I spent the best part of this morning sorting out digital photos from store visits. In my career you see, I have been fortunate enough to have worked for organisations that immersed their teams into the retailer and shopper experience. Over the last 10 years I have visited more than 130 shopping locations (hypers, super-markets, convenience stores, small-independent stores and HoReCa outlets) during 38 structured market visits in 24 countries. For a handful of them, I was part of the organising/ hosting team and I am a big believer in their great value for getting first-hand insights on the shopper and customer experience.
One would suggest that during the visit one gets a snapshot of the current situation in store, and that is true as far as the shopper is concerned. However, the shopper is reacting to category plans, activities, promotions, etc that have been agreed and implemented anything between a few weeks and several months back. So, in a sense, during the market visit one is assessing shoppers’ reactions to one’s pre-planned in-store activities. Although the actual assessment of the activities will often be quantitative – and there are usually a lot of data sources to utilise for that – I often have a-ha moments in store that shed light into the “Whys” behind the numbers.
In addition to their obvious value of keeping close contact with the market situation, understanding the in-store experience and investigating a new market, I always incorporate structured store visits in shopper training. They are a great source of inspiration; they open up the participants to new opportunities and offer rich material to work with. Moreover, by utilising market visit material in the training we give the participants an action plan that they can take away and revisit to bring the curriculum to practice.
The current situation is limiting travel and store visits. However, the need for understanding the changing in-store experience is pressing. The pandemic and the resulting changes in society are amplifying the channel trends, with on-line, convenience/ small SM and discounters expected to emerge stronger. How are you maintaining your connection with the shoppers to secure sustainable category development plans that adapt to store format specificities?