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Back to Basics

2012 July 9

Last month, Point of Purchase Advertising International (POPAI) released the results of its recent research on the shopper decision process. To the surprise of many, the in-store decision rate according to POPAI is an all-time high of 76 percent.

With so much focus as of late on the so-called SoLoMo (Social, Local, Mobile) it’s interesting to see that in-store decisions have actually gone up from the last measure, by a fair margin. This despite the ZMOT folks telling us that by the time a shopper enters the store the game is up and all that’s left is the actual purchase.

While it’s true that about half of shoppers are going online to do research prior to just about every shopping trip, and the typical shopper is more likely than ever to have a list, there remains ample opportunity to influence a purchase at the final moment of truth—the shelf edge. Lists are great, but they are—to paraphrase Captain Barbosa in “Pirates of the Caribbean,”—really guidelines as opposed to rules.

According to Acosta Sales and Marketing’s Fall 2001 study, “The Why Behind the Buy,” most shopping lists are product rather than brand based. This serves as a guide for the shopper at the category level, but the real decision isn’t actually made until she can see what’s available, the current price, and what other options there are in-store.

This doesn’t mean that anyone who uses social or mobile platforms to gather information is going to dump Facebook, or kill their mobile app. What it does mean is that the store—and specifically the shelf edge—is no less important than it ever was; if anything it’s more important. It means that the basics of retail are still in play, despite all the transparency and sharing going on. Once we get past the gee-whiz connectivity and real-time information, if a product isn’t on the shelf, or the price is too high, or there are better alternatives, then the shopper reserves the right to call an audible at the shelf, and she’s doing this with more frequency than anyone believed.

Just to be perfectly clear: there aren’t “infinite moments of truth” as some have suggested. There is one, and it’s at the shelf edge, right where it’s always been. Screw up there and all those followers and “likes” don’t mean a thing.

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