SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- A study unveiled here last week presented a detailed picture of the emotional drivers for grocery shopping at a time when supermarkets are urgently trying to keep consumers from defecting to other retail channels.
The study separates shopping into nine "state-of-mind occasions" that determine grocery shopping behavior.
The study, "Who's Agenda Is This Anyhow? Inside the Mind of Today's Shopper," was sponsored by the Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council of North America; it was outlined at the Washington-based Food Marketing Institute's FMI Midwinter Executive Conference. The segmentation into shopping occasions was modeled partly on the detailed consumer analysis approaches long used by consumer packaged goods manufacturers.
"We should no more bring a store to market than manufacturers would bring a product to market without an understanding of its consumer," said Bill McEwan, president and chief executive officer, Sobeys, Stellarton, Nova Scotia, and a member of the research council.
"We are stealing a page from the packaged goods manual with this report," said Kevin Davis, president, chairman and CEO of Bristol Farms, Carson, Calif., another panel member.
The 14-member Coca-Cola council, comprised mostly of supermarket retailers, used a methodology that included online focus groups and analysis of store formats.
The results will be further detailed this May at the FMI Show in Chicago, when presenters will unveil a hands-on tool for using the research.
The nine shopping occasions outlined in the study are based on different shopper states of mind, which range from budget-conscious to urgent need. Michael Sansolo, FMI senior vice president, outlined the states of mind driving each occasion as follows:
Keeper: Takes care of family members by ensuring they have the food and household items they need and want.
Banker: Focuses on smart budget shopping and saving as much money as possible.
Quartermaster: Driven by efficient replenishment, but isn't thrilled with grocery shopping, so buys in bulk to avoid excess trips.
Hunter: Motivated by bargains on a limited number of specific products; goes to stores that have the best prices on those items.
Desperate: Shops for urgent needs, including particular food items, prescriptions or alcoholic beverages.
Courier: Pursues grab-and-go items to enter and exit the store as fast as possible.
Reluctant: Puts little time or effort into grocery shopping as a means of reducing stress in an otherwise hectic life.
Seeker: Motivated by the process of discovery, including new ideas, recipes, foods and nonfood items.
Immediate Consumption: Shops to satisfy immediate hunger or thirst by purchasing a snack, beverage or other item.
The study found the same shopper is motivated by different occasions on different days. Some of the states of mind have overlapping features, while others do not.
For instance, the family-oriented keeper and the bargain-oriented hunter have little in common, while the keeper and the budget-oriented banker are both motivated by caring for family needs and stocking up, Sansolo noted. The banker also has motivations in common with the hunter, including interest in picking up sale items, saving money, and being a smart shopper.
Sansolo said the research is intended to help discover why some 20% of consumers no longer visit a supermarket on a weekly basis. He said the research helped debunk some long-held myths about grocery shopping.
The research found that "some areas of supermarket strength are not as important anymore," he said. "Location isn't as important; shoppers will travel farther for value. The importance of product availability and variety can be overstated. The need for 24/7 store hours can be overstated."
The data pointed to a polarization in which about 36% of consumers feel a sense of accomplishment from grocery shopping, while about 25% do not. Some 55% said they find cooking a source of satisfaction, while 30% say they cook only to eat.
The data confirmed that middle-of-the-road stores draw the lowest ratings from consumers, while stores with a clear niche -- such as upscale or price-focused retailers -- draw higher marks.
The key is for supermarkets, which are focused on a wide range of consumers rather than a single segment, to relate the research findings to their own stores, Sansolo said.
Tim Hammonds, president and CEO of FMI, introduced the Coke presentation by noting the importance of research that aims to determine consumer preferences. "In this industry, we don't talk much about strategic initiatives with consumers anymore," he said. "But that is true north on our maps of the supermarket business."
Bristol Farms' Davis said too much of the recent supermarket industry research centers on how stores can make incremental improvements to beat the competition. "So we're outrunning each other, but we're not outrunning the bear," he said. "This research looks at consumer behavior and drivers."
McEwan further amplified that point by saying, "Dwell on your competition at your peril, but focus on your strategy and execute, and you will win."
Davis noted the store formats of Tesco of the United Kingdom were among those studied for this report. "Tesco can meet the customers' needs through various formats, such as C-stores, city stores and hypermarkets," he said.