Are marketing and coffee related?

heatmap pickups and returns highlighted

Large investments in marketing tend to somewhat predictably have a positive short term effect on category improvement efforts. If a product launch, for instance, is backed with a significant investment in marketing, the increased shopper awareness will probably translate to some acceptable level of conversions, showing an acceptable level of ROI.

Constant exposure to branding and to promotions will also, with similar level of predictability, boost sales of an existing product.

Over-relying on marketing comes with the risk of growing accustomed to its short term and unsustainable effect, which often becomes a substitute for much more effective category management methods. A possible analogy is the substitution of good sleep with strong coffee, which often proves effective for short bursts of consciousness, but unsustainable in the vast majority of the cases for long stretches.

To support the point let us analyze the image accompanying this post (hopefully placed above the text).

The upper and lower halves of the image correspond to heat maps of pickups (take product from shelf) and returns (put product back on shelf) actions of the same set of shoppers, during the same period of observation, in a real store, captured using Shopperception (fully passive and fully automated in-store observation).

The upper right corner of the pickup heat map shows an area of significant activity (yellow to red), signaling a good amount of shoppers picking up the product from that section of the shelf.

Looking at this area of the image, without much more context, I would be asking myself, as the category manager for my products in this category, questions such as:

– What is specifically driving the majority of the shopper engagement to this section of the shelf, which not only is above eye level, but the children’s section of the category?
– How can I reliably reproduce such level of engagement in other categories?
– How can I sustain such level of shopper engagement for this category?
– When do I get my bonus check?

Then, after the caffeine rush of the marketing efforts wears off, I would be asking myself different types of questions in line with:

– How many of these pickups are yielding actual conversions?
– What products are being favored when the shopper substitutes away from my product?

Incorporating the additional context provided by the returns heat map (lower half of the image), which also shows a high level of activity in the same area of the pickups heat map (upper right corner), but corresponding to returns in this case, instead of pickups, I would dive deeper into the previous line of questions:

– What is making me loose so many shoppers?
– Why are they favoring product x (main substitute) over mine?
– What is the best strategy to capture conversions from most of the pickups being generated?
– How do I stop this bleeding of shoppers over to the competition?
– How do I keep my bonus check?

And most importantly:

How did I miss this situation for so long, how much has it costed me so far in lost sales, and why was it not detected by the current sales numbers based research?

Allow me to spoil the excitement and momentum built so far by this post, by inviting you to join the conversation through comments or questions, so we can shape the ending together.

Also, allow me to invite you to take a look at our Category Assessment sample, which is a deliverable from our in-depth, in-store category observation turn-key service.

See you in the store!

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