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How Manufacturers Can Use Market Research to Shape In-Store Experience

Though it would be hard to go ten minutes without hearing some tale of the impending brick-and-mortar retail crisis, our recent Retail Industry Report gave retailers some hope—millennials, we found, still prefer in-store shopping to online, mostly for the in-person interaction with the product and a pleasurable shopping experience.

Of course, figuring out what constitutes a pleasurable shopping experience is like modern day alchemy and entire market research firms are dedicating themselves to figuring out what gets shoppers out of the house and into the store. But as product manufacturers know, it’s even more difficult to shape in-store experiences when you are not operating the store. Kinda like trying to wave in an airplane with one hand behind your back. How as manufacturers, in a moment when in-store experiences are at a premium, can you understand, much less shape, those experiences? Market research, that’s how.

Knowing is Half the Battle

The first step for manufacturers is understanding what your customers see, hear, and even think when they are shopping in retail locations for your products. Shop-Alongs will give you all the information you need. Too often, market researchers think of shop-alongs as a methodology exclusively for retailers looking to understand how customers navigate and experience their stores. They are, however, invaluable to manufacturers who have little control over and access to those retail spaces.

With ShopAlongs, manufacturers will be able to map their in-store customer journey and understand how each of their major retailer partners presents and sells their products. They will also understand what is working, what isn’t, and what their customers want from their in-store shopping experiences. They can then use this knowledge when negotiating future contracts with their retail partners.  

Acting is the Other Half of the Battle

Manufacturers can also be proactive by directly shaping their customers’ in-store experience, but it will require some investment. Strategically providing retailers with interactive displays, educational kiosks, pop ups, and other materials, for example, will draw attention to their brand at the very least, and could even be the main draw for some customers. All over, manufactures are entering into , with retailers ranging from pop up exercise classes to interactive video games, all to highlight their brands, draw foot traffic, and increase everybody’s profits.

Use shop-alongs to optimize and enhance the in-store experience by finding out what your customers want, and then negotiating contracts with retailers to get it to them. Of course, these are costly investments so it is paramount that you ensure that your retailer partners are holding up their end of the bargain. That’s where retail audits come in.

Retail Audits: Ok, There are Actually Three Halves of the Battle

Contracts between manufacturers and retailers are the glue that keeps these relationships together, but retail audits may well be the lubricant that keeps them moving along at maximum efficiency.

For those who don’t know, manufactures enter into contracts with retailers dictating how their products will be sold in their stores. Everything from the amount of shelf space and positioning, promotional events, associate product knowledge, signage, and proximity to competitor products is accounted for.

Retail audits, as we described in a recent case study, are a singular way to ensure their retail partners are holding up their end of that bargain, providing the considerations manufacturers pay them to provide. So before you build a ten-foot tall, educational display for an in-store promotion, ensure you have a contract with your retail partners to display it, and then utilize retail audits to make sure it happens.

As a manufacturer looking to shape in-store experiences, you may have one hand tied behind your other back, but with your other hand firmly gripping a market research toolkit, you can still wave the product into the gate.


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