The non-buyer is a big opportunity for almost every large brand and retailer. Convert more shoppers to buyers and the business grows. But the complexities associated with studying non-buyer behavior have prevented most researchers from fully understanding non-buyer behavior and developing robust programs that turn more non-buyers into buyers. Now, however, researchers have a uniquely powerful shopper insights tool to study non-buyer behavior and drive big improvements in business performance. Indeed, non-buyer studies that leverage new mobile and geolocation shopper research technology are becoming an important area of focus for consumer and shopper insights professionals. By recommending and executing these studies for internal stakeholders responsible for store design, merchandising, and the overall customer experience, research professionals have a unique opportunity to demonstrate significant additional value, providing powerful new insights that drive business results.
The Non-Buyer Really Matters – It’s a known fact that every day, millions of customers walk out of national retailers without having purchased some or all of the items they were looking for. Besides expressing negative feelings about the retail brand as a result of not finding the items they were looking for, these non-buyers represent untold millions of dollars in lost revenue for the business. Worse yet, customers who can’t find an item in a given store are more likely to visit and buy from its direct competitor, driving down one retailer’s market share and driving up the other’s.
Existing Methods for Studying Non-Buyers Don’t Really Work – Two primary methodologies have been used to study non-buyers, each with their own major shortcomings. In-person intercept research, while expensive, places a researcher near the store exit looking for non-buyers. But identifying non-buyers as they leave the store is harder than you’d think. Most non-buyers leave the store with some of the items they came for, but not all of them. So looking for people without shopping bags doesn’t work. Additionally, some buyers put their shopping bags inside their purses, other personal bags, or bags from other retailers, making these buyers falsely look like non-buyers. Meanwhile, some people leaving the store empty handed are customers who came to return merchandise, not to make a purchase. Others are employees. The result is that the in-person researcher must spend an enormous amount of time and effort verbally screening all departing shoppers to find true non-buyers, since they are nearly impossible to identify visually. This has made in-person non-buyer research prohibitively expensive for most retailers.
The second approach to non-buyer research has been to conduct online surveys that are promoted by the checkout staff, printed on receipts, or emailed to loyalty program members. Like in-person intercepts, this methodology also has significant drawbacks. Since the trigger for the survey is usually a purchase – which does enable the retailer to reach the partial buyer – it fails to reach the shopper who leaves empty handed and never engages with the POS system. And regardless of the trigger for the survey, the participant will very likely take the survey days after they actually shopped the store, likely forgetting or mis-remembering critical details of their non-buyer experience.
The solution to the major challenge of studying non-buyer behavior is app-based mobile research technology, otherwise know and geo-mobile shopper intercepts. Developed by a company called MFour, this tool provides a sophisticated mobile market research app installed by over 1.3 million consumers that allows them to be continuously geo-tracked and intercepted for research studies when they visit any store of our choosing.
Using this tool, we can easily identify precisely when shoppers leave specific geo-located retail outlets, and immediately screen them (irrespective of any visual cues that might be used by an in-person researcher) for their buying versus non-buying behavior to quickly and accurately identify partial and total non-buyers. Once screened, we can then immediately engage them in in-the-moment, in-depth, mobile survey research into their non-buying experience, just as they are leaving the store. These studies can be set up and executed significantly faster than in-person intercept studies, conducted simultaneously at hundreds of stores across the country, and delivered to hundreds or even thousands of real shoppers immediately as they walk out the door of particular stores (not days later, as is the case with an online survey) for much more accurate insights. Additionally, non-buyers can be geotracked after they leave the store, to see which stores they visit next and engaged in additional research to understand their complete journey to getting their needs met.
The simplicity and significant savings in studying non-buyer behavior using geo-mobile shopper intercepts has led major retailers to elevate this type of research and develop programs specifically focused on reducing non-buying outcomes. These retailers started with an initial study to define the magnitude of the non-buyer problem and understand the root causes of non-buyer behavior. For one major home improvement retailer, this research identified their non-buyer problem as costing them $10 million per day. The success of these programs subsequently led them to put in place tracking studies that enable ongoing assessment and measurement of their performance against non-buying reduction targets, and the ability to stay on top of changes in business operations and the external environment that are driving non-buying outcomes. By removing the cost and complexity of conducting non-buyer research, retailers are relying upon it ever more heavily, and getting significant ROI from their investment in it.
In short, we believe that geo-mobile shopper intercepts represent a transformative, simple, and powerful way to conduct ongoing large-scale studies of non-buyer behavior that has never existed before. Brand and shopper insights professionals should be deploying and recommending these studies to stakeholders involved in store design, merchandising, and customer experience to drive an extremely valuable set of business insights that can materially improve business performance.