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While what we buy and how we shop has changed so much in the last ten years, one thing remains the same. Day after day, hundreds of thousands of consumers sit at their kitchen table in front of a blank sheet of paper with a pen – or their smartphone – in hand and think: What do I need to buy today? What will I eat tonight? And where is the best place to buy? They are, in shopper-speak, defining their mission.

Retailers have been wracking their brains how to serve the customer, trying to decode the needs behind their shopping trip. After all, within the context of a contracting fast-moving ­consumer goods (FMCG) market, current trends reveal: Discount stores and supermarkets – both on- and offline – are fiercely competing for customers in a stagnating market where shoppers shop at lower and lower frequency. So for retailers today, the key business question is: “How does my store get chosen?” How do they get customers into their store?

The priority for all retailers: Remain relevant

The declining number of shopping trips means that there are fewer opportunities for retailers to appeal to customers with their stores and offers. Peter Glavind, Retail and Consumer Panel expert at GfK Denmark: “Promotions, price, range, store layout and interior – these are all in vain for retailers if they are simply no longer on a consumer’s radar. The initial task for retailers is therefore to be perceived by consumers as being the right place to shop.” In other words, it’s about relevance.

However, how can retailers position their businesses as the most suitable destination for a consumer’s next shopping trip when competing against a whole host of different competitors? Some years ago, Glavind and his colleagues developed a concept with precisely this task in mind. The concept is both conclusive and impactful. Their approach is based on analyses of the baskets actually purchased and registered in the consumer panel. The massive data have allowed Glavind and his team to cluster the baskets into groups of baskets with a common set of characteristics – the missions. So each mission is driven by a set of needs which retailers can strive to meet in order to promote the relevance of their business as a worthwhile destination for shopping trips. In addition, the shopping missions analysis can help ensure that the customer experience among actual store visitors is as positive and memorable as possible.

Five shopping missions represent fundamentally different needs

“A father who quickly heads to the shop around the corner just before closing to pick up some baby food is on a completely different shopping mission than a father who may buy the same product, but does so driving the family car to a hypermarket on a Saturday,” Glavind explains. Together with his colleagues, he works with five fundamentally different shopping missions. Each of these missions can be differentiated in terms of product categories, sales, price sensitivity and interest in special offers, day of the week, degree of planning or impulse in the basket.

For example, a “one need” customer who still needs to buy baby food late at night is characterized by a precise idea of the product needed and a high willingness to pay. The primary focus of the customer is most likely to find an open store, and if successful the price can be almost sky high. Despite the drama of this purchase situation described the value per shopping trip in “one need” baskets is comparatively low. In Denmark, 23 percent of all shopping trips are categorized as “one need” shopping missions. However, in terms of value sales, these missions account for just ten percent of the market value. Conversely, customers in the “maxi basket” category typically cram more than ten different product categories into their shopping trolleys. These bulk shoppers accordingly account for just nine percent of shopping trips, but a huge 26 percent of sales.

The tool box for higher retail sales and profits

“With our concept, retailers receive a clear analysis regarding which categories have unexploited potential or room for improvement – and what specific steps they can implement to drive this change,” Glavind explains. In this way, for example, promotions and special offers can be tailored more effectively towards (potential) missions and the customers behind them as well as the days on which special offers will have maximum effect. Using this approach GfK customers can also improve the relevance in their product assortment, their shop layout and planogram to appeal to specific shopping missions.

To take the process one step further we offer our clients support from GfK NORM, a market research company from Stockholm, Sweden, which specializes in digital methods within the field of shopper research. GfK NORM has been part of GfK since 2015.

Adrian Sanger, Global Head Shopper at GfK: “Shopping Missions provide a deeper way of knowing the shopper. Instead of targeting a shopper based on their age or gender, the retailer sets up the store to cater for trips that they know the shopper will make. The shopper behavior powers retailer action. When you know the mission, the retailer can be relevant.”

The relevance of this concept for retailers is shown by a single number: With the exception of just one retailer, all major players in Denmark have now integrated the shopping mission approach in their toolbox. It is a valuable tool in the battle for increased relevance and growth for our clients.

Data from GfK shows the way. And when retailers put the shopper at the center, then it´s “mission accomplished”.

Sending the right signals

01 The market for FMCG is highly competitive. Consumers spend more per shopping trip, but make these trips less frequently.

02 For retailers it is all the more crucial that they establish themselves within the “relevant set” of their potential customers. To this end, GfK developed the Shopping Mission concept. The guiding principle: Only retailers who understand what really motivates the behavior of their customers can attract and win their business.

03 GfK’s five fundamental shopping missions describe all shopping trips in the FMCG market and identify the strongholds or weaknesses of the retailer and the branded product. This provides retailers with specific approaches to improve their promotions, shop layout, product portfolio and product categories.

04 In Denmark, virtually all major retailers and the majority of brand manufacturer clients make use of the concept. As such, the missions are a common language between retailers and manufacturers in their common agenda to find growth. Understanding the missions facilitates the common purpose of increasing shopper relevance for retailers and manufacturers.

05 The Shopping Mission concept is now also available in many other GfK markets.

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