Grocery industry research firm IGD recently released a 60-page report (PDF) called "Tomorrow's Shopping World," which analyzes the shopping habits of adults and teenagers in UK grocery stores. The results are an interesting combination of the obvious (most people don't want ads beamed to their mobile phones) and the unexpected (8% of teenagers and 5% of adults were OK with the idea of having a chip inserted into their body to be used as a payment method). As you'll see from some of the examples below, it's a good read for anybody involved in retail or multichannel marketing.
Not too surprising
Most people (85% of teenagers and 83% of adults) prefer to learn about new products from TV ads.
My guess is that the researchers asked each interviewee a question like "how do you most often learn about new products?" The interviewee would then respond with a list of perhaps three of four media channels, TV, newspapers, magazines, the Internet, etc. Primed with these answers, the researcher might then continue with, "which of those do you most prefer for finding out about new products," and the respondent would reply. Considering how much passive media we consume in the form of TV, it's not at all surprising that it has become the de facto way to learn about new products and pricing.
Most teens like self-checkout (66%) and anything else that can make the "boring" parts of a shopping trip more quick and efficient.
In fact, most adults (62%) said the same thing. While shopping can be a leisure activity and retail stores have come to be recreational destinations, most shoppers will happily take every opportunity to make the more mundane parts (like waiting in line or paying) as quick and painless as possible.
22% of teens and 28% of adults said that they would like more kiosk-based convenience services like shopping list management, product locators, and price/inventory lookup.
This is pretty interesting to me, since we've seen a number of retailers lament that the devices they've deployed to handle these exact services are under-utilized. If the data above suggested that teens were much more likely to want these services I'd understand it, as they still don't do as much grocery shopping as adults on the aggregate. However, both teens and adults commented on these things at about the same rate, indicating that retailers have either not implemented them well (perhaps by using poor-quality hardware and software or else making the machines difficult to find and use), or they haven't marketed the interactive systems' benefits well enough.
Few people want ads beamed to their mobile phones or PDAs.
I know there are literally hundreds of mobile marketing firms out there who so desperately want this to not be true, but honestly, is anybody surprised? According to the study, 98% of people report that they either own or frequently use a mobile phone, and it's obvious that most still feel that the devices should be off-limits to marketers. This probably refers mainly to push-based marketers, and I'd be willing to guess the opinions would be different for user-initiated (pull) marketing like requesting a free song from a music download kiosk, downloading a brochure from an electronic billboard, etc.
A little surprising
Half of teenagers will go to another store to get what they want if their desired brand isn't available, compared to only 35% of adults
If I was looking for a plasma TV or some other big-decision purchase, I'd probably consider going to a different store if the first one didn't carry the brand/model I was looking for. But we're talking about grocery shopping here, and to me the thought of going to a different store because my local Publix didn't carry my favorite cookies or laundry detergent seems pretty far-fetched. As the paper notes, though, this is a serious problem. Some percentage of those people who leave the store for that one item will probably leave their entire cart behind, and do all of their shopping at their new destination.
20% of teenagers will substitute brands, compared to 26% of adults
I felt that this number was quite low, but perhaps that just reflects my brand loyalty (or lack thereof). Also, it's likely that when asked this question the respondents had a particular product in mind that has an emotional connection and is thus less susceptible to brand switching, which would also make the average response number artificially lower.
Only 21% of adults said they'd want to learn about new products from POP displays, and only 10% wanted to learn from in-store TV.
Considering all of the research that has been done on first moment of truth (FMOT) marketing and POP's influence on brand and purchase decisions, I would have expected this number to be much higher. One possibility is that in-store media is more likely to register with shoppers who already have some awareness of the product or brand being advertised, thus new (and unrecognized) products don't fare as well. Alternatively, because of its passive nature, the respondents may not have really considered the impact of in-store displays on their shopping behavior and purchase decisions. (This sort of issue arises from the disparity between what people say they do and their actual behaviors, but that's a whole different topic.)
Very surprising, bordering on hard to believe
16% of teens and 12% of adults said they'd like GPS navigation systems in their shopping carts.
Honestly, how big are the stores that these people are shopping in? Perhaps the sample group was just associating any kind of product-locator/mapping system with the more familiar notion of GPS systems in cars. Either way, while product locator kiosks and even systems like IBM's Shopping Buddy certainly have merit, GPS-based nav systems (in the traditional sense) would seem to be overkill for this application. What it does signal is that customers want better navigation signage in grocery stores than what is currently the norm. Interestingly, a large number also said that they'd like to see a call button or even a live attendant in each aisle to help locate products and give advice, further suggesting that shoppers feel that finding items in a modern supermarket is too hard, or they desire more personal interaction with employees to help them choose the right products.
8% of teenagers and 5% of adults were OK with the idea of having a chip inserted in their body to be used as a faster payment method
We touched upon this at the beginning of the article, but it still seems amazing. I think the RFID industry should be required to distribute copies of George Orwell's 1984 before being allowed to develop and market products like this. Thankfully, the percentage of people interested in this kind of tech is still quite low, so I don't think we'll see it commercialized any time soon. More likely, contactless RFID payment cards and no-signature-required programs for traditional credit cards will continue to reduce the average transaction time and increase convenience -- without any modification to your body in the process.
In sum, teens and adult customers alike are asking for improved customer service, easier navigation through the store, and new technology to make shopping -- even boring, old grocery shopping -- more enjoyable. There are good opportunities for self-service kiosk applications to deliver some of these functions, and while in-store media networks can certainly make a difference on sales, the data suggests that network owners may want to start shifting some part of their content loops to experiential/entertainment content that works to improve the customer experience, rather than just advertising the products. In fact, with Wal-Mart and others giving more visibility to at-retail media, savvy retailers and brands may want to start focusing on customer-centric visual merchandising and self-service technology as a way to improve the shopping experience. As the IGD report mentions, today's teens have grown up in an environment where computers and technology are nearly ubiquitous, and as this group matures (and their buying power grows), retailers will benefit from providing an environment that recognizes and takes advantage of this.