The Digital Signage Insider

How digital retailing can enhance your Shopping Trip Management strategy

Published on: 2005-12-19

I just finished reading two great articles about "trip management," which is essentially the science of analyzing consumer shopping patterns to see if they can be categorized into generalized trip types, and then adjusting store layouts, promotions and other marketing tactics to optimize for one or more of these trip types.  While both studies focus on today's shopping trends and the ways that retailers have traditionally fought to grab a bigger share of consumers' spending money, my mind immediately turned to the possibilities that digital retailing technologies can unlock when put to the task.

The first article I came across was this one (PDF) from Unilever that focused on grocery shopping.  Unilever found that consumers generally made one of three types of shopping trips:
  • Quick Trips, where shoppers were looking for just a few items or items for a single meal, were the most popular trip type, accounting for 62% of store visits for groceries.
  • Fill-in Trips were the next most popular, at 25% of store visits.  As you might expect, these are trips between major stock-up shopping trips, when consumers replace used or depleted items from the last big stock-up.
  • Major Stock-up Trips, the least frequent trip type (at 13%), are large purchases of many items, including items that may not be needed in the immediate future (e.g. the next few days).
The second article (actually two articles, here and here), was written by Todd Hale, Senior VP of Consumer Insights at ACNielsen.  He splits the major stock-up trips into two subcategories: (1) the "routine" trip, i.e. your typical major purchase at a grocery store, and (2) the "stock up" trip, a more involved and expensive endeavor that often takes place at a mass merchandiser or discount/warehouse club.  Not surprisingly, both studies found that different types of retailers excelled in catering to different trip types, with the aforementioned warehouse clubs ruling the stock-up trips, and drug and convenience stores claiming a major portion of the immediate need "Quick Trips."

What can we make of this information, and what does it have to do with digital retailing?  Well, let's focus on Quick Trips, since they make up such a large percentage of grocery shopping visits.  According to Unilever, the average time for a Quick Trip is less than 20 minutes, during which time a consumer will purchase an average of 4-5 items.  However, the purpose of a Quick Trip likely varies quite a bit during the course of the day.  For example, somebody headed into a grocery store in the early hours of the morning is probably looking for items for breakfast or lunch.  However, Quick Trips towards the late afternoon and evening are probably geared more towards the evening meal.  Thus, the promotions and tactics used to attract these shoppers' attention need to change during the day as well.  With this in mind, let's assume you're using a kiosk-based loyalty program or customer information center.  In the morning hours, you can incentivize customers to use the system by giving them a chance to win a free mug of rich Colombian coffee, or the daily cholesterol special sandwich.  In the evening hours, you might change the attract loop and menu screens to offer coupons and recipe cards featuring whatever dinner items are on sale or being promoted that day.

Digital signage operators also have a chance to impact these speedy shoppers.  By placing more signs towards the front of a larger store (like a supermarket or mass merchandiser), you can attract a greater percentage of Quick Trip shoppers, since they aren't the sort to go through all of the aisles in your store.  Similarly, ACNielsen reports that some 47% of Quick Trips are for non-UPC items like prescription drugs, random-weight produce, meat and fish.  Thus, bulking up your signage presence in these areas might be a good idea.  (Not sure what your store traffic patterns look like?  You might want to read up on analyzing in-store traffic patterns to optimize your digital signage placement, and then go plan some tests.)  For both self-service kiosks and digital sign displays targeting the Quick Trip shopper, consider adopting the "Value Plus" strategy, by emphasizing "inherent values not only in price, but in organized mission solutions, category breadth, good-for-you-foods and comparative convenience."  What does that mean?  Well, in the aforementioned kiosk recipe card solution, you might feature recipes that utilize several ingredients that are unique to your chain, have additional special or seasonal appeal, or offer some kind of added combinatorial value.

On the flip side, optimizing for major stock-up shoppers requires some additional information.  At just 13% of overall shopping trips, it might not make sense to go out of our way to optimize kiosk and digital signage content for these types of trips.  However, according to Unilever, "they account for 33% of grocery sales across all channels... at [an average of] one hundred dollars per transaction," so we do need to think carefully about them.  Unilever contends that major stock-up trip traffic increases Thursday through Sunday, and most often in the mornings, so plan your day parts (and maybe even your rate card) accordingly.  Likewise, the bigger the trip, the more likely it is that the shopper will plan it out ahead of time, so advertisers will have to anticipate that many shoppers have done some research into their shopping needs and wants.  Given that TV networks in Wal-Mart and other venues have been shown to have a strong effect on brand visibility and purchase intent, it might make sense to promote your advertised brand in areas leading up to the target product, in hopes that this will prime the shopper for a moment of recognition when he or she encounters the product on the shelf.

I've only scratched the surface of how categorical analysis of shopping trips can affect your digital merchandising strategy, but hopefully it will get you thinking about ways to optimize your own networks, or improve your plans for the future.  Anybody involved in planning or managing a network in a competitive, high-traffic store category (grocery, chain drug, mass merchandising, warehouse club, convenience store, etc.) will probably want to delve into the articles I mentioned in more detail.  Whether or not your primary goal is to impact customers' shopping trip structure, fitting these concepts into your digital merchandising strategy can generate significantly higher ROI for your digital merchandising initiative.

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