is that appeals to the consumer. This is at the heart of marketing. With the right information and insights, retailers can implement the innovation and strategy that will drive their brands to the top. Where do you get this information? From the consumer. Right?

Yes. And no.

The concept makes sense, but to take a consumer’s word for what triggered or prompted the purchase is about as effective as throwing mud at a wall to see what sticks. Maybe it will stick, maybe some of it will stick, maybe none of it will stick. I’m sure you’re aware it can be expensive and time-consuming to set up a marketing program that misses the mark.

Even a successful business analysis, incorporating all the most recent insight into the impact of the global marketplace, online shopping, and social media can still miss the mark. What they miss is a true, deeper understanding of the process of basic human emotion found in what I call the ‘Lizard Brain’. If you recognise the power behind emotion, you will know how to market your company, your channel, your brand.

Marketers must understand the atavistic nature of shoppers. In spite of all the modern sophistication, we are still driven by the instinct for self-preservation. At our core is the need to survive. When we go shopping, our ancestral need for self-preservation waits in our lizard brain. Our cave dwelling ancestors liked high-calorie food because food was not always easy to come by. High calorie food helped us survive the lean days. In the grocery store, it’s human nature to look for high-fat, calorie-dense foods.

In a focus group, people can’t tell you these things. You miss powerful insight because this knowledge is found at the subconscious level. This is why retail market research can be such a challenge.

To learn more about effective retail marketing research, contact me on: 01543 255 259 or email

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Brand Blocking – What You Need to Know

Imagine you are standing in aisle looking for a box of chocolates to buy. You don’t know exactly what you’re looking for, but you’ll know it when you see it. How would you prefer the category be sectioned or “blocked” out on the shelf, vertically or horizontally? What would make it easier for you to find your perfect box of chocolates?

According to the latest shopper research, horizontal product blocking is the best option for shoppers in the majority of cases. You might be wondering “why does it matter?” well it’s because of how our brains and bodies have developed. We have two eyes that sit side by side in our heads, meaning that we have better horizontal view than we do vertical. This means it’s easier for us to scan shelves horizontally than vertically, something confirmed in research conducted by Xiaoyan Deng, Barbara E. Kahn, H. Rao Unnava, and Hyojin Lee.

The researchers analysed how horizontal, continuous displays versus vertical displays of alternative products influenced range processing, perceived variety, and subsequent choice. They concluded that horizontal displays are easier to process because of a match between the human binocular vision field (which is horizontal in direction) and the dominant direction of eye movements required for processing horizontal displays.

They also identified that horizontal blocking allows people to browse information more efficiently, which improves mental processing fluency, increases their perception of a wide assortment and ultimately leads to more products being bought.

Decisions, decisions…

Horizontal displays are not always preferable however. When shoppers browse horizontally blocked displays they are able to process variety and choice far more effectively, in these instances shoppers find choosing easier and have a higher level of satisfaction and confidence about their purchase decisions.

But what if variety isn’t a positive for that product category? For example, when you’re looking for your favourite brand of hot sauce or mayonnaise?

In situations such as this, vertical blocking actually becomes preferable. The vertical cut-off points created by the end of category blocks increase preferred product visibility – more of the product category can be viewed from one place and specific products are easier to find. So blocking definitely isn’t a case of one size fits all.

Product categories that are regular shopper destinations and “Grab & Go” in nature should be blocked vertically. However, categories that account for a more considered and browse focused shopping experience should be blocked horizontally.

How do you know whether a category is more considered or more Grab & Go? The answer: analyse actual shopping behaviour at the fixture!

For example, here at SBXL we segment shoppers by behaviour: Grab & Go, Considered, along with Experiential, Impulse and Inexperienced too. Each of these modes is determinable by behaviour alone, no subjective shopper interview responses or flimsy, algorithm based formulae; just indisputable, actual behaviour of real shoppers genuinely shopping.

In conclusion, when you want shoppers to browse the category and perceive that there is a wide range, then go for horizontal blocking. But when you want to optimise shopping efficiency by making frequently repeat purchased brands easier to find, then opt for vertical blocking. It’s that simple.

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The Dark Side of Black Friday

Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year, is almost here. Falling on November 24th this year, retailers have been strong to encourage participation in the forthcoming sales. Emails promoting early offers and temporary in-store displays promoting savings are two ways retailers communicate their offers with potential shoppers.

While we can’t predict exactly what will happen this year, in 2016 over the four days between Black Friday and Cyber Monday Britons spent a record £5.8 billion according to The Centre for Retail Research. Though Black Friday shoppers are often depicted as frantic customers, waiting hours before tackling each other for discounted electronics, the psychological reasons for partaking aren’t quite so crazy.

Picture Perfect

How information is presented to an individual can drastically affect judgments and decision making. This is a concept known as the Framing Effect, where people can reach different conclusions based on how information or a question is presented. Positive frames tend to elicit positive feelings and result in risk taking behaviour. Through the media, Black Friday has been glorified as the best day of the year to shop, associated with huge price cuts not to be missed. When exposed to this positive frame shoppers are more likely to be proactive buyers when sales are started.

Feelin’ good

Retailers work months in advance to create the perfect advertising campaigns for Black Friday. Teasing offers months in advance and forecasting exact deal dates increases anticipation leading to a stronger desire to purchase. Early anticipation for a positively associated event increases the release of dopamine, a pleasurable reward chemical that will keep shoppers on the edge of their seat!

Likewise, when deals are released, the brains reward system kicks in. Instinctually when we see a sale we’re rewarded with feelings of pleasure and satisfaction because really, who doesn’t love to save money?

Going, going, gone

A key focus of Black Friday is the emphasis on the limited opportunity shoppers have to buy. Why? Because scarcity increases desirability. When an object is scarce humans assume its value is higher. Online deals during Black Friday accomplish this particularly well. Displaying how much stock has gone along with how much is left creates a real sense of urgency.

Commonly referred to as The Fear of Missing Out, the motivation to avoid losses has been shown as more effective than a desire to gain. During Black Friday, visibly seeing what products have already gone coupled with the looming deadline to buy before the day’s end directly targets human beings’ instinctual preference to avoid losses.

The allure of Black Friday bargains speaks to human nature. The build-up to limited time offers drives people to impulsively buy. Keeping a clear head amongst the masses is key to grabbing a real bargain. It will be interesting to see how Black Friday evolves this year. Not only to see the change in spending but also if retailers are able to get shoppers off the computer and into the store.

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Pound Stores – Helping You Save Money?

It’s a simple concept really – everything for £1. Discount stores are becoming increasingly recognised, broadening their appeal to even the richest AB demographic. How exactly can a store offering products at just a pound continue to profit?

Although today pound shops are still known to sell some unusual products, the similarities to any other conventional supermarket is ever growing. Aisles are arranged in a logical order, food and drink to go are available in the nearby fridge, seasonal specials change as in other stores and well known branded products are piled high throughout.

‘It’s only a pound’

When the price is merely a pound, we feel confident in the price and in control of our purchases. You pick up 5 items so know you’ve spent five pounds.

Entering discount shops creates an environment of cheapness, shoppers flock through the doors into an area where everything seems affordable and relax knowing they can afford anything. Studies have shown this triggers chemicals in the brain that create a happy feeling, in turn they are more likely to spend more.

The Perfect Illusion?

It’s virtually impossible to walk through a pound shop without seeing offer after offer. The packaging itself screams a bargain. Get an extra chocolate bar in this pack for free or 50 percent more in this bottle – all to create an illusion of a big saving. Although you may only go in for one item, the vast offers can trigger costly additions to the planned budget. In fact, nearly a third of sales in pound shops come from impulsive buys.


Putting well known branded products at the front of the store creates a feeling of trust and encourages shoppers to enter. It’s almost like they’re entering a normal supermarket, just cheaper. However, as shoppers find themselves deeper in the shop, products found are often “phantom brands” – essentially own-brand products that do not feature the discounters name. Through phantom brands, the discounter avoids potential negative assumptions over quality and adds to the impression of getting a brand at a bargain.

More for Less or Less for More?

Although we feel like we’re getting a great deal, this isn’t always the case. Remember discounters have their own special pack sizes which could see you getting less for your money. That’s not to say pound shops are intentionally misleading shoppers, the size is clearly printed on its products. Nevertheless, shoppers often don’t realise they are buying a smaller version and unwittingly pay more for less.

The pricing strategy to ‘Pile ’em high, sell ’em cheap’ has made its mark in discount retailers everywhere. Consumers spend more than they plan to, impulsively grabbing what they consider to be a bargain. While the one bargain you may set out for is offset by the 7 other items you pick up, discounters are still increasing in profit and continuing to grow ever more popular with shoppers.

What are your thoughts? Do pound stores represent good value? We’d love to have a conversation – in the comments, by tweet or email us at

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Hidden Horrors of Halloween

Spooky to think it’s already that time of year. Moving ahead of valentine’s day Halloween has become the third largest holiday for retailers, behind Christmas and Easter. To put the growth into perspective the £12 million spend in 2001 increased to roughly £310 million in 2016 (Mintel), but what’s the reason for the growth?

A clear draw to Halloween, much like any holiday, is the pause from stressful lives. Whether you’re painting yourself green or dressing your cat in a cape, Halloween is an escape, an exciting one at that. Another opportunity Halloween brings is the ability to embrace the ordinarily supressed childlike desires, urges within the person to do things they perhaps morally shouldn’t and usually wouldn’t. When you have a mask on, playing another role, it feels more acceptable to act on these instincts, so we swap our workday wear for more outrageous, playful Halloween costumes.

According to online giants eBay, more than 2 million searches were made for ‘Halloween Costume’ last year between September and October. Clearly the retail opportunity during the Halloween season is frightfully good providing the perfect opportunity for brands and retailers to be as weird and creative as they like.

A Trick or A Treat?

Releasing limited edition product range is one method retailers and brands apply to win sales throughout the year. The public get excited about the reintroduction of limited available products only offered seasonally. Would they be as excited if they could get it any time? It’s unlikely. The knowledge of a limited-edition item motivates people into buying what they perhaps wouldn’t normally.

Halloween creates a scarcity effect, seeming from the supply side as the retailer deliberately controls the supply of the product, intentionally creating retail situations which force the consumer to acknowledge the goods displayed are scarce. When the believe of scarcity is successfully installed instore, retailers and brands can instil a psychological pressure to buy into the shopper.

There are two ways scarcity can be marketed. Limited editions are the classic example of limited-time scarcity. As retailers establish a date upon which the item won’t be available anymore, shoppers are fearful they will miss out if they don’t quickly take advantage of the promotion. Shoppers online are often subject the second, limited-quantity scarcity. As more products are sold, the scarcity of said products increase, creating shopper uncertainty. When low stock availability is shown online, shoppers are practically competing against one another. Achieving ownership of such scarce items can create a feeling of pride, almost like they’ve won a bargain, what’s more they feel they’ve succeeded over their fellow shoppers.

A holiday which previously focused on children, Halloween isn’t just for kids anymore. Whether you partake by buying and handing out sweets, watching scary films, carving a pumpkin or dressing up, the interest in the event is higher than ever with sales of food, drink, décor, fashion, and beauty all profiting. Though not exclusively responsible for tempting shoppers, strategically promoted limited offers create shopper urgency and influence buying behaviour.

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Retail… Where the Price Doesn’t Matter

It’s not the price of your product that determines how many people buy it… Rather it’s the price of the other products shoppers see before making their choice!

The perceived value of any product has a lot to do with a psychological principle called anchoring. With anchoring, the first number you see influences any number you see after it.

For example, if you see a bulk display of bourbon whiskey in the supermarket, with each bottle priced at £14.99, and a nearby bottle with a price of £29.99 – then the latter is considered very expensive. However, if the £29.99 bottle is seen in context with a £59.99 bottle then the same bottle of whiskey is seen as much better value.

Anchoring offers and incredible opportunity for brands and retailers. During standard decision-making, shoppers rely heavily on reference prices and other data as comparison points for future purchases.

This process plays an important role on how we understand and assess the price of products – both in brick and motor stores and online. Psychological anchoring is especially applicable to goods that we are either unfamiliar with or where price is less important as to the final purchasing decision.

It’s all about context

Imagine that you are buying a new car for £30,000. Then paying a further £230 for a cup holder so you have somewhere to put your coffee while you drive – seems reasonable. But what if you went to your favourite coffee place and paid £2.60 for a skinny latte and they tried to sell you the same cup holder at the same £230 price? In one situation, the costs seem reasonable – in the other it’s incredibly expensive.

Psychological anchoring doesn’t only apply to cost – it can influence wide range of perceptions, including whether an item is good or bad quality or healthy or unhealthy. Anchoring can even dictate as to whether we buy a product at all given the circumstances. You wouldn’t pay £1.50 for a 330ml can of soft drink in a supermarket, but while at a rock concert – with it’s expected increased drink costs – the same price is a bargain. This latter example shows just how powerful a simple anchor can be in influencing our perception of value, and certainly undermines the notion that decision makers are perfectly rational beings.

When it comes to buying groceries, research suggests that we use similar goods as our anchor points. For example, when buying a jar of coffee, we tend to look at the prices of a selection of products to help us work out what price represent good or bad value.

Psychological anchoring causes a strange problem when it comes to the release of entirely new products. Consumers have no point of reference and so aren’t sure what an item is really worth. Brands can take advantage of this and can actually dictate the initial anchor price themselves – often by setting a high anchor price, so that subsequent discounts and special offers make the item appear more of a bargain.

Concepts like psychological anchoring highlight the importance of psychology and behavioural economics within retail. Ask yourself, are you considering engaging a psychologist or a behavioural economist?

When determining how much to charge for our products, we should let psychology and behavioural economics help us. Shoppers don’t see items on a spreadsheet, they see them in-store and online next to other similar products and brands. And it is there and then that they anchor themselves to a perceived value and reference price. With that in mind, how appealing do your products really look?

To find out more about what you can gain from behavioural and psychological shopper insights, talk to our experts on 01543 255 259 or email

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Contact‘less’ Pay ‘More’

Payment technology have more of an effect on people’s economic behaviour than we may expect. What you buy is surprisingly dependent on how you pay for it and how you pay for it can have a detrimental impact on spending habits.

Contactless payments and mobile wallets like Apple pay are threatening the concept of cash entirely. As once paper notes replaced metal coins and electronic banking reduced the need for cheques, contactless payments are now doing the same to cash. If they do succeed in replacing cash payments it could mean a huge change in shopper transaction.

The pain of paying

The benefits are obvious. To shoppers, convenience is key. There’s no need for stacks of cash or a purse full of jingling change. What’s more convenient than paying with a mobile device glued to peoples’ hand, or waving a card and being done with it?

In today’s society, we have instant access to such an extensive array of services and information. People have become accustomed to quick service with immediate results. Contactless payments have understood this and provide the instant gratification humans crave and removing some commerce barriers, making it easier and faster to get what you want.

There’s also a security with contactless that cash doesn’t have. if cash is stolen it’s gone but if a card is stolen a simple phone call to the bank will fix the problem. This security gives the shopper minimal liability.

Overall, the experience itself is a less painful one. Literally handing over a material object has a very different psychological effect than waving a contactless card. The “tangibility of notes and coins creates awareness (conscious/unconscious) that something of value is being exchanged”. Contactless cards and Apple pay are such transparent ways of paying, to the shopper it’s virtually like playing with monopoly money. People don’t feel the immediate loss of money, it just doesn’t seem like a ‘real’ transaction. It’s essentially guaranteed that if you were to ask someone how much they spent via contactless when leaving the shop, they couldn’t tell you.

While people do spend more with cards over cash, they also reach for contactless to pay for even the smallest of purchases our spare change would once have covered. A coffee to go, a bottle of water, even a pack of gum. These small amounts individually may not amount to much but collectively cashless payments could drive society into a state of over consumption, little by little. Impulsive and frivolous spending would increase because the less you think about the purchase, the more likely you are to make the purchase.

So, would a world without cash be all that great? A world where every payment made would be traceable, what you buy, when and where you buy it. A world with over consumption and possible debt?

If you’d like to hear more, we’d love to chat. Contact us on +44 (0)1543 255 259 or email us at

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What’s the core to Apple’s success?

The long-awaited iPhone 8 was officially launched Tuesday (September 12) along with an iPhone 8 Plus and the premium iPhone X. Arriving on the iPhone’s 10th anniversary, the smartphone is an upgrade on the iPhone 7 with added features we’ve not seen before.

Last year, fans queued up outside Apple stores five days ahead of the release date. This year a man was spotted camping 10 days ahead. Seeing fans camped outside Apple stores is nothing new, it’s happened every year since the first iPhone launch in 2007. Apple have an immense following and rumour of a new product triggers intense anticipation.

But have you ever wondered why Apple is so successful? Why do people go to extreme lengths for a smartphone? Apple most definitely weren’t the first to invent a portable music device, tablet or smartphone. Yet Apple have a brand loyal following like no other.

So how do they do it?

The want factor

Research has shown people often favour a perceived upgrade without first evaluating the one they currently have. This is a phenomenon known as “comparison neglect” and the launch of the iPhone is the perfect example. The concept is strongly associated with another, known as “planned obsolescence”, where products are produced with a deliberately short lifespan. As soon as a newer version of the product becomes available, the old edition quickly become obsolete.

Are Apple guilty? On a two-year release plan, it’s hard for someone to purchase a new edition before rumours of an upgrade circulate. Along with such swift cycles, the differences are becoming somewhat less apparent. Yet people still throw their money down.

Apple make a notable example and it’s easy to point out the cycle at work, but other manufacturers are just as guilty. Companies’ long term strategies are to keep things fresh and retain long term shoppers. If their products didn’t change and update there would be little room for company growth. Nonetheless, the customer certainly doesn’t have to buy an updated iPhone, or even get a smartphone in the first place. So why do we choose to take a bite out of Apple again and again? It’s more than just manufacturer manipulation.

Evolution – From the seed to Apple

Most people like to believe they make decisions based on rational analysis of available options. However, it’s not so simple. Emotions are hugely influential and in many cases determine our decisions. Cost vs brand name for example. Emotions are the reason we decide to pay more for a brand name even though there are cheaper alternatives.

It’s well documented that emotions are influential in shopping behaviour. Research conducted by the Advertising Research Foundation concluded that the emotion of “likeability” is the measure most predictive of whether an advertisement will increase a brand’s sales. Consequently, Apple have gone beyond just the practical service the iPhone offers. Delving into the far more important emotional connection loyal customers have. Simply put, the richer the emotional content and association, the more likely brands will hold on to that shopper loyalty.

Possibly the most important function of emotion is survival. It’s human nature to choose between fight or flight to ensure self-preservation. In modern society it’s unlikely we will be faced with fighting off vicious wild animals or fleeing from a raging river. More likely, in society today being left out is enough to activate the fight or flight response. “Fear of missing out” (FOMO) can cause physiological stress, not having vital information, and not feeling part of the group is not a feeling people seek out. Some people will double their efforts to actively avoid the feeling of missing out. This insecurity, coupled with aggressive social media, causes us to crave the latest technology. Additionally, through evolution our brains have been wired to meet needs like security and social status. When we’re rewarded with an upgraded phone for example, dopamine is released reinforcing our behaviour and can lead to addiction.

Clearly then, when it comes to continuous phone upgrades there are several factors at play. Whether we buy based on our ancestors before us, or are tempted by recently discovered psychological prompts, there’s no doubt Apple have established a well-structured strategy. Setting an almost impossible precedent to match.

We’d love to hear your thoughts. Are you planning to get the new releases? Do you feel Apple is forcing people into buying upgrades? Get in touch on 01543 255 259 or email

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Back to school? Already? They just left!

Amidst the joys of summer, it’s hard to think about the looming date of returning to school, but summer is now winding down and that day is fast approaching. As with most holiday seasons, Mother’s Day, Easter and New Year’s for example, retailers are pushing promotions earlier and earlier to secure market share. For the back to school season, some retailers were reeling out their back to school promotions as early as late June.

Pens, folders, uniforms and more…

Listed alongside various other holidays, the back to school season may seem like an odd period for retailers to make effort with. However, looking closer, it’s easy to see the value and opportunity the market holds. School shopping is in fact a big business with pens, folders, bags, gadgets and uniforms being just a few examples of items on everyone’s list. The US back to school market alone is set to grow 14.8% to $74.03 billion in 2017.

Emotions lead everyday decisions

Although these back to school supplies are often due to practical needs, needing bigger size shoes for example, there are also underlying psychological needs from both children and parents alike. When we think of the new school year there are various associated emotions. Excitement and anticipation yes, but also anxiety, fear, sadness and stress. Getting new clothes and supplies is often used to raise confidence and increase levels of happiness and excitement.

If an individual is feeling anxious, decisions are often made to avoid perceived threats. When shopping for school for example, the threat of not having what you need or being the only one without the latest trend may be enough to encourage spending. Known as risk or loss aversion in behavioural economics, it’s the idea that people are more worried about losses than gains. Retailers create this illusion by pushing promotions that may scare shoppers into buying for fear of missing out.

The shopper

Through all this, it’s important to remember who the shopper really is, often that’s the parents.

Surely adults make rational decisions when it comes to shopping? Well in fact parents are just as susceptible to yielding to their psychological needs as their children. While children want to buy to stay connected to their peers, parents want to buy to stay connected to their children; to feel like they have more control when their apart. Using school shopping as a way to give themselves confidence in their child’s school environment, parents often over buy to be assured of their child’s happiness.

As true as when we buy anything, we think about when we might use it in the future. Perhaps parents picture their child on their first day, walking into class and setting on the table all the equipment they could need, perhaps for some, a little too much! Children picture making new friends, having the right clothes, fitting in and feeling included.

Getting school shopping done early is just another way for parents and students alike to feel confident and prepared.

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I Scream for Ice Cream

Temperatures this summer may not have stayed where we’d like them to be, but in the UK the few heat waves saw sales for ice cream rise. Competition is high and numbers dwindling nevertheless, in an industry worth 1 billion pounds a year, ice cream vans are still on the streets.

As children, hearing the repetitive chimes of an ice cream van would cause overwhelming excitement. As adults, although the uncontrollable eagerness may have melted away, we are certainly still keen to queue up for an occasional treat.

The Power is in the Chimes

Classical conditioning, a phenomenon discovered by Ivan Pavlov in his well-known dog experiment. We all know the one, ‘Pavlov’s dog’, involving an automatic response between a ringing bell and a salivating dog. There’s not a better real-world example than the chimes of an ice cream van. Regardless of the reward, dog food or ice cream; or the subject, dogs or children, the chimes are still there.

To children, the sound at first means nothing. Only after they get an ice cream or two will they gradually associate the noise with a reward. Though the association may be simple at first, when discussing adults, there’s more at play. Hearing the chimes transports us back to childhood. Running down the road to chase the van. Reaching up to take the ice cream from the hands belonging to a hero in your eyes. Even licking the melting ice cream off your fingers.

Our senses are incredibly powerful at transporting us to memories far forgotten, whether they’re good or bad, the more emotionally connected we are, the more likely we are to remember them. Ice cream is one of the most nostalgic foods, our ears picking up the chimes from streets away, undoubtedly the happy memories that come along side are a significant influencer to buy or not to buy.

The Road Bump

On a sunny day, the biggest limitation of ice cream vans is the price. With a reputation of being expensive, it’s hard for owners to compete with big supermarkets when they can’t buy and sell the produce as cheaply.

Although price isn’t as important as once thought, trust is. Increasing the price of a 99p flake to £1.50 can be seen as a violation of trust and customer loyalty may be lost. Though all isn’t lost, there are advantages the ice cream van has over the supermarkets today. Alongside the important emotional connection, there are a few additional influencing factors worth a mention.

Would you believe there are rules ice cream van owners must adhere to? For example, the chime is to last no longer than 12 seconds and can only be played every 2 minutes. It’s also not allowed to be sounded before noon, or after 7pm. These rules are comparable a concept known as the fear of missing out in behavioural economics. The rule suggests people are more concerned with loses than gains, by this reasoning as the chimes get closer as the van nears, only to fade or stop completely, subconscious panic sets in that you may be missing your chance causing you to rush out in search.

Another advantage is the shear convenience. You’re outside in a park on a hot sunny day, a shop 10 minutes away or a van 10 metres away, what do you do? Most people would pick the van, not necessarily because people are lazy, but because convenience is efficient. In today’s society, people have instant access to a wide variety of services and information. People like quick, it’s a form of instant gratification and the need for it increases each day. Simply put, we value instant gratification over long term gain. Walking those 10 metres to be rewarded quickly outweighs walking 10 minutes for something cheaper.

It doesn’t need to be said that there is a lot of competition for sales. What makes the difference is appealing to the customers real desires. Whether they’d admit it or not, price certainly isn’t everything to the shopper. Decisions often aren’t logical, emotions and social factors are hugely influential. The field is only expanding, with more and more being understood regarding human and social factors in decision making.

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Why You Should Stop Analysing Customers Who Already Buy Your Products

We all know that the best shopper research takes place in-store, at the shelves, where the purchasing decisions are made. However, too many researchers focus only on the behaviour of existing category shoppers – those already buying their product.

If you really want to grow your market share – you need to focus on people who don’t buy your product, people who might not even be in the aisle! It’s these shoppers that you really need to convince.

Take chocolate and confectionary for example. According to our studies a typical supermarket welcomes 1,000 shoppers per hour. Of this number, 50 people visit the confectionary aisle, of which only 70% of them buy something – this means that only 35 people out of 1,000 will buy something from the confectionary aisle per hour.

Typical shopper research is conducted in one aisle – analysing just 5% of a store’s footfall. The real kicker is that those being researched are buying confectionary anyway! Too many brands are spending large sums of money to research those already buying from their category – rather than growing their shopper base.

Have you ever sat and thought about why people don’t buy your product? Rather than why they do?

A lot of non-customers are just customers-in-waiting and so there’s always a way to grab more people’s attention and gain their business – whether that’s through increasing your products visibility or by making changes to the product itself; introducing different sizes and types to fit holes in the market.

There’s More than One Way to Place a Product

A great way to increase product visibility is by identifying the needs that your product meets. Then you can identify which other categories meet those same needs and display them nearby. Going back to chocolates, they could be paired with Flowers, Alcohol, Films, Health & Beauty, to name but a few.

Displaying a box of chocolates nearby any of these categories will more directly link them with other needs that consumers are looking to meet. With boxes of chocolates being hidden away with the Wine Gums and Popcorn, shoppers may not make the connection between buying a gift and a box of chocolates for example – they will however think of a bunch of flowers; especially as the flowers display is one of the first things you see in modern supermarkets. Displaying chocolates near the flower display creates that link for the shopper while also increasing product visibility – creating purchasing opportunities outside of the single confectionary category.

This issue isn’t unique to confectionary. There are many products that meet the same needs that are often displayed nowhere near each other, for example:

Shopper need: Energy

Potential solutions: Banana, Coffee, Energy Drink, Cereal Bar, etc.

Shopper need: Healthy Foods

Potential solutions: Vegetables, Whole Foods, Multi-Grain Cereal, Health Snacks, etc.

These sorts of insights can’t be learned from just staying within your own product category – shoppers don’t shop in just one aisle! You could spend your shopper research budget analysing existing category shoppers – searching for insights from existing customers only. Or you could link your brand to an occasion or need and the product will sell itself!

Shopper research agencies like SBXL can also provide much wider, multi-category competitive set insights, helping you deliver significantly more growth by increasing not just loyalty, but category penetration too.

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