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

"Very strong team at SBXL from field work to analysis helped us to produce a compelling analysis of the champagne shopper behaviour."

Moët Hennessy UK Limited


Are you blind to what shoppers see in store?

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Shoppers can't tell you how they behave

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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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Retail Research

There are many components involved in conducting retail analysis. Any investigation into how shoppers shop and what entices them to buy, is an intricate interplay of human behaviour, and global patterns of supply and demand. Such investigations involve understanding capital markets, investor relations, and having access to the latest consumer research.

Over the past 20 years, consumer behaviour has shifted, not just in the United Kingdom, but globally. The digital world has had a major impact on consumers. It may take a little longer to wait for delivery of an item, but the range of available choices compensates for the delay. Big discount stores remove a great deal of the personalisation of a neighbourhood store, but the prices compensate for that lack.

Traditional methods of marketing may no longer make up for shortfalls in consumer appeal We may think that the ability to touch and smell products will keep consumers coming to old-style marketplaces, but is this based on reality? In a world that is increasingly fast-paced, convenience, coupled with lower price points, seems to be a bigger factor than sensory satisfaction. It is a combination that is hard to compete with.

Retailers need to make changes. According to the Econsultancy report, Digital Intelligence Briefing: 2017 Digital Trends in Retail, retailers say that they compete by focusing on differentiation through customer experience. The tools they use to engage with their customers are virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR). Econsultancy’s quip sums it up, “Retailers sell products. Retail leaders sell experiences.”

IGD’s Retail Analysis notes that the shift to shopping online for food and groceries means that “bricks and mortar stores must rapidly evolve and innovate to remain relevant.” The big question is how can a store, living in a digital world bring fresh food and taste experiences to the buying public?

IGD identifies four forces of change in retail: resource resilience, altering authorities, societal shifts, and transformative technology. The bottom line, according to IGD, is that store ranges and designs must be reconsidered; staff are the differentiator, products must be unique and delivered with inspiration and engagement. Also, measures of success must be revamped.

There is information and expertise available on the various sectors involved in the development of corporate services that will keep the typical retailer ahead of the curve. While it is possible to read the reports and gain insight into your retail business and know the market share in your sector, the real key to success is in knowing the industrial and financial backdrop, as well as having extensive knowledge of the global market place and the client psychology when it comes to making a purchase.

I’m Phillip Adcock and SBXL is my company. I’m one of the world’s leading authorities on shoppers and shopping. My team and I constantly study the market place and the consumers who use it so that we always have a strong understanding of both the trends and responses. Contact us for research and consulting in the challenging and evolving world of selling merchandise. You can contact me on: 07960 109 876 or Email:

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In-store Promotions

Big name premium brand and product demonstrators in brick and mortar locations are expected to drive traffic into the impulse buy mode. Print and online promotions target existing customers, and attempt to lure new ones. This type of advertising has been a consistent factor in marketing in the past in the United Kingdom.

Marketers may be focused on figuring out how the experience of encountering a product demonstrator in an in-store promotion event be duplicated online. Are there better ways to promote online? Will a coffee machine demo work in a huge discount store? Does it matter? Online stores rely on low overhead and, as discount stores do, rely on cheaper prices.

Do in-store promotions have to a) be limited to actual brick and mortar stores? and b) do they have to be a hands on experience? Sure, being able to touch and feel products may appeal to the consumer, but the growth in online shopping proves that convenience and price are compelling factors too.

Aha, you say. There must be clever ways to combine an in-store plan with the flexibility of the internet. Before you rush off to your tech department with a great idea they can transform into an online equivalent, let me tell you something valuable about the value of such a promotion: It may not be worth the effort. I’m Phillip Adcock and I’ve researched more than 150 psychological insights that can affect a promotion’s performance.

Here is one hint that might surprise you: every extra syllable of a price reduces the likelihood it will be remembered. A nice round number such as £9.00 is more memorable than a cutesy £20.17.

How about this? Special offers with restrictions (for example, an offer limited to two per customer) are more appealing than an offer without restrictions.

These may seem counter-intuitive, but this is how shoppers shop. Rather than focus on new and appealing ways to bridge the in-store/online or grocery store/discount store differences, your best bet is to talk to me about the best way to approach in-store attention getting. My ability to know the psychological triggers that allow consumers to see what they see when they shop, can save you from money-losing decisions.

Shoppers do not always see what is on the sales promotion you think is eye-catching. They more often than not see the complete opposite to what you think the sign said.

Quick. Here’s  a test. Comparing store promotions examples where the price on the product is £39, £34, and £44, which price had the most appeal? I bet you guessed £34.

If you did, you would be wrong.

It was the £39 price tag. It attracted 23% more shoppers. They just prefer prices that end in 9. Go figure.

Investment in consumer psychological awareness improves the effectiveness of your marketing strategy, and gives you an advantage. I encourage you to use your advertising budget wisely.

I’m Phillip Adcock, a leading authority on shopper behaviour. For further information on instore promotions and how this information can improve your business, contact me on: 07960 109 876 or email:

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Customer Insight Strategy

Suppose you have been successful in developing a customer insights strategy and discovered an actionable insight or two. What do you do with those actionable insights? More importantly, how do you know that they are actionable insights? Will they provide a growth in your business value?

Why do you need an actionable insight? Primarily to know where to start and what to focus on when drawing up a plan of action. Before going into that, we need to step back to the very first elements of the strategy. Customer insight (CI) strategy is all about understanding your customers. Regardless of who you thought your target market is or should be, your customers are those that your aim is actually hitting. Priority must be given to interpreting the data you already have, but unless you are able to interpret it properly, your effort is useless.

Simply stated, the basic element is not so much about hitting your target market, as it is about understanding who your target market is. That is, who are you attracting? If who you think you are hitting are not the ones you are actually reaching, then all the marketing in the world will not help. You’ve got to line up these two things one way or the other.

You also have to align the reality of what is happening, with what should be happening. This is where you look at the ideal plan of action, and compare it with the existing plan of action to find the gaps. Yes, you got it? Good old gap analysis to the rescue.

Concurrent with CI strategy, you need business & marketing strategies in place. Once you can identify the behaviour of your shoppers, you will be better able to bring your strategic priorities into alignment with the approach to marketing for success. Shopper feedback is a powerful form of research – if it is properly conducted.

I suppose by now you are thinking that this is going around in circles. In a way it is, somewhat like a snake eating its own tail. It is all intertwined. Oh, and there is something else I must tell you about shoppers. It is difficult to dig into the truth of that particularly mysterious labyrinth because even the shopper cannot tell you why they like what they like or buy what they buy.

Phillip Adcock is my name and shopping behaviour is my game. I’m not trying to discourage you from doing your own shopper insight analysis and building your own shopper insight strategy. I’m simply trying to let you know that there are tricks to this particular process and I can help you decipher the steps to take. You need the competitive advantage that these insights are able to provide. I can help you turn customer insights into profit. I have the experience, knowledge, effectiveness, technology, and tools that can help in this endeavour. My effective results speak for themselves.

For further information on consumer insights and how this information can improve your business, contact me on: 07960 109 876 or email:







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Consumer Insights

What are consumer insights and how do they impact on marketing effectiveness? It would be great if there were an easy answer to this question.

Hang on. There is an easy answer and having that answer can transform your marketing strategies. I know this because I am Phillip Adcock, a leading expert in shopping and shoppers. My team and I have developed ways to uncover what really goes on inside the mind of a consumer. Our business is consumer insight and our consumer insight techniques go far beyond using a focus group.

Chances are that what you think motivates consumers is not what actually does motivate them to make their purchasing decisions. How could you know why they buy what they buy? They don’t know either what prompts them to choose the products they choose.
When you advertise to the public, you are building brand awareness, and you may believe you are building a future for your brand and your company. Your advertising is useless if it does not reach the customer you want to bring into your store. Your brand won’t sell unless your strategy is attuned to the brain science factor of your customers.

You bring your own experience and have years of research and insight behind your thinking. Part of the challenge in getting your share of the market, is finding out what segment of the buying public you are actually attracting. There is data available on what people eat, the age of the people who eat certain products, the demographics of the digital shopper etc etc. Armed with this, what strategy should you implement? What do the results tell you?
This is 2017 and enormous strides have been made in learning how the human brain works. Not only has the ability to get past the consumer’s consciousness and into the consumer’s subconscious made a difference in understanding shopping behaviour, the changing nature of the shopping experience plays a very large part in how people shop.

Studies show that people increasingly shop online. A study of Christmas shopping in December 2016, revealed that 53% of Christmas shopping in the UK was conducted online. A marketing education from even a decade ago won’t do. One from five years ago might be challenged in grasping the nuances of influences on the modern-day consumer.

Here are a few examples of the pressures that change consumer behaviour, according to recent research from Kantar. One example is that they are more health conscious. Sugar consumption is on the decline. Sales of regular carbonated drinks have fallen by 12.7%. The UK Government is making an effort to have people cut back on their consumption of sugar and nearly two-thirds of the country’s households are responding to this effort.

Another example is the change in men’s shopping behaviour. The have simplified their grooming routines. They use less shampoo and deodorant. More men have facial hair. Men also are more likely to be buying their products rather than having someone else shop for them. Oh, and they are getting fussier about their beer, preferring premium branded beer.

Your marketing strategies need to take these types of changes into consideration. You need to know how do they impact your retail business. That goes without saying, but your marketing strategies also need to be able to tap into the nature of why shoppers buy.

For further information on consumer insights and how this information can improve your brand and your business, contact me on 07960 109 876 or email

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Grocery Store Industry Analysis

Is the grocery store industry really changing all that much?

At the beginning of 2016, the industry buzz was about shifting industry trends toward online grocery shopping and increasing competition from discounters. The whole industry was responding to a massive and elemental change in how people shopped for their food. The prediction was that online shopping would increase from 5% to 9% by 2021. Research into the data indicates that these are still huge factors in the grocery industry’s performance.

As for the competitive price wars at discount stores, Aldi and Lidl had been growing quickly in 2015 and the anticipation at the beginning of 2016 was that the grocery market would settle down and the Big 4 would continue to perform very well.

That was then. What about now?

In February 2017, Euromonitor International reported that the discounters were still the “standout channel in grocery retailers” throughout 2016 with a growth of 11% over the year. This growth was the result of increasing price-sensitivity, expansion of leading discount store networks, and a greater focus on luxury discounting.

Of the Big 4, Tesco remained on top with a value share of 21%. However – and this is a pertinent point – it did drop slightly in overall grocery retailers for the two reasons that the grocery industry is shifting: more people shopping online and increasing competition from the discounters. Sainsbury’s and Asda also lost market share in 2016. Morrisons increased its sales by 1.9%. Discounter Aldi moved into fifth place in the grocery store ranking in 2016.

IGD reported that discount retailers’ sales, with Aldi and Lidl at the helm, continue to grow. In 2016, their sales increased almost 41%; up from an increase of 0.9% in 2015. The discount channel’s share of total UK grocery sales alone was up to 10%, an increase of almost 3 percentage points.

According to IDG, online is the only segment growing more rapidly than the discounters segment. IDG’s prediction is that online shopping will increase 68.3% over the next five-year period.

Retail Economics reported in February 2017 that online grocery sales had risen to 10.4% over the past year. This surpasses the prediction at the beginning of 2016 for online grocery sales for 2021. Kantar Worldpanel reported that worldwide, online grocery sales grew by 15% and now hold 4.4% of the market. Lest you think 4.4% is not much, globally it translates to $48 billion (USD).

Supermarkets and grocery stores seem to remain confident in strategy despite the changes, not just the changes brought about by online shopping and discounters but also the other changes in grocery retail. Other changes include an increasing attraction to convenience stores for top-up grocery shopping coupled with a major shop at a discounter and the success of the government-driven focus on a healthy eating programme (more fruit & veg, less sugar).

In a fast-paced world, supermarkets & grocery stores need speed, which means they need a strong supply chain. Discounter Lidl has an automated picking operation and a case packing system that gets products to the stores and on the shelves quickly. Grocery retailers have been reluctant to turn to technology such as this because of bad experiences in the past. The development of new technology is changing this.

Category management and shopper engagement is one thing. Contending with the big picture is another. I’m Phillip Adcock and I know the big picture. Contact me on 07960 109 876 or email

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Category Development

Category development is an art as much as a science. Before explaining this, let me talk about the Category Development Index (CDI). This is the measurement of how well a category measures against its competition. There is a formula for this. It is quite simple. It is the category at retailer divided by the category in market multiplied by 100.

If the CDI is less than 100, the brand is considered underdeveloped and if it is over 100, it is overdeveloped. There is the attendant pressure to achieve a CDI of 100 and focus on developing the underdeveloped category and stepping back on the overdeveloped category.

Before you decide that hitting the perfect 100 score on a CDI should be your goal, bear in mind that there are other factors that come into play. You are looking at one category. Chances are good that you have more than one category in your retail market. If you shift your focus to ‘normalising’ the CDI in one specific category, what about the other categories in your store?

If you could manage to be even across all indices, would that make your retailing experience perfect. Not necessarily. It would mean that your store is aiming at the average market consumer. In addition, it means that you are aiming at the average brand in that category.

It is a complicated interplay between the average consumer, which in reality, may not even exist, and the average brand which may not remain static for long. Success can come from focusing on a niche rather than hitting a perfect 100 in the CDI for any brand or segment.

Your management strategies might be better served by studying new product development and planning more sales per annum, rather than category management analysis. Category strategy & development are, as I mentioned above, both art and science. There are huge opportunities to be derived from the insights that category analysis can offer. However, to fully identify the trends, measure the influence, and develop an action plan, you need the proper training in interpreting the factors involved in assessing a category’s position in the overall marketplace.

What is the retailer trying to accomplish in this category? What is the retailer’s strategy? Based on a specific target consumer and goals for the category, retailers need to focus on what the plan is, or should be, for each brand and each category.

In a category, a private label brand and a premium brand hold different positions. Should the retailer treat both the same, attempting to achieve a CDI of 100 or should the retailer look at the premium brand and focus on the best way to feature it and come up with a different strategy for the private label brand. The price point and the market for each is different. One may need more shelf space and the other may need more display.

I’m Phillip Adcock, a leading authority on shopper marketing. If you need advice on strategising your category development, contact me on: 07960 109 876 or Email:

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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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How to Join the Dots of Multi-Channel Shopping

It’s accepted common knowledge that the internet has had a negative impact on the performance of brick and mortar stores. A new report from the University of Southampton, however, claims that this doesn’t need to be the case. The two shopping formats can co-exist, but they currently aren’t.

The report explains that the advantages of online shopping have changed what shoppers want from brick and mortar stores – it’s now more about the shopping experience than the simple need to shop. It goes on to say that such stores need to invest in an enhanced shopping experience to survive.

The report also details the rise of the convenience culture. It states that: “An evolving ‘convenience culture’ in combination with increasing levels of internet retail are together creating structural changes in the way people shop”

On the subject of Multi-channel shopping, the report reveals that, some retailers are finding it hard to keep up with this modern behaviour but that this does not suggest the ‘death of physical space’. Rather, it points towards the need for significant changes in the way physical stores operate.

“In the light of new technology trends, retailers should focus on people and not on devices. It’s about using technology to return to understanding the consumer and offering personalised service.”

It goes on to say: “Forecasts for 2019 suggest that the convenience store grocery sector will account for almost a quarter of total UK grocery sales; conversely, the once dominant ‘superstores & hypermarkets’ sector market share is set to collapse.”

The report concludes by saying that the “experiential” side of shopping heightens enjoyment and increases the amount of time and money spent in a store.

In summary, online and bricks and mortar channels are NOT the same and shouldn’t be treated as such. What’s more, the Internet supports rather than replaces bricks and mortar retail with online by providing shoppers with a more convenient means of buying the same thing again. Whereas bricks and mortar is better suited to introducing shoppers to new brands and products by way of a physical shopping ‘experience’.

The data behind the report suggests that multi-channel retail is currently far from ideal and is failing to protect physical retail outlets. It appears that too many decision makers are attempting to force this rapidly evolving shopping behaviour into their existing strategies. Instead, they should be focusing on creating a new, multi-channel shopper oriented business model.

Our ongoing study of the similarities and differences between online and traditional bricks and mortar shopping is also very revealing. It has shed new light onto the facts and fiction relating to this modern retail phenomenon of multi-channel. One thing we have discovered for sure, is that when it comes identifying today’s shopper needs, it’s no good regurgitating yesterday’s shopper research.

To find out more about multi-channel shopping and how bricks and mortar stores can co-exist, talk to our experts on 01543 255 259 or email

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What’s love got to do, got to do with it?

We all know the aim is to get more shoppers buying, but we can’t afford to ignore the challenges faced in getting them to buy again, and again.

Browse, Buy, Repeat

Shopper loyalty is hard to come by in this modern society, with so many brands fighting for shoppers’ attention, loyalty is often forced to take a back seat. Products with similar features, pricing and packaging are all thrown at shoppers who on average see two offers every second.

Emotions and rationality are important factors in the shoppers decision to purchase, the weighing of each however, varies considerably on the circumstances. A shopper may choose a certain brand because they don’t have a choice but a sale’s a sale, right? In fact, in this situation the lack of an emotional connection means there is no loyalty for the shopper to come back for more, meaning the sale could easily go to another brand next time. All the shopper had to go on was reason, the features and functionality, but without emotion, indecision is imminent and a gamble for your brand.

Undoubtedly building a relationship with customers is key to loyalty, and loyalty is linked to trust. It’s safe to say there is always an element of trust in any transaction, customer loyalty however requires a little more. We associate with brands emotionally, at a subconscious level, making sure this connection is strong should be a goal of every brand. Why? According to Gallob consumers with an emotional connection to a brand spend 46% more on that brand, compared to those they have no emotional attachment to.

Need More Convincing?

It may sound strange but the less consumers think about purchasing, the better for that brand, as long as you’ve established that customer loyalty. We all have specific products we regularly buy, almost unconsciously, price doesn’t matter and we won’t settle for anything else. Simply put, emotional loyalty can be one of the biggest barriers against competitors.

Emotional loyalty offers more though, the best examples are when a customers loyalty turns them in to ambassadors of sorts for the brand. They become a walking, talking, free advertisement for your brand.

What are your thoughts? Any studies to share with us? We’d love to have a conversation – in the comments, by tweet or email us at

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As Shrinkflation Soars Is Shopper Loyalty Lost?

Shrinkflation, a concept that’s been all over the news and causing outrage among many, is not a particularly new concept. Receiving its name from the fact that while the product sizes are shrinking, prices aren’t. Up until now, no solid data had been provided and while we knew it was happening the extent of shrinkflation may still come as a surprise. According to The Office of National Statistics (ONS) as many as 2,529 products have shrunk in size over the past five years but are still sold at the same price.

Although certain categories have certainly been hit harder, confectionary for example, products from toilet rolls to fruit juice have been impacted by shrinkification. The most memorable and most used example may be when Toblerone, owned by Mondelez, spaced out its triangles and reduced the weight by roughly 10%. Although there has been some speculation as to the accuracy of the claims, expensive imports such as cocoa have been held responsible.

Two options… Shrink the product or increase the price

Economists often assume shoppers make decisions rationally, that price is the most important aspect in decision making. The idea that people focus on and use one prominent measure, such as price, as representation of the whole product is known as representative bias. While it’s true people can be rational, in the real-world shoppers are emotional and pay less attention to price than often assumed.

The most important aspect?


If brands have done their job right and created trust between themselves and their shoppers, brand loyalty is difficult to break. If price was all that mattered, many brands wouldn’t succeed – with so many offering the same products at different prices. So why do shoppers buy the more expensive options again and again? Because they’ve connected with that brand at an emotional and often subconscious level. Gallob suggests consumers with an emotional connection to a brand spend 46% more on that brand, compared to those they have no emotional attachment to.

That said, wouldn’t it be better to be honest with customers? To tell them there is a price increase and some of that cost will need to be split with them? Putting trust in them to stick with the brands they love?

Instead, shrinkflation leaves customers feeling deceived. While firms may be able to ensure product size doesn’t appear to shrink by much, the recent uproar may have been avoided if the packaging had also changed and brands had announced and explained the alterations.

In the end, the power lies with the shopper, but brands can always help persuade their decision by building a trusted relationship. Done right, shopper loyalty acts as a strong barrier to brand competition and shoppers will in fact pay more.

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The Difference Between Shoppers and Buyers

Buyers and Shoppers both want to purchase products, but for very different reasons.

Healthy negotiations between retailers and their suppliers are all well and good, but they shouldn’t negatively impact the ability of the retail industry to meet the needs of the millions of shoppers that visit supermarkets every day.

Currently, retailer buyers and the brands that supply them are locked in an ever more artificial war. Stores want to find new revenue streams from the brands while brands are trying to find ways to retain margin from sales.

While this numbers game continues, reality takes a back seat and decimal points are the winning factor. During all this back and forth, one vital aspect in being overlooked – The in-store needs of the customers – those who are responsible for the salaries of supermarket executives, brand account managers and everyone else connected with grocery retail!

Do Modern Supermarkets Work for the Shopper?

Take a look at the typical 21st century supermarket and ask yourself how well they meet the needs of shoppers. Yes, they can be efficient, stock laden warehouses. Yes, they may allow for cost effective seasonal flexing and changes to the layout and yes, they may shout ‘special offer’ from every angle. But are these things what shoppers really want? Are they truly what will drive shopper engagement, loyalty and spend?

Let’s consider the following 3 examples:

Firstly, the typical store has around 50,000 products for shoppers to choose from: do we really need that many? Do shoppers really desire a choice of 300 different cheeses? Do any of us really need a selection of more than 100 coffee products and a further excessive number of different pizzas? Is part of the rise in discounter chains due to the fact that they have a smaller, more mentally manageable range?

Secondly, when shoppers are looking to buy special, luxury items like a bottle of champagne do they want the exact same shopping experience as when buying a bottle of bleach? Of course not! But that’s what they currently get. Should the summer dresses be in the same retail environment as the potatoes? No: But they are!

Finally, what about special offers? Assuming 20% of products are on some form of deal at any point in time then your average shopper has to withstand the onslaught of 10,000 offers. If each shopper spends 40 minutes doing their weekly big shop and passes by just half of the products in-store, then they’ll be exposed to 5,000 offers: That’s more than 2 every second and that’s more than any person can take in!

Modern retailing isn’t a partnership between shopper and retailer, nor is it an agreement between retailer and supplier – it is a 3-way relationship. Retailers need to stop treating their spaces as simply a housing unit for the product brought in by their buyers and begin to focus more on the emotional needs of their shoppers instead.

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What’s the Best Kind of Special Offer?

Would it surprise you to hear that there isn’t a ‘best kind’ of offer? It actually doesn’t matter one bit which kind you use! Although supermarkets bombard shoppers with offers and deals, the fact is that they’re often just giving money away!

Why do we say this? It’s due to the nature of the human brain and how the modern shopping experiences interact with it. When shoppers are faced with two different special offers every second in the supermarket, it is impossible for them to calculate the added value of each one. As a result, their subconscious takes over and decisions are made based on emotional ‘best guesses’.

  • For example:Sales of DVDs priced at £4.24 increased when a sign said ‘Two for £10’
  • 45% of shoppers buying from a BOGOF display of tea only bought one
  • Sales of a leading lager, supported by an impactful shelf edge label (SEL), soared by 10 per cent compared with rival brands – the label read: “Thieves will be prosecuted”

The example of the beer is perhaps the most surprising, but it has a simple explanation. When faced with 85 different brands and ranges of lager, the brain automatically tries to slim that number down to a smaller, more manageable quantity by any means necessary. So if products have a unique feature such as a special offer or an eye-catching SEL, the brain will use these distinguishing features to help make a decision.

 The Truth Behind Promotional Offers

The fact is that although shoppers are influenced by product promotions – they don’t take in the details. As a result, the subconscious takes over and shoppers tend to fill their trolleys with items regardless of whether or not they are good value.

At SBXL we send teams of researchers into stores to monitor how real people really shop. We know that the human brain just cannot cope with the number of decisions they have to make in a store. In numerous studies we have carried out, it is clear that the precise nature of a special offer or deal was much less important than how that same offer grabbed the attention of the shopper.

We’ve increased product prices and caused sales to rise. Altering the layout of the SEL has led to significantly more sales with no change in value at all. In some cases, just introducing a promotional colour has resulted in an increase in sales share of more than 30%.

The message to retailers and brands is simple: it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it!

To find out about the psychology of special offers, talk to us on 01543 255 259 or email

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Packaging Unwrapped – 3 Design Secrets

Product packaging is an often-misunderstood art – it’s not enough for product packaging to look nice (though it’s a bonus if it does). Carefully designed packaging, assessed in isolation by the board of directors, looking at it on a boardroom table, is completely different to immersing it in amongst 50,000 other items on a 21st century supermarket shelf.

The most successful products have packaging that engages with shoppers on a psychological level – but how do you really do that?

Read on to learn three of the best kept secrets of using product packaging to boost shopper engagement.

The Right Hand Rule

90% of people are right-handed. This may sound like a useless little tid-bit but it is far from that. When it comes to packaging, images on a product that are orientated towards the shopper’s dominant hand are more likely to evoke a motor response to pick up that item.

A number of studies have shown that packaging with an image orientated towards the dominant hand of the shopper results in heightened purchase intentions. Conversely, products orientated towards the non-dominant hand can actually lead to decreased purchase intentions and lower sales.

So when you have images of your product on your packaging, make sure they’re orientated for right hand dominant shoppers. Sorry left-handers – it’s just statistics!

Size Matters…

…or at least it does when it comes to your logo or brand name. There’s a generally accepted wisdom in some circles that states that larger logos look tacky and reduce sales – but statistics show that this couldn’t be further from the truth!

Researchers have found that when companies utilise bigger brand logos, not only were they more eye catching as recorded via eye tracking, but study participants also perceived the item more positively.

Not Just a Pretty Face

We’ve already mentioned that it’s not enough for a product’s packaging to be pretty. Shoppers are bombarded with hundreds of products every minute – a products ability to be processed quickly is vital to engage passers-by.

Where you put the main images and words on your packaging significantly impacts how shoppers process your brand. Just like reading a book in the western world, most shoppers will take in a product from left to right. Putting the image on the left and the text on the right increases processing fluency – meaning shoppers will absorb product information more quickly and generate a more favourable impression.

These are three relatively basic examples of how to apply human physiology to packaging design and boost shopper engagement – but there’s much more to learn!

To find out more about the psychology of packaging design, talk to our experts on 01543 255 259 or email

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