Shopper Research: Understanding Consumer Behavior and Insights

Zofia Maciąg
September 4, 2023


Planogram – A detailed diagram or schematic shows the placement and arrangement of products on shelves and displays within a store.

FMCG -“Fast-Moving Consumer Goods.” products that have a short shelf life, food, beverages, toiletries, cleaning products, and other everyday consumer items.

A/B Testing – A/B testing, or split testing, is used in marketing and website optimization to compare two ideas to determine which performs better.

Attention – cognitive process of focus

Shopper – an individual who visits a store or an online retail platform to browse, select, and purchase products or services.

Customer – individuals who have purchased and are using the product or the service.

Hypothesis testing – is a statistical method used to make inferences or draw conclusions about a population based on a sample of data.

Table of Contents:

Understanding Shopper Research and Its Significance

What is shopper research?

Also known as shopper insights, shopper research delves into understanding consumer behavior, preferences, and decision – making when shopping for products or services.

The Goals of Shopper Research

Before conducting shopper research, companies need to understand how customers use their products. A clear understanding of the consumption habits provides the basis for further action. A customer can be a whole family or just one person. What is more, we can specify if your product is FMCG – “Fast-Moving Consumer Goods.” like toiletries, cleaning products, and other everyday consumer items, or products with a short shelf life, like food and beverages. Additional categories can be luxury products purchased only in exceptional and rare situations. Understanding these categories can give a company a clear perspective on how often the shoppers reach for their products and when.

This is just the beginning of a process to understand how a client uses your product. That is when the shopper researchers come to action. Their goal is to “understand the shoppers” to some extent, and for that, companies that sell products and ones that conduct the experiments will need to determine the specific group of shoppers you want to study. It might include determining the demographics (age, gender, income), psychographics (lifestyle, values), and shopping behavior (frequency, preferred channels).

It is all about shopping.

Shopping is a complex task, in and outside of a shopping environment. Shopper’s research needs a good understanding of the whole path from thinking of buying a product to actual purchase. For that, they need to sometimes look into other customer shopping habits and purchase decision-making.

And for that, researchers are looking into the following:

Habits, recommendations from friends and family, and time spent on platforms where advertisements can influence shoppers contribute to purchasing behavior — understanding what brands shoppers usually buy, whether they take advantage of discounts, and when they are most likely to spend money. Those are questions that shopper researchers should answer.

Photo by charlesdeluvio on Unsplash

Conducting Effective Shopper Research

Asking the right questions.

The basis is to pose appropriate research questions that answer clients’ habits and draw conclusions and recommendations regarding the company’s operation by employing a shopper researcher.

Research questions help us to understand what we are looking for from the research. After that, we can move on to the hypothesis, which will be our predictions of what we think will happen and a reflection of what we already know about our shoppers and their habits. It will be an excellent moment to rethink the practices and beliefs in the company about what works and what doesn’t by conducting a thorough study.

Collecting Relevant Data

From asking the right research questions to choosing how to collect data, companies need to know what variables they can use. Consumer feedback or information from loyalty cards might be a beginning point.

Furthermore, researchers also use the advantages of new technologies to understand consumers’ visual attention and decision-making processes. We often say that we make decisions with our eyes or that first impressions matter. Eye tracking is becoming increasingly popular in retail design to gain insight into how to drive sales of individual products or help consumers make better decisions, as well as answering questions on how the placement of a product on the shelf (e.g., eye level, bottom shelf) affects its sales and visibility.

Logging the shopping path is a new instrument used to collect data on the navigational behavior of buyers, allowing them to optimize the placement of specific products along the aisles or their position on the shelf. Mobile eye tracking is used to study customer behavior in real-life stores to collect data about their shopping habits. Creating a virtual reality where mobile eye tracking can work is also possible, providing a controlled shopping experience that “feels like reality.” With that, we can create A/B testing or split testing, which is used in marketing and website optimization to compare two ideas to determine which performs better.

Following the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a notable shift in consumer purchasing behavior, with more people opting for online shopping over in-person transactions. This transformation in shopping habits has led to a significant surge in global retail e-commerce. In 2020, e-commerce accounted for 17.9% of retail sales worldwide. This figure is estimated to increase to 19.0% in 2021 and 20.3% in 2022. Notably, this year marks a milestone as worldwide e-commerce sales are expected to surpass $5 trillion for the first time, constituting more than one-fifth of all retail sales (Cramer, 2023).

Therefore, to meet the demands of the growing group of online shoppers, web design and online product placement has become the most extensive area of research in recent years.

Photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash

Research example:

An excellent example of research conducted on product placement is Online Eye Tracking for the Optimal Shelf Placement of Heineken Silver by Unravel Research.

When Heineken planned to introduce a new product, the company decided to test the hypothesis on best shelf placement by using online eye tracking. The research question was, is it better to place the new Heineken Silver above the known Heineken Lager or on the left of it? Left placement is usually favorable because of the reading direction of most Western countries. On the other hand, top station has an advantage in that it’s more centered and closer to the ‘hot spot’. They experimented by designing different shelf layouts; one condition placed Heineken Silver on top of Heineken Lager, and the other placed Silver on the left of it ( A/B testing). For this case, the company used RealEye as their webcam eye-tracking.

The results were interesting, Heineken Silver attracted the most attention when positioned on the left of Heineken Lager compared to the positioning at the top of the shelf. Those results give a clear answer to a question that would have taken a long time to discuss without research.

Making Use of Collected Data

After collecting the data, it comes time to

Once data is collected, it’s time to interpret findings and implement changes. Experts should collaborate to devise an action strategy, incorporating customer feedback and statistical data to enhance marketing, advertising, and customer service strategies.

Incorporate these insights into your business for ongoing improvement and customer satisfaction.

However, what needs to be taken into account before committing to significant changes is that branding is a complex subject, and it is often difficult to predict the market’s reaction to a strategy change, but researching other companies’ successes and failures can be a good source of knowledge, for example, Tropicana’s 2009 packaging change.

In 2009, Tropicana introduced a new package, a new advertising campaign launched, “Squeeze, it’s a natural” and a new logo. In two months, sales dropped by 20%, and this spectacular sales decrease represented a 30 million-dollar loss for Tropicana.

Although the packaging was fashionable, the campaign was clever with a lid that changed the shape and texture of half an orange that you can squeeze to obtain fresh orange juice. After about two months, the new campaign was withdrawn, and the company returned to an old style.

It became apparent that many consumers didn’t recognize the product on supermarket shelves. The company changed everything, even though it was working before. From that experience, we can take that changes must be made progressively to ensure the consumer still recognizes the brand.


In conclusion, shopper research is a vital tool in modern business marketing, helping companies to understand consumer preferences, enhance marketing strategies, and improve customer satisfaction. Businesses can thrive in an increasingly competitive marketplace by understanding shoppers deeper and incorporating insights into their operations.


  • Engage, Anthony, M. (2015). The Introductory Guide to GREAT Shopper Research. Retrieved from:
  • Hasanat, M. W., Hoque, A., Shikha, F. A., Anwar, M., Hamid, A. B. A., & Tat, H. H. (2020). The impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) on e-business in Malaysia. Asian Journal of Multidisciplinary Studies, 3(1), 85-90.

Marion (09.03.2022) The Branding Journal

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