Being the Shopper: Understanding the Buyer's Choice

Being the Shopper: Understanding the Buyer's Choice

by Phil Lempert, Phillip Lempert

"Phil Lempert’s Being the Shopper may have been written for the benefit of marketers, but it also helps consumers understand why we buy what we buy. I, for one, will save money at the market as a result."
–– Jean Chatzky, Editor at Large
Money magazine

Being the Shopper reveals the subtle and important things that motivate

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"Phil Lempert’s Being the Shopper may have been written for the benefit of marketers, but it also helps consumers understand why we buy what we buy. I, for one, will save money at the market as a result."
–– Jean Chatzky, Editor at Large
Money magazine

Being the Shopper reveals the subtle and important things that motivate consumers to buy. Supermarket Guru® Phil Lempert examines every aspect of shopper behavior to help you think like a consumer when creating selling stratagies.

In Being the Shopper, Lempert trails consumers as they shop, examining every detail of the retail experience, with a focus on effective ways to manipulate the customer’s visceral, emotional, and intellectual reaction to a product. He offers in-depth analysis of influential techniques such as in-store sampling, special pricing, packaging, and shelf positioning, giving readers unparalleled access to the inner thoughts of today’s shopper. Listen to customers’ real voices –– culled from Lempert’s research and the consumer panel–– as they make purchasing decisions. Watch how shoppers react to marketing campaigns, and discover new ways to raise the appeal and name recognition of brands.

  • Understand how your product appeals (or doesn’t) to real shoppers
  • Hear actual accounts of the reasons shoppers choose some products over others
  • Inspire loyalty with better, more noticeable brand campaigns
  • Understand exactly what your customers want

"Part Four, Shopper’s Sense-abilities, is a must-read for every management team. One of the best eye-openers to help your key people understand what the customer really sees, feels, and smells on a supermarket trip that I have ever read."
–– Tim Hammonds, President and CEO
Food Marketing Institute

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
" a fantastically interesting, insightful read from a consumer perspective-and there are valuable lessons to be learnt for any retailer " (CWB ( Childrenswear buyer), November 2002)
Drawing on years of interviewing consumers, the food trends correspondent for the television show shares methods for companies seeking to define and meet consumer desires and truthfully market health claims. Includes a 20th-century supermarket events timeline. Some references are noted in the text. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

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The Consumer Today

Being the Shopper is about increasing your success in selling your products and services by better understanding the way real shoppers think and act. Yesterday's marketing rules dictated that brand plans define a single target market--for example, trying to sell a particular gourmet chocolate dessert to women 18 to 34 years old, with two children, and a household income of over $75,000. As you become increasingly familiar with your shopper, you'll rely less and less on demographic information. However, in the beginning, it's important to understand the major population trends and their implications for your brands and retail environments. Consider the chart on the next page with U.S. census information. You'll notice some fascinating fluctuations as baby boomers age. The 25-to 34-year-old category is predicted to wane considerably. In this section and in the next chapter, I explore the implications of these population trends and explain how to learn about the actual individuals within these categories.

Are You Prepared to Sell to These Shoppers?

In this section, I review some of the biggest changes over the last two decades within particular demographic groups. These trends are significant because they've created new and unique potential markets. Also, the stark contrast between today and yesterday can feed into ripe marketing opportunities. For instance, many of the women who are likely to return to work shortly after giving birth were raised with traditional stay-at-home moms. This new generation of working mothers may be receptive to brands offood that are quick to assemble, but deliver the home-cooked taste and wholesome nutrition that their mothers valued.

Knowing your shoppers' ages is one thing, but appealing to how they really feel is another thing entirely. As a marketer, you'll be far better attuned to your shoppers if you can understand the difference. I empower my audiences, at every one of my speeches, to understand that the first step in being the shopper is to not form opinions of others based on their ages. Each member of the audience is asked to turn to the person next to them and tell them how old they are. After the nervous laughter, I then ask them to turn back to the same person and tell them how old they feel. Six members of the audience (three men and three women) are asked to voluntarily to share the information with the entire group.

In the thousands of times I have presented this exercise, my volunteers have always reinforced my message by proving the difference between how old someone is and how old they feel. On average, these people feel 10 years younger than they actually are.

Appealing to emotions of a consumer will always be more effective than developing a marketing campaign based on an age classification.

Changes in Motherhood

One major trend in recent years has affected women of childbearing age. In 1976, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 31 percent of mothers returned to the outside-the-home workforce within a year of giving birth. In 1998, the figure had risen to 58.7 percent. For women with a college education, statistics show that 68 percent will return to the workforce before their child celebrates his or her first birthday.

Men's Roles as Parents

In addition to trends in motherhood, men's roles in raising children have changed dramatically. Mediamark Research reports that the percentage of male homemakers (defined as the person in the household who does most of the shopping) reached 30.3 percent in 2000, up from 15 percent in 1985. Most of these male homemakers live alone, live with children, or live with other men.

Single-Person Households

Fifty years ago, single-person households made up just 10 percent of the population. According to the 2000 Census of Population and Housing, those shoppers now account for over 25 percent of households. Single-person households are increasing most rapidly of all demographic groups; that trend is expected to continue. Women are the majority (58 percent) of those who live alone, and half of those are 65 or over. In contrast, of the men who live alone, almost half (47 percent) are 25 to 44 years old. U.S. Census Bureau projections to the year 2020 show a dramatic increase in the number of middle-aged singles. Single-household women aged 45 to 64 will increase by 65 percent, and single-household men age 45 to 64 will increase by 83 percent.

Getting Married Later

The median age for marriage has increased from age 20.8 for women in 1970, to age 25.1 in 2000. Men's marrying age has increased from 23.2 in 1970 to 26.8 in 2000. Obviously, there are a multitude of reasons that people are waiting longer to marry, but there is little doubt that this trend allows individuals more time to become established in the workforce before they marry.

So far, I've outlined several different population trends. However, knowing these trends and applying them to marketing efforts are two entirely different things. Walking up and down the aisles of a supermarket with a working mom, male homemaker, single shopper, and late-marrieds will begin to shift your consumer behavior paradigm as you learn to perceive your product through their eyes, ears, and taste buds. For example, each of these individuals might have one purchase in common with the others--Coca-Cola. How they make the purchase will vary drastically--for instance, the late-married might choose a two-liter bottle of Diet Coke, while the single shopper might choose cans of caffeine-free Coca-Cola. The working mom might choose a single chilled can of Cherry Coke and hide it from her kids because soda is not allowed in her house, while the male homemaker might select Coke in vintage glass bottles, and keep the bottles for his kids' art project.

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