EXPERT COLUMN: What They Do, Not What They Say

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EXPERT COLUMN: What They Do, Not What They Say

By Liz Crawford - 03/10/2014

As marketers and researchers, we live in exciting times. Every year, emerging technologies are enabling new, comprehensive data-gathering techniques. This means that we are getting views into the shopper's world that weren't possible, even five years ago. This is intriguing for those who would like to understand how shoppers move through the purchase cycle, make decisions, and consume media and products.

To further explore this emerging trend, research network ShopLab partnered with Novartis Consumer Health (NCH) to study grocery shoppers' behavior using some of the new data-gathering techniques available. To address our wide-ranging questions, we developed a comprehensive methodology called ShopLink.

ShopLink encompasses three parts: a traditional online survey, a real-time app diary (on the respondent's mobile device) and a passive digital monitor, which records all of the respondent's smartphone activities. Passively-observed data is one of the most progressive aspects of the method. Silent recording of activity has razor sharp accuracy, unlike "recalled" or claimed behavior.

Cheryl Policastro, director, Shopper Marketing & Insights, NCH, explains: "ShopLink is a breakthrough methodology because it incorporates passive metering which doesn't rely on faulty consumer 'recall.' Also, passive recording doesn't interfere with shopper response the way in-person ethnographies do. The reason is simple - there is no attempt to 'please' a digital monitor. As we look to engage shoppers via mobile devices, we now have access to more accurate and comprehensive data than ever before."

This article features data from the passive monitor, which was used to cluster app behaviors into segments. We hoped to understand shoppers by their mobile behavior, not necessarily by traditional demographic profiles or purchase histories. Segmenting grocery shoppers by their app behavior opens the door to effective digital programming.

Four Clusters

To qualify to participate in the study, all respondents needed to meet three requirements:

  1. To be the primary grocery shopper for the household
  2. Have a smartphone
  3. Shop in a grocery chain which offers an app (e.g., Kroger, Safeway, Meijer, Stop & Shop, and others).

More than 500 respondents qualified for the study and 129 participated. Based on the findings, we distinguished four clusters of grocery shoppers, based solely on their behavior with grocery apps.

After clustering on behavior, an examination of demographics revealed two distinct groups of shopper moms, one group of couples without children, and a final cluster of single shoppers.

'Gettin' It Done' Moms

The “Gettin' It Done” group is the largest group in our study – they are power-users. Noteworthy here is the level of education, with a skew toward college and even post-grads. This group uses a smartphone as a tool to help them tackle their lengthy “To Do” List. We could infer that this group is very goal-oriented, having finished higher education levels, and conceiving of their phone as an instrument of achievement.

This group is also the only group of recipe app users, which in turn, correlates strongly with list-making. Again, achievement and task-focus prevails. Unlike the second mommy group, these women are also frequent users of children’s apps - probably using them as digital baby-sitters. Apps used most often include Coupon Apps, Children’s Apps, List Making Apps, Third-Party Shopper Apps and Recipes Apps.

Fun, Social Moms

These moms are heavy into social media, mainstream media and games. Their cellphones save them money, but are an important source of entertainment and communication with others. Although they have families, they are not making lists or using recipe apps. Instead, this group is much more light-hearted than the first group: nearly one-third of their usage was in games. Their device is used for entertainment, instant communication and convenience. Apps used most often: Games, Media: Apps- TV, News, Social Media and Coupon Apps.

Dynamic Duos

The Dynamic Duos are couples without children. The respondents were mostly female users, but there was a prevalence of male grocery app users in this group as well. They use their phones for banking, as well as lifestyle support – such as restaurants and reviews (like Yelp), as well as personal fitness and diet apps. This group uses mobile technology for self-monitoring (40 percent of their usage is devoted to diet/fitness apps) and for decision-making support (how to spend free time). These grocery app users are still in a young age bracket (25 – 44); they may shift into a different behavioral segment if they have kids later. Their smartphone is used as if it were an interactive, personal diary. Apps used most often: banking and financial, restaurant or review apps, fitness and diet apps. Not used: third-party coupon apps.

Solitary Hunters

This is a small group (6 percent) of users. However, they are distinguished by a strong correlation of behaviors we are calling “solitary hunting”. They are male, older and notably single. They use their mobile device for banking, sports and travel, in addition to grocery shopping. Apps Not Used: Recipe Apps, Games, Children's Apps.

This study shows that shoppers fall into distinct segments, based on the observed instrumentality of their phones. To be effective as marketers, we need to create mobile messages and incentives that leverage behavior patterns. For example, Fun, Social Moms are ripe for brand advocacy programs, while Gettin' It Done Moms would value achievement tools. Research methods are yielding much richer data than simple claimed attitudes, demographics and recalled behavior. The recording of actual behavior, in real time, means that we will be able to understand shopper patterns in depth. Using that data effectively is the next step forward.

Liz Crawford is VP, Strategy & Insights for MatchShoplab in Norwalk, Conn.