Peter Fader, Eric Bradlow, and Jeffrey Larson of the Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania have written a paper titled “An Exploratory Look at Supermarket Shopping Paths.” The paper focuses on travel patterns without regard to purchase behavior or merchandising tactics. The results, they conclude, challenge many long-standing perceptions of shopper travel behavior within a supermarket.
The authors identified 14 distinct grocery store travel paths during short, medium, and long shopping trips. Based on this information they conclude that:
According to Fader, there is a tremendous amount of research available on why people buy what they buy, but until now there was really no research on tracking the actual buying decision. Until researchers are able to obtain positioning data directly from the shoppers themselves, PathTracker offers the next best thing.
As Barlow states, “What the scanner technology doesn’t collect is in-store behavior. Where did you go to buy that product? What path did you take? Where did you spend time? In what order did you look at product categories?” These are crucial issues in terms of layout, product placement, and store profits. We will eventually start linking in-store movement to purchase decisions.
The Wharton researchers note in their paper that “Other researchers have addressed the general topic of in-store patterns in the past. But no one has PathTracker data.”
So far Dr. Herb Sorensen of Sorensen Associates has installed PathTracker systems in 20 retail stores and is in the process of outfitting 10 more.
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