The purpose of this article is to show how the application of multiple qualitative methods reveals insights into grocery shopping that cannot be captured via traditional survey methods.
A mixed-method approach was applied where the results of one technique provided the guidelines for the next as a way to understand how decisions are made within a grocery store. A mail survey started the process which subsequently presented input for the focus group, leading to videographic observations, depth interviews and consumer diaries.
The results show that many decisions in the grocery store are not driven by the store environment but rather by emotional connections to the brand. This suggests that using behavioral and attitudinal surveys to understand this perspective may not adequately capture important aspects of grocery buying. Instead, consideration must be given to alternative methods which offer the shopper freedom to discuss what is important to them in terms of product selection.
This study is unique in applying multiple qualitative methods to an environment that is often overlooked as a source for meaningful insights into consumer decisions. The ability to use methods such as videography and self-assessment provides consequential reasons behind consumer behaviour rather than just statistical measurements of this.
The results make a note of caution for retailers. Radical changes to brand offerings (e.g. deleting lines) and accessibility to preferred products (e.g. out of stocks, store layouts) runs the risk of potentially isolating regular customers. Our research shows that when a favorite product is not available, a substitute is not likely. Instead respondents tend to go to another store that does stock their brand, or they buy a smaller, cheaper product to “make do” until the next shop. Neither option is a good outcome for the consumer, the manufacturer or the store.
This study will show that for grocery buying, not all decisions are rational where the use of available information is what drives the final brand choice. Instead, consumers display evidence of emotion that one research method in isolation is unlikely to adequately capture.
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