Views from the Hills by R. E. Stevens, GENESIS II (The Second Beginning) E-Mail

Adding to the Confusion

Recently I wrote a Views titled, "Educating an Old Warrior."  What I was writing about was new learning, at least for me.  This new learning was the result of Sorensen Associates' new research tool called PathTrackerTM .  PathTracker literally documents each shopper's visit to the store.  The Beta Test of the system which I was looking at involved 60,000 shopping trips.  From this data, we found that unlike I was taught, there is no specific Traffic Flow through the supermarket.  Actually, we found 25,000 different paths where some aisles were involved in a s few as 10% of the shopping trips.  Actually, we divided the trips into four categories involving a combination of time and distance traveled.  This information was the start of a real learning experience for me.

After discovering that the average shopping trip took 17 minutes and approximately 49% of the trips took 10 minutes or less, Dr. Sorensen decided to integrate the frequency of category exposure with the time involved in making a purchase decision.  Each variable was reduced to a dichotomy resulting in a two-by-two cell table as follows:

1.  Low number of visits with Slow purchase time (The time it took to make a purchase decision.)
2.  Low number of visits with Fast purchase time.
3. High number of visits with Slow purchase time.
4.  High number of visits with Fast purchase time.

You have little chance to sell your product if the shoppers do not visit the aisle where your brand is sold.  If you are not in the shopper's relevant set of brands and they make their purchase decisions quickly, you have little chance of your brand being purchased or even noticed.

I wonder how a Brand Manager's strategy changes depending on which cell his/her brand resides.  And of prime importance is what brand is chosen for purchase, yours or your competitor's?

Does this type of thinking even enter into the planning of Category Management?  I would think it has to.  How could you ever develop a strategy without knowing the level of exposure your category or brand has among the shoppers?  For instance, I called a friend who is employed by a company that has its major brand in a store aisle that our data says is visited by less than four out of every five shoppers.  (There are a number of categories that are visited by less than 10% of the shoppers).  I asked him about how many of the purchases of his brand is unplanned.  The response was "probably over 50%."  Now if you knew that your brand's category was "passed by" by fewer than 20% of shoppers and over 50% of your brand sales were spontaneous would you not be looking for ways to get the shoppers to visit your store aisle more frequently?  And while they are there, to notice your brand?  This really demonstrates why free-standing displays and end cap displays are so effective.

The more information I see, the more confused I get.  Maybe, just maybe, this is the reason a recent report titled, "Next Generation Category Management:  new strategies to optimize your customer focus," reports that the 20 top retailers worldwide have all implemented the concept of Category Management, but have found it difficult to execute and improve to obtain a competitive advantage.

I am finding this exercise in consumer behavior extremely interesting.  Unfortunately, I never spent much time in the area of Category Management.  During the next few months, I plan to learn more about this science both from the manufacturer and retail point of view.  Hopefully, some of the Views readers will share their knowledge with me.

Sponsor:  Sorensen Associates Inc      Portland, OR  800.542.4321        Minneapolis, MN  888.616.0123
The In-Store Research Company