A blog for all things retail and licensing.

Why Shoppers Buy: A Look at Shopper Spending and Retailer Best Practices

Guest Blog By Carrie Shea

Shoppers are in control. Retailers face this reality daily. What shoppers decide to spend their hard-earned cash on and how they make those decisions ultimately determine how retail merchandisers and marketers operate. So how are shoppers adapting to the recovering economy — and what does that mean for retailers?

According to our biannual “The Why? Behind The Buy” report, in today’s sluggish economy, shoppers are still holding on to the budget-conscious behaviors they developed during the prolonged recession. Not just reserved for shoppers struggling to make ends meet, this trend is prevalent at both ends of the income scale. Despite otherwise divergent shopping behaviors, shoppers with annual incomes of less than $45,000 and shoppers with annual incomes of more than $100,000 are making purchase decisions based on similar factors, including price. In fact, 55 percent of shoppers bought more items on sale than last year, and 88 percent of shoppers have bought buy-one, get-one offers.

How does this price sensitivity manifest itself in day-to-day shopping behavior? Now more than ever before, shoppers are moving across store channels — from grocery to drug and discount — to find the best deals and value. At the same time, shoppers overall are making fewer shopping trips due to increased gas prices, thereby further driving competition among retailers. Adding even more complexity to the situation are rising commodity costs, which means retailers are realizing narrower profit margins while also facing intense pressure to discount prices in an effort to lure shoppers.

These price wars are unsustainable and also diminish the value of brands and products. Rather than competing on price alone, retailers should consider these best practices to generate true demand and capture their share of shopper dollars.

Get Creative with Promotions

When it comes to promotions, shoppers want customization and flexibility. For example, try offering discount programs that give shoppers the option to mix-and-match among items, or reward shoppers for buying multiple products that reinforce certain lifestyle choices. By getting creative with promotions and testing different programs, retailers can discover what resonates most with their shoppers and replicate those efforts to continue to drive sales.

Incorporate Digital

The influence of digital marketing continues to grow as shoppers strive to increase productivity. Retailers need to move quickly to stay ahead of the technology curve by integrating traditional marketing tactics – such as store circulators, shelf tags and point-of-sale displays – with digital, mobile and social media elements to enrich the pre-shopping and in-store shopping experience.

Help Solve the Meal-planning Dilemma

Shoppers are looking for meal solutions that are inexpensive, easy and provide options for different tastes and dietary requirements, even within the same family. Cater to these needs by grabbing the attention of shoppers with prominent in-store displays, because many shoppers are not pre-planning meals and need compelling messages to deviate from their usual purchases.

Despite the challenging economic climate, retailers can effectively capitalize on the shopping landscape by truly understanding and adapting to current and future shopper needs.


Carrie Shea is president of AMG Strategic Advisors, which is Acosta Sales and Marketing’s growth strategy consulting unit. “The Why? Behind the Buy” was produced with research from a random sample of 1,098 shoppers via Acosta’s proprietary ShopperF1rst™ online survey. To access the full report, visit www.acosta.com/why.

Retail Merchandiser magazine is pleased to present the points of view of many different industry stakeholders. If you would like to contribute your own guest blog to our site, please contact the editor at russ.gager@phoenixmediacorp.com.

Five Truths for Building a Better Retail Organization

Guest Blog by Chip Averwater

A well-oiled, smoothly operating retail store is a beauty to behold. Its people are professional, they like what they do, their systems are efficient and reliable, the store is organized and everyone is happy with their transactions. People like doing business with them, and many do.

The keys to putting together such an organization aren’t secrets. Most retailers recognize them. Yet most of us struggle to get them right. Here are five of the “truths” of building a better retail organization:

1. A company is the people it hires.

Almost everything that happens in a store is through its employees – displays, selections, organization, sales and customer interactions. Good employees find ways to make the right things happen; poor employees find excuses to keep anything from happening. Our task isn’t finding people who will work for the wages – it’s finding people who will share our values and make the right things happen.

2. Employees want and need training, early and often.

A new hire is eager to learn and contribute; he just needs information. Give it to him quickly and he becomes a valuable team member, but if you make him wait, his enthusiasm and motivation will dwindle. Writing out operations and sales manuals makes them easily accessible. If you give them to new hires before they start on the job, they’ll learn them and thank you for the head-start. Ongoing training keeps skills sharp, updates information, reminds people of common goals and allows brainstorming for improvements.

3. Respect and recognition create commitment.

We don’t have to create motivation; our employees have it when they start. We just have to be careful not to kill it. Our responsibility is simply giving them the tools and information they need, then offering feedback and encouragement. Everyone wants to be recognized, respected and appreciated for what they do. Providing it costs us little and offers amazing dividends.

4. Only simple systems succeed.

We tend to overestimate the operating systems our people can remember and execute. Steps that seem obvious and simple to us as we design them are puzzles to those executing multiple systems on the diverse and busy frontline. When we see the same mistakes multiple times, the problem is probably not the people but the system. We have to design systems that are apparent to their users and easier to do correctly than incorrectly.

5. Everyone needs to see the scoreboard.

More important than what to do is why; it engenders a commitment that instructions alone cannot. When our people understand our goals and how we’re doing, they find ways to contribute. Progress and outcomes are easy to share as graphs and numerical comparisons. Financial statements are the ultimate feedback and are seldom as sensitive as we think.

We’re often pleasantly surprised at the many ways employees can help us reach goals they see and understand.

Chip Averwater is chairman of Amro Music Stores, Memphis, Tenn., and author of the book “Retail Truths: The Unconventional Wisdom of Retailing.” For more information, visit retailtruths.com.

Retail Merchandiser magazine is pleased to present the points of view of many different industry stakeholders. If you would like to contribute your own guest blog to our site, please contact the editor at russ.gager@phoenixmediacorp.com.