Logically, the weekend is the busiest time in the shops. Long standing research supports it; retailers know it and understand the periods when their best merchandise offering needs to be available.
Most retailers have to be open seven days a week to get as much return on their rentals as they can – and of course, to compete. It’s the ultimate nightmare if retail’s if a customer comes to the show and the show is closed! So as opening hours extend and doors remain open, retailers constantly try to appeal to the weekly flow of potential buyers wandering around their stores.
ROOTS – a retail and readership survey conducted by TNS, funded by Caxton and taken to the market by NAB – support this.
To get a true reflection of the shopping pattern, it’s the food and grocery shoppers that need to be understood since they form the bulk of the traffic. We’re probably all in that market since we need to eat and drink, but it’s where you get a better understanding of another important implication of the ‘traffic effect’.
From multiple surveys over 20 years, food and grocery shoppers continue to shop on the weekend. In the last ROOTS survey, which covers most of urban South Africa, we found 65% of shoppers shop the weekend, 17% during the week while the remainder will shop any time during the seven-day week.
There is also a tendency to bulk shop once a month for food and groceries (creating massive congestion) but there is certainly abundant activity throughout the month. It is, however, the planning that consumers undertake that should, for marketers, be the most intriguing aspect of shopper behaviour.
Almost 90% of buyers do some sort of planning before the shop. In fact, 65% or two thirds of consumers always plan their food and grocery-shopping spree. Planning for food and grocery shopping? We thought that was only for more of the durable type goods.
’They’ told us most shopping decisions take place in store, at the point of purchase. Where does this information come from? It’s simply not true. We have to have knowledge of the brand, the destination, where it’s available, the price and general other information first. People shop ‘spontaneously’ because of previous knowledge and experience that the buyer has. Advertising and trialing of the brands and products helps the buyer gain the knowledge – not a simple random decision taken in the store.
The data generated through ROOTS supports the stance. Most shoppers plan their shopping. The survey takes this one step further to ascertain WHEN this type of planning takes place.
Again, data gathered over two decades shows the same finding. Buyers plan their shopping one to three days before they shop. Almost two thirds (64%) in the latest survey plan their shop (where to source products) about a day or two before they visit the stores.
This is the time when they get into the frame of mind and prepare their mental lists of brands they know, new ones they might consider, the price impact, the destination and other associated considerations. Other independent sources support this practice.
Google did a study on shopper sciences 2011 (the ‘ZERO moment of Truth’ study) and it demonstrated that almost 40% of both spontaneous and considered purchases were thought about one to three days beforehand.
So, if most shopping is being planned for, what does it all really mean? I think it can help marketers plan their advertising timing better. If you consider that the whole point of marketing is to be ‘top of mind’ in a buying situation then this finding should be hit home for the execution of the media communication.
Further to the consumer planning, retail sales (submitted by Stats SA) show a very consistent pattern of sales volumes throughout the year with fairly little seasonal influences. From food and groceries sales to paint, hardware, appliances and clothing revenues, the contributions are very similar on a month-to-month basis, besides a slight skew in November and December.
Retail is open 52 weeks of the year for this reason because people shop all year round. The challenge for marketers is to be visible for as many weeks as possible in order to be thought of and considered when buyers are planning their shop. All advertising and communication is still determined by available budget, but marketers should at least manage the budget according to this shopping behaviour.
If buyers mostly shop the weekend, and plan their shopping about two to three days before, you need to get your communication message out at the earliest by Tuesday (because shoppers have other things on their mind) and the latest by Friday (because the plan is done). The ‘sweet spot’ should be about Wednesday and Thursday.
If the budget doesn’t allow for weekly executions, advertisers should at least consider monthly communication because month end is a busier buying part of the month. Media simply needs to reach most of the buyers in the planning stage. Local newspapers, where we see a lot of loose insert advertising, are an example of how retailers use a media environment that shoppers use when planning their weekend shopping.
To sum up, reaching weekly shoppers on the right days before they plan their shopping trips is a smart move if marketers want their products thought of beforethey reach their shopping destination. This is when their ‘shopping radar’ and frame of mind is best. And if the goal is to be thought of in a buying situation, then brands, services, retailers and general advertisers can only benefit from that timing.
John Bowles is joint managing director of NAB.