Planning Season: Where Is The Shopper?

A.G. Lafley, former CEO of Procter and Gamble, coined the concept of the First and Second Moments of Truth. The First Moment of Truth is when the shopper decides to purchase a brand. The Second Moment of Truth is when the brand delivers on its performance promise (whiter teeth, cleaner clothes, etc.). This concept has game-changing potential for brands that embrace retailers as partners and invest in understanding how consumers shop.

One fundamental question consumer packaged goods companies need to consider when planning for the upcoming year is: Do we focus too much on the consumer and not enough on how the mind-set may shift when consumers become shoppers?

There’s a big difference between consumers and shoppers that some people don’t understand, and the difference could be vital to the success of a product. Consumers turn into shoppers when they actively become involved on the product level to narrow alternatives and ultimately make a purchase. So understanding how people shop and what influences their purchase decisions is something we must consider as we develop our plan for the coming year.

What we know from shopper psychological studies is that people who frequently shop a grocery store are on autopilot and trying to get in and out as quickly as possible. It’s difficult to get someone’s attention in such a familiar environment. However, when a consumer is shopping a drug store, she’s not on autopilot—she is engaged in each step in the purchase process. She’s on a mission to buy a health-related product that warrants extra attention, and is more apt to ask questions and read packages.

What I have come to understand is that when we embrace our brands as solutions for retailers and understand both the consumer and the shopper, we are destined to create plans that will ultimately satisfy shoppers and win with retailers. While companies get better at understanding customers and consumers, they often fall short at truly understanding shoppers. So as we approach the planning season, shouldn’t we ask, is the shopper at the heart of our business planning this year?

Planning for the First Moment of Truth is essential in developing holistic sales and marketing brand plans. Shopper understanding has far-reaching potential for any brand, but it must be integrated into the 4 Ps: product, price, promotion and placement.

PRODUCT

Is our product packaging designed with only the consumer in mind, or have we considered if shoppers will notice the product amid the clutter in the retail environment? Are we making packaging decisions in conference rooms without regard to what that package will look like on the shelf? Or, do we truly include the shopper and retail environment in our package design?

Next time you‘re in a store, walk down the shampoo aisle. See if you notice the bright green bottles of Garnier Fructis products. In a category loaded with an abundance of products and constant package changing, their package color choice was all about breaking through the clutter. And it works.

PRICING

Do we make pricing decisions solely based upon internal brand structural economics? Or, have we included a shopper and retail context into the equation to ensure that we don’t price ourselves out of any market?

Miller Brewing Co. launched Miller Chill, a premium domestic beer priced in the Michelob Ultra range—a little more expensive than Bud Light and Miller Lite. That pricing works fine in the context of beer-versus-beer in a grocery store, but it’s not a strategy that travels well for a new brand needing to gain momentum amidst a broad spectrum of alcoholic beverage choices. Maintaining a premium price strategy is difficult to execute in bars where patrons have the Happy Hour/Two-dollar draft mindset, or at professional baseball stadiums where consumers aren’t happy about price gouging for refreshments from the start.

PROMOTIONS

Do we create promotions that fit perfectly with our consumer but show up out of context when they reach the store and try to speak to shoppers?

Let’s revisit the beer business. Promotions are targeted to younger men, featuring sexy women in bikinis on billboards and television commercials. But think about using this same imagery within a grocery store, where the majority of the grocery stores’ best shoppers are women purchasing meal solutions. Is there a disconnect?

PLACEMENT

Is the product in the right place? Is it in the most impactful position? Is it adjacent to the right items? Can shoppers find what they’re looking for?

Honest Tea is a bottled organic tea company that has had great success in the natural channel. However, their loyal consumers were also shopping mainstream grocery stores. In order to grow sales in traditional grocery channels, they needed to understand where their loyal shoppers were expecting to find Honest Tea and importantly, where other new age beverage shoppers might expect to find the product. Should it be shelved in the organic section, in the mainstream beverage section or both?

During planning season, plenty of brands and companies conduct consumer research to answer questions like, “How do we more effectively communicate the benefits of our product?” – questions that focus on the Second Moment of Truth. Companies should take the opportunity to focus on the increasingly important First Moment of Truth—how we get the shopper to buy.

Consider the shopper when developing your strategic plan for the coming year by approaching the 4 Ps from their perspective.