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Building The Brand – Retailer Partnership With Better Shopper Insights

The relationship between brands and retailers is a classic example of “coopetition.”  Both need each other to survive, but their interests are not always 100% aligned.  And because retailers own the stores, the POS systems, and all of the technology that keeps track of shoppers, they’ve always known more about shopper behavior than their brand partners.  As a result of this information asymmetry, retailers often have the upper hand when negotiating shelf-space, placement fees, location within the store, promotions, pricing, and many other tactics that are critical to a brand’s success.  Thanks to new mobile technology, however, brands are now able to develop more powerful shopper insights than ever before and surprise their retail partners with insights that have benefited both parties.  In recent studies, we have worked closely with major brands in the CPG and consumer electronics industries to develop shopper insights that reshaped the conversation with key retailers and improved brand performance.

As we have written about previously, geo-located shopper intercepts using tools from MFour allow us to identify when shopper naturally enter a specific store and immediately engage them in survey research – including in-store photo and video capture – while they are shopping.  These studies can be executed quickly, at any set of stores, anywhere in the United States, and provide feedback from hundreds of shoppers in a matter of days that arm the brand with brand-specific shopping insights that until now were expensive and slow to obtain.

A recent study we performed for a major CPG brand illustrates the challenge brands face when working with their retail partners, and how we can help.  In this case, one of our major CPG clients discovered that a large retailer had made a set of merchandising decisions related to one of its brands that was quite different from those of other retailers, and that were causing the brand to under-perform.  Our client needed to respond with shopper insights that would prove to the retailer that consumers thought the product was shelved in the wrong part of the store, was hard to locate, and that the color choices were too limited.  Using MFour’s technology to intercept 100 natural shoppers who were users of the client’s brand on their way into the store, we were able to tag along with each of them for nearly 20 minutes during their shopping experience.  Along the way we asked them a wide variety of questions about their path to purchase, ability to locate the product under study, and to capture in-store photos and video highlighting the in-store challenges they were facing.  The resulting dataset, combined with powerful shopper-generated in-store photos and videos proved enormously valuable for the brand manager and sales team in their discussions with this retailer, helping to fundamentally reshape the retailer’s merchandising tactics and significantly improve brand performance.  The ability to execute this study quickly, at a large number of stores, with shoppers who are actually shopping for the brand, and at much lower cost than if the study had been done as a traditional in-person shop-along, were game changers for the client who needed to move fast to address a significant problem with a flagship brand.  This study represents one of many studies we have conducted for brands seeking to quickly and efficiently understand brand-related shopping behavior to support retailer negotiations, as well as a wide variety of other business challenges and opportunities.

Whether you are negotiating with a retail partner over merchandising tactics, launching a new brand, trying to improve your brand’s performance relative to its peers, or seeking to turn around an existing brand, brand-specific shopper-insights are critical to successful brand-retailer collaboration and negotiations.  We can arm you with the data and insights you need so you can approach your retail partners from a position of knowledge and strength, and work together to ensure your brand is positioned for success.


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