Inside the Mind of the Shopper: The Science of Retailing

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Overview

What do you really do when you shop? The answers are fascinating and, for retailers, they're cash in the bank. In Inside the Mind of the Shopper: The Science of Retailing, world-renowned retail consultant Dr. Herb Sorensen, Ph.D. uncovers the truth about the retail shopper and rips away the myths and mistakes that lead retailers to miss their greatest opportunities. Every year, says Sorensen, shoppers will spend a quadrillion seconds in supermarkets and they'll waste 80% of that time. Sorensen analyzes consumer behavior–how shoppers make buying decisions as they move through supermarkets and other retail stores–and presents powerful, tested strategies for designing more effective stores, improving merchandising, and driving double-digit sales increases. He identifies simple interventions that can have dramatic sales effects, and shows why many common strategies simply don't work. You'll learn how to appeal to the "quick trip" shopper; make the most of all three "moments of truth"; understand consumers' powerful in-store migration patterns; improve collaboration between manufacturers and retailers; learn the lessons of Stew Leonard's and other innovators; and much more. Then, in Part II, Sorensen presents revealing interviews with several leading in-store retail experts, including crucial insights on using technology and retailing to multicultural communities.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Sorensen has made a career out of studying the way consumers behave in supermarkets. His research into their behavioral patterns includes inventing PathTracker, a system that tracks the motions of shopping carts and fitting test shoppers with specially designed glasses that record their field of vision every 3/25ths of a second, telling him exactly what they are looking at and for how long. It turns out there are three different groups of shopping excursions-quick trips, fill-ins and stockups-and Sorenson studies shoppers by behavior, rather than demographic. He exhorts retailers to forget the old system of making the shopper walk through a store, hoping they'll make impulse buys; instead, get them buying as quickly as possible and build momentum by putting products-particularly high frequency purchase items-directly in their paths. He cites such stores as Stew Leonard and Tesco as taking full advantage of new shopper research and provides interesting studies to back up his claims. While vastly informative-even from a sociological standpoint-the book comes across as too theoretical and academic for the general reader. (June)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780137126859
  • Publisher: Pearson Prentice Hall
  • Publication date: 5/26/2009
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 238,323
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Herb Sorensen is a preeminent authority on observing and measuring shopping behavior and attitudes within the four walls of the store. He has worked with Fortune 100 retailers and consumer packaged-goods manufacturers for more than 35 years, studying shopper behavior, motivations, and perceptions at the point of purchase. Sorensen’s patented shopper-tracking technology PathTracker® is helping to revolutionize retail marketing strategies from a traditional “product-centric” perspective to a new “shopper-centric” focus. As Baseline magazine commented, “Herb Sorensen and Paco Underhill are the yin and yang of observational research.”

Herb has conducted studies in North America, Europe, Asia, Australia, and South America. His research has been published in AMA’s Marketing Research, The Journal of Advertising Research, FMI Advantage Magazine, Progressive Grocer, and Chain Drug Review, and he has been utilized as an expert source for The Wall Street Journal, Supermarket News, and BusinessWeek. Additionally, he is currently a panelist of Retail Wire’s “Brain Trust.”

Herb was named one of the top 50 innovators of 2004 by Fast Company Magazine, and shared the American Marketing Association’s 2007 EXPLOR Award for technological applications that advance research, with Peter Fader and his group at the Wharton School of Business of the University of Pennsylvania. Herb has a Ph.D. in Biochemistry.

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Read an Excerpt

Rethinking RetailPreface Rethinking Retail

“When you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meager and unsatisfactory kind.”

Lord Kelvin

The supermarket is my laboratory. After earning my Ph.D. in biochemistry and working for a brief period in the food industry, I traded a lab bench for the aisles of the supermarket. At that time, the supermarket was a black box. Manufacturers and retailers were concerned about how to get shoppers into the door and make them aware of products before their trips, but they assumed that they understood what happened when the shopper was inside. Our research, discussed in this book, shows that in many cases they were wrong.

In the early 1970s, I left my practice as a board-certified clinical chemist and started a small laboratory providing a range of services, primarily to the agricultural and consumer packaged goods industries. One of the services that we provided was sensory evaluation—consumer taste test surveys. Following the example of universities, our “tasters” were college and university students. I initially started doing in-store research because a client said that he didn’t think the opinions of college students, with their well-known penchant for pizza and ramen noodles, were very representative of typical supermarket shoppers.

Being a scientist, rather than a market researcher, it never occurred to me not to interview supermarket shoppers. I approached the manager of a local supermarket, and he readily gave me permission to interview his shoppers. Remember, this was more than 30 years ago, and the local Albertsons manager had an amazing degree of autonomy. When we were in the store, we found that there were many other interesting questions to study.

I pursued the in-store research niche—first as a solo consultant and then as the founder and president of Sorensen Associates, “The In-store Research Company®,” and more recently, as Global Scientific Director, Retail and Shopper Insights at TNS, a global research and information services firm. We are now a part of the even larger conglomerate WPP, with a focus on advertising and communications. Although most of our experience is with supermarkets and brand manufacturers of fast-moving consumer packaged goods, we have found our core insights hold for work with supercenters, drugstores, convenience stores, auto parts retailers, building centers, consumer electronics, phone stores, and many other retailers or products. We have completed studies in a variety of channels on every continent except Africa and Antarctica, and the paradigm, metrics, and insights are as relevant elsewhere as in the U.S. (with some differences, as we will examine later). Over the years, we came to appreciate the value of conducting research in the store environment, rather than just doing research about the store, products, and shoppers.

We decided to study what shoppers actually did in the store, what they looked at, how they moved through the store, and what they bought. We examined strategies that could be used to increase sales, testing these approaches in the laboratory of real stores with actual shoppers. We traveled with customers down thousands of miles of supermarket aisles and analyzed millions of hours of shopping to help retailers create more effective stores and approaches. We found that simple interventions could have dramatic effects, but only if you understood how shoppers think. And some widely used strategies have little impact on the behavior of most shoppers, so we also helped retailers stop throwing money away.

As a pioneer in the field of in-store research, I have had the opportunity to see retailing go through many changes—including the emergence of new technologies and online retailing. As the industry continues to change, however, the basic insights from our research continue to hold true. And in a more complex and dynamic environment, understanding shopper behavior may be even more important.

I have spent millions of dollars of my own money doing some of this research, and the world’s top brands and forward-thinking retailers have spent millions more on specific projects and PathTracker® studies. We have looked at every square-inch of these stores and analyzed millions of shopping trips on a second-by-second basis, using the best technology at our disposal. The results, to the extent that the information is not proprietary, are contained within the covers of this book.

I am grateful to the many managers who embraced and supported this work, even when it was unproven. I am particularly fortunate to have worked with Bob Stevens, to whom this book is dedicated. He had recently retired after 40 years in market research for Procter & Gamble, and taught me to go far beyond the product-shopper dimension mentioned previously. This, in turn, led to the development of my current holistic view of the shopper experience, including the invention of the PathTracker® suite of tools, metrics, and a scientific paradigm for the subject of shopping. Finally, I am grateful for the fine work by other pioneers, such as Paco Underhill and Siemon Scammel-Katz.

Along the way, we have faced resistance to this approach. As researchers at one of the largest supermarket chains in the world told us: “We do not interview our shoppers in-store, but conduct phone or Internet surveys of them.” Interviewing shoppers outside of the store is like trying to understand the movements of a flock of birds by observing a specimen in a natural history museum. It is shocking to me, but not at all exceptional.

This book offers managers in retail firms, or companies that sell products through retail, valuable insights into what happens to their customers when they walk through the front door of the store. Companies that spend countless dollars getting the customer to this point often look away just at this critical moment, giving scant attention to the “last mile” of retailing. Retailers and brand owners know all about who the people are going into the store, and what they are carrying home from the store, and a lot about what they are doing at home. But I stake my career to a large degree on the fact that they know very little about the process that occurs in the store. (As I will consider later, this lack of knowledge might be due in part to the structure of the industry, which means retailers and manufacturers get more out of interacting with one another than with customers in the aisles.) This book also offers anyone who has shopped or wants to understand the shopping experience, research-based insights into the habits of the shopper.

On the following pages, we explore some of the key insights from this work—the quick trip, three moments of truth for the shopper, in-store “migration” patterns, and how to put products in the path of customers through anticipatory retailing. We also look at how manufacturers and retailers can collaborate better in shaping flow and adjacency to sell more products in stores. In the second part of the book, we offer insights from a series of interviews with executives and experts on specific topics related to in-store retailing: deeper insights on the quick trip, the integration of online and offline retailing, multicultural retailing, and a retailer’s perspective on the issues presented in this book. Whether you are running or designing stores, building brands, or merely want a deeper understanding of shopping behavior, this book will challenge the way you look at shopping.

In a certain sense, the shoppers’ eyes offer a window into our entire society. As I realized in four decades of this work, retailing is at the cutting edge of social evolution because it brings people and the things they must have together. This is where the dreams and aspirations of consumers and the messages of brand owners intersect in a concrete action to make a purchase. If you want to understand our society, taking a trip with a shopper down a supermarket aisle is a very good start. I invite you to join me on this journey through the modern supermarket. I think you will be surprised at what we find.

—Herb Sorensen, Ph.D.

© Copyright Pearson Education. All rights reserved.

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Table of Contents

Author's Notes and Acknowledgments xv

About the Author xxi

Preface: Rethinking Retail 1

Introduction: Twenty Million Opportunities to Buy 5

Part I: Active Retailing 23

Chapter 1: The Quick Trip: Eighty Percent of Shopper Time Is Wasted 25

Chapter 2: Three Moments of Truth and Three Currencies 47

Chapter 3: In-Store Migration Patterns: Where Shoppers Go and What They Do 69

Chapter 4: Active Retailing: Putting Products into the Path of Shoppers 97

Chapter 5: Brands, Retailers, and Shoppers: Why the Long Tail Is Wagging the Dog 113

Part II: Going Deeper into the Shopper's Mind 131

Chapter 6: The Quick-Trip Paradox: An Interview with Unilever’s Mike Twitty 133

Chapter 7: Integrating Online and Offline Retailing: An Interview with Professors Peter Fader (The Wharton School) and Wendy Moe (University of Maryland) 147

Chapter 8: Multicultural Retailing: An Interview with Emil Morales, Executive Vice President of TNS Multicultural 161

Chapter 9: Insights into Action: A Retailer Responds: An Interview with Mark Heckman of Marsh Supermarkets 179

Part III: Conclusions 189

Chapter 10: The Internet Goes Shopping 191

Chapter 11: Game-Changing Retail: A Manifesto 199

Part IV: Appendix 205

Appendix: Views on the World of Shoppers, Retailers, and Brands 207

Index 213

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Preface

Preface Rethinking Retail

“When you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meager and unsatisfactory kind.”

Lord Kelvin

The supermarket is my laboratory. After earning my Ph.D. in biochemistry and working for a brief period in the food industry, I traded a lab bench for the aisles of the supermarket. At that time, the supermarket was a black box. Manufacturers and retailers were concerned about how to get shoppers into the door and make them aware of products before their trips, but they assumed that they understood what happened when the shopper was inside. Our research, discussed in this book, shows that in many cases they were wrong.

In the early 1970s, I left my practice as a board-certified clinical chemist and started a small laboratory providing a range of services, primarily to the agricultural and consumer packaged goods industries. One of the services that we provided was sensory evaluation—consumer taste test surveys. Following the example of universities, our “tasters” were college and university students. I initially started doing in-store research because a client said that he didn’t think the opinions of college students, with their well-known penchant for pizza and ramen noodles, were very representative of typical supermarket shoppers.

Being a scientist, rather than a market researcher, it never occurred to me not to interview supermarket shoppers. I approached the manager of a local supermarket, and he readily gave me permission to interview his shoppers. Remember, this was more than 30 years ago, and the local Albertsons manager had an amazing degree of autonomy. When we were in the store, we found that there were many other interesting questions to study.

I pursued the in-store research niche—first as a solo consultant and then as the founder and president of Sorensen Associates, “The In-store Research Company®,” and more recently, as Global Scientific Director, Retail and Shopper Insights at TNS, a global research and information services firm. We are now a part of the even larger conglomerate WPP, with a focus on advertising and communications. Although most of our experience is with supermarkets and brand manufacturers of fast-moving consumer packaged goods, we have found our core insights hold for work with supercenters, drugstores, convenience stores, auto parts retailers, building centers, consumer electronics, phone stores, and many other retailers or products. We have completed studies in a variety of channels on every continent except Africa and Antarctica, and the paradigm, metrics, and insights are as relevant elsewhere as in the U.S. (with some differences, as we will examine later). Over the years, we came to appreciate the value of conducting research in the store environment, rather than just doing research about the store, products, and shoppers.

We decided to study what shoppers actually did in the store, what they looked at, how they moved through the store, and what they bought. We examined strategies that could be used to increase sales, testing these approaches in the laboratory of real stores with actual shoppers. We traveled with customers down thousands of miles of supermarket aisles and analyzed millions of hours of shopping to help retailers create more effective stores and approaches. We found that simple interventions could have dramatic effects, but only if you understood how shoppers think. And some widely used strategies have little impact on the behavior of most shoppers, so we also helped retailers stop throwing money away.

As a pioneer in the field of in-store research, I have had the opportunity to see retailing go through many changes—including the emergence of new technologies and online retailing. As the industry continues to change, however, the basic insights from our research continue to hold true. And in a more complex and dynamic environment, understanding shopper behavior may be even more important.

I have spent millions of dollars of my own money doing some of this research, and the world’s top brands and forward-thinking retailers have spent millions more on specific projects and PathTracker® studies. We have looked at every square-inch of these stores and analyzed millions of shopping trips on a second-by-second basis, using the best technology at our disposal. The results, to the extent that the information is not proprietary, are contained within the covers of this book.

I am grateful to the many managers who embraced and supported this work, even when it was unproven. I am particularly fortunate to have worked with Bob Stevens, to whom this book is dedicated. He had recently retired after 40 years in market research for Procter & Gamble, and taught me to go far beyond the product-shopper dimension mentioned previously. This, in turn, led to the development of my current holistic view of the shopper experience, including the invention of the PathTracker® suite of tools, metrics, and a scientific paradigm for the subject of shopping. Finally, I am grateful for the fine work by other pioneers, such as Paco Underhill and Siemon Scammel-Katz.

Along the way, we have faced resistance to this approach. As researchers at one of the largest supermarket chains in the world told us: “We do not interview our shoppers in-store, but conduct phone or Internet surveys of them.” Interviewing shoppers outside of the store is like trying to understand the movements of a flock of birds by observing a specimen in a natural history museum. It is shocking to me, but not at all exceptional.

This book offers managers in retail firms, or companies that sell products through retail, valuable insights into what happens to their customers when they walk through the front door of the store. Companies that spend countless dollars getting the customer to this point often look away just at this critical moment, giving scant attention to the “last mile” of retailing. Retailers and brand owners know all about who the people are going into the store, and what they are carrying home from the store, and a lot about what they are doing at home. But I stake my career to a large degree on the fact that they know very little about the process that occurs in the store. (As I will consider later, this lack of knowledge might be due in part to the structure of the industry, which means retailers and manufacturers get more out of interacting with one another than with customers in the aisles.) This book also offers anyone who has shopped or wants to understand the shopping experience, research-based insights into the habits of the shopper.

On the following pages, we explore some of the key insights from this work—the quick trip, three moments of truth for the shopper, in-store “migration” patterns, and how to put products in the path of customers through anticipatory retailing. We also look at how manufacturers and retailers can collaborate better in shaping flow and adjacency to sell more products in stores. In the second part of the book, we offer insights from a series of interviews with executives and experts on specific topics related to in-store retailing: deeper insights on the quick trip, the integration of online and offline retailing, multicultural retailing, and a retailer’s perspective on the issues presented in this book. Whether you are running or designing stores, building brands, or merely want a deeper understanding of shopping behavior, this book will challenge the way you look at shopping.

In a certain sense, the shoppers’ eyes offer a window into our entire society. As I realized in four decades of this work, retailing is at the cutting edge of social evolution because it brings people and the things they must have together. This is where the dreams and aspirations of consumers and the messages of brand owners intersect in a concrete action to make a purchase. If you want to understand our society, taking a trip with a shopper down a supermarket aisle is a very good start. I invite you to join me on this journey through the modern supermarket. I think you will be surprised at what we find.

—Herb Sorensen, Ph.D.

© Copyright Pearson Education. All rights reserved.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 11, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    What makes supermarket shoppers tick?

    Have you ever wondered why the milk is in the back of the grocery store, far away from the entrance? Supermarket managers put it there in hopes of enticing shoppers to buy some of the thousands of items they pass on their way to the dairy case. However, shopping behavioralist Herb Sorensen disagrees with this strategy. He suggests that it causes shoppers emotional distress and they will simply buy their milk elsewhere. This type of product placement tactic is the kind of "misconception" that Sorensen identifies as retailers' and manufacturers' biggest problem. They spend billions learning about their customers and then fail to understand how consumers behave in their stores. Sorensen proselytizes heavily about the virtues of shopper research, which is not surprising since it is his field of expertise. Given his intricate factual material, backed with research, charts, statistics and case histories, getAbstract believes that he will persuade most readers to accept his methods by the time they finish his book. This is a crucial read for retailers who aspire to increase sales by understanding what shoppers want and providing it.

    To learn more about this book, check out the following Web page: http://www.getabstract.com/summary/12368/inside-the-mind-of-the-shopper.html

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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