For Better Research, Create an Authentic In-Store Experience
Consumer research is a cornerstone of brand/product research programs that seek to engage customers in-store, as well as for retailers vying to provide engaging in-store experiences.
Often conducted in live or mock retail environments, where researchers view shoppers’ behavior, oftentimes using eye tracking technology for a firsthand account, consumer research presents challenges and advantages.
Testing in Live Stores
Testing in a real store is optimal for understanding how shoppers behave naturally. That being said, performing a shopper exercise or wearing eye-tracking glasses can feel unnatural. Here are few suggestions to help create an authentic in-store shopping experience:
- Remind shoppers that you seek to understand their natural behavior. Tell them to shop normally and select only items they buy routinely.
- Leave shoppers alone — especially while they're wearing eye-tracking glasses. If you have questions, wait until they admit to having finished their shopping.
- Give specific instructions while allowing for shoppers’ whims.
Testing in Mock Stores
Mock stores offer advantages in terms of privacy and control. In concept stores, researchers test concept packaging or products without worrying about competitors or customer reactions. Furthermore, mock stores give researchers control over store setup, ensuring they don't disturb planograms.
However, a mock store requires a leap of faith on the part of the respondent. These tips will help ensure the experience is authentic as possible:
- It’s all in the details. When designing a mock store or shelf, keep the details as real as possible. Add marketing materials, real planograms, realistic price tags, and so forth.
- Paint a picture for your respondents. Ask them to imagine they're in a specific type of store with a specific task. For example, “Please imagine that you ran out of dish soap and stopped into a big-box store to pick up a replacement. Pick whatever products you normally would.”
Regardless of the type of consumer research that’s conducted as part of a holistic research program, recreating an authentic in-store experience is the best way to understand how shoppers really behave, engage and interact with products.
Kirk Hendrickson is the CEO of Eye Faster, a leading provider of shopper research using eye tracking technology.
Kirk Hendrickson is the CEO of Eye Faster, a leading provider of shopper research, developed his expertise in eye tracking and shopper research while leading worldwide field operations for EmSense Corporation and product management for MarketTools, Inc. Kirk holds a patent for conducting surveys on mobile phones and was twice a finalist for the EXPLOR Awards. Kirk holds an MBA from the Amos Tuck School of Business Administration, Dartmouth College, and a BS and MS in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University.