Out-​of-​Store Marketing, In-​Store Promotions Jointly Sway Unplanned Purchases

Last week, I highlighted a study that discussed the difficulty retailers face when marketing to ‘mission’ shoppers. While there may be more mission shoppers in stores these days, all is not lost. New research shows that out-​of-​store and in-​store marketing campaigns can work together to sway shopper behavior, especially when the merchant takes the type of shopper trip into account.

David Bell, marketing professor at the Wharton School, and his colleagues, set out to determine whether a shopper’s pre-​trip strategies can be used by retailers to “stimulate unplanned buying.” Their study revealed the following findings with respect to the grocery story sector:

  • Shoppers who enter a store without a clear goal spend more on unplanned purchases
  • Stores chosen because of price and convenience often benefit from shoppers’ unplanned purchases
  • Out-​of-​store marketing “reinforces the lift” and generates more unplanned buying, especially when combined with in-​store marketing

Researchers also found that specific kinds of shopping trips resulted in more unplanned buying. The percentages below indicate how often unplanned buying occurs during these types of trips:

  • Shopping for meals that will be consumed on the same day: +10%
  • Fill-​in trips when daily essentials are purchased: +27%
  • Major weekly trip: +60%

These increases in unplanned buying boost profits for retailers. While retailers may be tempted to compete for customers, the researchers say store managers should “compete for the shopping trip”. They advise retailers to market to consumers before they decide which store they will patronize. Once the shoppers are in the store, especially for a major grocery run, they can be easily influenced to spend more than planned. And if they have chosen a store because of price, the unplanned spending takes place because the consumers already feel they are saving money. In these unplanned purchase instances, researchers also say that in-​store and out-​of-​store marketing is ‘mutually reinforcing.’ To boost sales, merchants should ensure that these types of marketing programs are working together to reach consumers.

[Source: Bell, David, R. et al. From Point of Purchase to Path to Purchase. Journal of Marketing. January 2011. Web. 14 Dec. 2011] 
Kathy Crosett
Kathy is the Vice President of Research for SalesFuel. She holds a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Vermont and oversees a staff of researchers, writers and content providers for SalesFuel. Previously, she was co-​owner of several small businesses in the health care services sector.