In a multipart series during 2014 our team has examined key product attributes and marketing tactics from two different perspectives — the retail buyer and the consumer/shopper. This objective picture of the two viewpoints should contribute to a product’s success at retail.
• Who influences buyers and shoppers in decision making?
Buyer vantage point: It goes without saying that manufacturers directly influence buyers’ decisions to add products to store shelves. Manufacturers first must make a convincing case for their products in their presentation, emphasizing credible, objective influencers that support their item. Suppliers armed with favorable customer feedback have the most convincing story to tell to persuade buyers to add them to the assortment.
Shopper vantage point: Shoppers are bombarded by potential influencers, from trusted health care providers to other consumers voicing their opinions on social media. According to a Bazaar Voice study, different generations of shoppers rely on different influencers to inform their purchases at shelf. Sixty percent of baby boomers trust their friends and family to recommend purchases, while only 49% of Millennials rely on personal recommendations. Fifty-one percent of these younger shoppers prefer to consult websites and online reviews, which only 34% of older shoppers consider an influence on their purchasing decisions.
• What influencers impact buyer and shopper decisions and how?
Buyer vantage point: Strong influencers that can convince buyers to add a product to their assortment include physician or pharmacist recommendations, credible product spokespeople, and overwhelming consumer support. Ensuring the products buyers choose have impactful awareness-building efforts behind them will help drive consumers to shelves to purchase.
Shopper vantage point: While a 2013 survey by Dimensional Research found 88% of shoppers admit that online reviews have influenced their buying decisions, these sources do not seem to impact shoppers when it comes to over-the-counter products. Shoppers place their trust in recommendations for O-T-Cs squarely in the hands of their health care provider, with physicians and pharmacists as their most trusted source for O-T-C medication information. According to a 2008 Harris Interactive study, as many as eight out of 10 pharmacist recommendations are acted on by consumers.
• How can shopper decisions be influenced at shelf?
Buyer vantage point: While some shoppers may do their research or come to retailers driven by a physician recommendation, there is still opportunity at shelf to influence their decision. The assortments buyers choose should include complementary items; a range of price points; and form, size and brand options. Choices and variety can inspire shoppers to consider products they may not have initially sought, and possibly select a product at shelf that is more profitable to the retailer.
Shopper vantage point: Even shoppers who have spent hours reading about a product online or are confident in their physician’s recommendation can still have their mind changed at shelf. Shoppers may find the retail price of a recommended product a deterrent and select the lower-priced store brand. On the other hand, shoppers entering the store with intent to purchase may also be swayed at-shelf to purchase a different brand, form or complementary product, if packaging or at-shelf signage highlights important treatment information or touts benefits that influence the customer’s purchase decision. The in-aisle experience is the retailer’s last opportunity to influence the shopper’s decision.
• Bottom line
While shoppers are influenced by a variety of sources, including trusted health care professional recommendations and abundant online reviews, thoughtful assortment planning and merchandising can ultimately sway their decision on what to purchase.
CARI SASS is director of marketing at Hamacher Resource Group, a research, marketing and category management firm specializing in consumer health care at retail.