Broadly defined, “A shopper is the person that buys the product or service but does not always make the decision to purchase”.


We need to understand the science behind the decision to purchase and the purchase in order to engage in a meaningful way, and ultimately drive brand growth.

As J.B Wood said, “Want to fight commoditization and fly over the Margin Wall? Let’s start to innovate not just on what our products can do, but how we can get users to fully use them!”

The universe of shopper’s can be clustered into segments for each category.  Each segment will determine the value its shoppers add to manufacturers and retailers.  There are also differences in shopping missions amongst the segments.  A shopping mission is led by the interpretation of a consumption need with consideration for a shopper need.  In unpacking shopping missions, we should look at the following:

  • Reason for outlet selection
  • Basket size
  • Profile of shopper
  • Length of trip
  • Time in month, week, day
  • Economic health

This is not an exhaustive list, but rather my view of the broad factors to consider.  Outlet selection probably tells us the most.  Shoppers consider outlets based on the range it offers, convenience of navigating through the store, location and ease of accessibility, traffic on route to reach the outlet, outlet reputation and customer experience, promotions, alternative outlets, look and feel of the store, time availability, and cleanliness….the list goes on.  The priority of these factors also change as shoppers mature into life stages.  Store congestion might go unnoticed to a 20 something while it’s a strong consideration factor for a 50 something who does not want to be bumped by trolleys or stand in long ques.

Basket size goes beyond basket, double basket, trolley; to the contents in the basket, its category and price.  For example, the basket size at a Quick Shop is likely to average out at around R60 while a supermarket is probably R 250 and an electronics store is at R3000.  A shopper in each format needs to be marketed to differently and although the same person might go to all 3 outlets on the same day, what influences her to purchase will be very different because her shopping mission is different on each occasion.  To add to the complexity, shopper behaviour changes in different channels and store formats.

Profile of a shopper includes demographic and behavioural attributes, like age/fitness levels, wealth, social status, inquiring, spontaneous…  An elderly shopper might not be keen to go to a large wholesaler, due to the long walk needed to move around in the store.  A wealthy person might reject the idea of shopping at a wholesaler because he does not want to be seen there.  So the shopper profile influences outlet selection strongly and firmly, making it a barrier to influence as it is tough to change these particular factors.

Length of trip is determined by a trade-off between urgency of purchase and time available to shop.  The mind-set of the shopper will decide on the potential to browse verses impulse buy.

Similar influence can be seen with time in month, week and day, providing insight into affordability, household needs and time available to shop.

Economic downswing or upswing, inflation, interest rates and employment rates are key determinants to disposable income for the average population, by income group cluster.  Disposable income and credit accessibility directly impacts shopping patterns and consumption trends.

In order to communicate to your shopper in a way that is relevant enough for the message to reach her, we need to understand the shopping missions and drivers or influencers to her choices.  This is a complex model built on insight into her shopping mission, path to purchase, consumption requirements, household demands and the economic environment.

Knowledge of above and understanding how each factor is relevant to shoppers in the category and target market will ensure the brand is the preferred choice.  This is because the brand will be relevant on all consideration factors.

Understanding Lifestyles has increased importance in the last decade with the boom of online channels.  Shoppers want more that the traditional engagement.  They need to feel connected to the brand and understood by the brand to listen before being influenced to purchase.

The next step is to effectively communicate.  Brands should seek to adopt trends quickly and understand how to leverage the channels.  The landscape of communication forms has evolved and is currently a choice of many. Optimising an approach that carefully selects the channels and successfully integrates these channels would result in a louder message with broad reach.  Because of the amount of noise, brand communication needs repetition.







Written by Emiryl Paul, she is a trade marketing specialist. She has worked in the FMCG industry for 12 years and has built capabilities with cross functional roles. She has worked on market leading brands and medium sized brands. Emiryl has an interest in entrepreneurship having assisted start up companies, within local and Africa markets.