By John Bowles, joint MD, Newspaper Advertising Bureau (NAB).
We all know logically that the weekend is the busiest time in the shops. It’s when most of us have the time to catch up on our retail therapy or simply find the time to stock up on all that’s needed for the home. Long-standing research supports this; 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 to compete. It’s the ultimate nightmare if retail’s potential 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. If however, you unpack it; shopping mostly occurs over the weekend.
Roots – a retail and readership survey conducted by TNS, funded by Caxton and taken to the market by NAB – has shown this to be the case for decades. To get a true reflection of the shopping pattern, it’s the food and grocery shoppers that need to be understood since they are 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 SA, 65% of shoppers shop at the weekend, 17% during the week and the rest at different times. 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.
Almost 90% of buyers do some planning before the shop. In fact, 65% of consumers always plan their food and grocery shopping spree before leaving home.
Some say shopping decisions take place in store, at point of purchase. It’s not true. We must have knowledge of the brand, the destination, where it’s available, the price and other general information first. People shop ‘spontaneously’ because of previous knowledge and experience.
The data generated through Roots supports this. Most shoppers plan their shopping. The survey takes this one step further to ascertain when this planning happens.
Again, over two decades of data shows the same finding. Buyers plan their shopping one to three days before they shop. Almost two-thirds in the latest survey plan their shop a day or two before they visit 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 in 2011 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 planned, what does it all really mean? 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, this finding should be hitting home for the media communication execution.
Further to 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 to paint, hardware, appliances and clothing revenues, the contributions are very similar on a month-to-month basis, apart from a slight skew in November and December. Retail is open 52 weeks of the year 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.
If buyers mostly shop at weekends, 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 at the latest by Friday. The ‘sweet spot’ should be 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 time 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 before they reach their shopping destination. This is when their ‘shopping radar’ and frame of mind is best.
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