When we talk about the retail landscape, it’s easy to use the words “shopper” and “consumer” interchangeably. A recent LinkedIn article went in depth on the subject, and it make a lot of sense. Basically it defines a “shopper” as the person in front of the products, making the decisions on what to purchase. The “consumer” is the person actually using the products—whether they’re eating the food, wearing the clothes, or using the pet shampoo to wash the dog. Sometimes these are one in the same, and sometimes they’re not.
The shopper profile can be broken down even more. There’s the person who is on a pre-planned shopping trip, and there’s the impulse buyer. There are brand-loyalists and there are sale-enthusiasts (I’m making up terms now). But you get the idea. The point is, there are different factors for why people buy what they buy. Online shopping was a big catalyst in forcing the distinction. Because there are so many channels now when it comes to shopping, there’s a need to understand How people shop, in addition to the Who and the Why aspects of the shopper journey.
Brands should be focused on both the shopper and the consumer. But for research and insights teams, planning new in-store concepts means understanding customers from a shopper perspective. That’s where innovation comes in to play. Here at InContext, we're most interested in the definition of a shopper when it comes to the in-store journey. We help our clients understand how and why people behave the way they do in a physical space, all within the realms of virtual reality.
Using VR technology, retailers and manufacturers can start to get a better understanding of how their new in-store concepts will resonate with shoppers, before testing anything in the real world. Instead of relying on surveys and purchase intent, real shoppers can participate in simulated in-store experiences, providing both behavioral and attitudinal data. VR solutions allow our clients to quickly learn if their concepts will resonate with shoppers in the context of a store. They can understand if a new shelf placement will confuse shoppers, or if new signage will attract renewed interest.
So when we talk about understanding the shopper, we are solely talking about the person making the buying decisions in-store—no matter who the purchase is ultimately for. That’s the definition that ultimately matters when it comes to learning what kind of experiences are hitting the right notes.