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A Great Read on Shopping

This latest survey provides a great read on the trends since the pandemic and how shopping evolves across a wide range of categories, writes Great Northern Instore's Dan Sabanosh.
6/11/2024
great northern instore p2pi
Dan Sabanosh

Great Northern Instore is pleased to partner with the Path to Purchase Institute on this important research for the fourth year in a row. It is critical to understand shopper motivations to develop marketing programs that will resonate and ensure shopper conversion. This survey provides a great read on the trends since the pandemic and how shopping evolves across a wide range of categories.

There are some small shifts in shopping at brick-and-mortar versus online. Grocery items are shopped in-store 79% of the time, with online purchases slightly on the rise. Categories such as alcoholic beverages, medication and home decor are shopped in-store 80% or more. Immediacy of purchase and the ability to see products in person drives this behavior for these categories. 

Overall, the ability to see products in person is the main reason shoppers visit physical stores. Whether it is to choose their produce for maximum freshness or to see the colors and textures of home decor items with their own eyes, it is critical for brands to create in-store programs that allow shoppers to engage with products. Older generations over-index here, with nearly three-quarters of boomers and the mature generation stating this is a reason they prefer in-store shopping.

The ability to see products in person is still the No. 1 reason for Gen Z and Millennials to visit physical stores. These younger generations also over-index in going to stores for the ease of making returns and the treasure hunt experience. 

For retail channels, shoppers are visiting dollar stores, mass merchandisers, and convenience stores more frequently than a year ago. Economic conditions cause the search for value while busy schedules highlight the need for convenience. As their spending power increases, younger generations are driving these shifts.

When at the store, shoppers expect to have the items they want in-stock, a clean store and easy checkout. These basic items are desired by all generations. Clear, visible signs and the ability to easily navigate the store are in the next group of preferences for shoppers. As brands and retailers, it is important to make products easy to find. This can be wayfinding signs, great point-of-purchase merchandising, and high-impact packaging that makes your brand easy to recognize. Millennials desire good overall ambiance, eye-catching visuals and displays, and experiential offerings more frequently than other generations.

This year’s survey also asked about impulse purchases. Overall, 50% of impulse buys were due to a promotion. Older generations are more likely swayed by promotions. Younger generations are more likely swayed by attractive packaging and secondary merchandising displays, sampling or in-store signage. Think about your target when considering tactics to get your product into the shopping basket.

Furthermore, this year’s survey questioned shoppers about their outlook on shopping. The U.S. consumer is still feeling the impact of inflation, with over one-third of respondents saying they will spend more on groceries moving forward. This will mean cuts in other categories to maintain their budgets. Discretionary purchases such as eating at a restaurant, local attractions and live entertainment see more respondents anticipating lower spending versus higher spending.

As the methods of digital shopping are increasing, most shoppers will buy via a retail or brand website/app in the next six months. But over half of respondents say they are unlikely to shop other digital channels in the future. At least for the short term, winning strategies are required at brick-and-mortar for brands to win.

Finally, this survey shows the U.S. shopper is not very optimistic about macro factors over the next six months. There is trepidation regarding the economy, gas prices, inflation and global conflict. Focus on essentials and high-quality smaller ticket purchases are winners. Really understand your specific target’s motivations to ensure your shopper programs are in sync with what they value at this moment.

About the Author: Dan Sabanosh is director of shopper marketing for Great Northern Instore, a leading designer and manufacturer of merchandising solutions, where he helps clients be more insightful when developing their retail programs. Before joining Great Northern, Sabanosh worked for Colgate-Palmolive in both shopper marketing and brand management roles.

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