February 7 – 8, London UK
by Michael Dorr, Managing Director – Hotspex UK

The world of retail is rapidly changing.  Shoppers are adopting new channels (e.g. online, click & collect), new payment methods (e.g. AliPay) plus a myriad of new product/brand innovations. This year’s Executing Shopper Insights conference explored the impact of these changes, specifically…

  • How is shopping behaviour changing?
  • How is this affecting consumers’ attitudes toward retailers & brands?
  • How can we find meaningful insight through the latest methods / thinking?

Some of my personal highlights from this year’s conference….


Among this year’s roster of speakers was Hannah Jackson from The Body Shop. Hannah spoke about the Body Shop’s strong brand affinity in China (despite having no physical presence in China). To tap into this in the UK, The Body Shop UK has trialed promotions that use Alipay (a leading mobile payment, social networking app). This highly successful campaign engaged Chinese consumers visiting the UK during peak holiday periods (including Chinese New Year and Golden Week).

This example highlights the massive impact that mobile has had on retail, generating boundless (and geographic boundary-less) opportunity for brand and retailers. Currently China leads the way, with mobile payments 50X higher than US (2017).  Adoption of platforms like Alipay and WeChat Wallet are expected only to grow in the future. Shopper Insights professionals must anticipate this shift (as well the onslaught of new data & metrics that will come along with it).

Another example of change, is the growth in Click & Collect. At the conference, we heard from Darren Smith from TJX Europe who shared an interesting side-effect of TJX’s Click & Collect program – it’s driving more in-store activity.  Apparently, shoppers cannot resist the urge to pop in and browse (after picking up their click & collect items). This is a great reminder to researchers: avoid narrowly viewing shoppers by channel (e.g. in-store shoppers vs. online shoppers vs. click & collect shoppers) – they are often the same person.


Another theme was the over-abundance of choice that shoppers face today.  In response, we have developed shortcuts as a way of coping with so much choice. Shoppers use a process of ‘down selecting’ or ‘de-selecting’, i.e. a nonconscious technique to identify and discard products/brands/packages that are not relevant. This helps us understand the auto-pilot behaviour frequently observed among shoppers (i.e. ~80% of grocery shopping is done in auto-pilot mode).

In an interesting case study by Premier Foods (presented by Emma Tappin), it was observed that the more time a shopper navigates a shelf, the fewer items that they notice at shelf. Why? When shoppers are searching for an item, they are employing a process of elimination (i.e. de-selection) as a way of helping them navigate.

And now, given the growth in online retail, shoppers are facing even more choice. Brands like Amazon are tapping into shoppers’ desire to simplify their lives (and their shopping needs) by offering automatic top-ups. Given this new reality, how can new brands (or smaller competing brands) get on shoppers’ radar? We need to ensure that we’re evaluating all new product ideas in a shopping context (to account for the behaviours outlined above). New ideas fail in market, often because they neglected to understand shoppers’ actual behaviours. In life, and in research, context is key.


Several speakers provided some inspiring ideas of how to engage shoppers. Some that stood out:

  • Starbucks Roastery: this concept store takes Starbucks shoppers to the next level. Going beyond just selling coffee and beans, this retail environment offers a multi-sensory and educational experience. Click here more info.
  • The Monkey 47 Winter Lodge: this pop-up lounge in the heart of London (at the Rosewood Hotel) showcases Pernod Ricard’s brands, namely Monkey 47 gin. This beautiful winter retreat (heated seats, faux fur, cottage-like décor, etc.) is a subtle but effective vehicle for Pernod Ricard brands.


The most interesting part of the conference, for me, was the discussion on principles and philosophies informing the latest in Shopper Insights research.  From Byron Sharp’s How Brands Grow, Kahneman’s Thinking Fast & Slow, Behavioural Economics / Nudge Theory and more.  From this wealth of thinking, we know that shopping behaviour is highly subconscious; thus, our research methods must measure shoppers’ implicit attitudes while also observing in-situation behaviours.

At Hotspex, these are cornerstone principles that inform how we evaluate brand, packaging, distinctive assets, and more.   If you’re interested in learning more, please reach out to request a Hotspex Lunch & Learn on Shopper Based Design, Packaging Research and/or Measuring Distinctive Brand Assets (email us at info@hotspex.com).  Thanks again to speakers and organizers of the Executing Shopper Insights conference.  We will see you again in 2019!!