2 steps to unlock category conversion

I have a three year old son and a one year old daughter that both attend nursery. As such, I seem to spend a great deal of time in the waiting room of our local doctor’s surgery! One recent visit, after this weeks bout of whatever it was, got me thinking about one of the biggest issues we face in the world of category and shopper – improving category conversion. It was a fairly routine and now incredibly familiar set of steps that the doctor went through …… listen to the symptoms, observe and test to diagnose the issue, then prescribe some advice or medicine to treat accordingly. A process we should also follow when it comes to tackling category conversion.

As a shopper research agency, we are often asked to propose a solution to tackle category barriers. A perfectly sensible question to ask. However, we are often asked to rush towards the treatment, without first properly diagnosing the issue.

Diagnosing where

The business question we are typically trying to address by understanding category barriers is; how can we improve category conversion to help us achieve growth? To improve category conversion we must minimise existing barriers to conversion and maximise the triggers to purchase, but our first step should be diagnosis – WHERE, if at all, do our current barriers exist?

Is our conversion issue within a certain channel? Or perhaps within a specific retailer? This already narrows down our prescribed treatment needs.

Shoppers may plan to visit our category in any particular channel or retailer, but do they actually visit? Is the issue that we are not getting our planned shoppers to the aisle?

Is the issue within the aisle? If shoppers visit do they then go on to shop? If they shop do they go on to buy? They might browse, but they don’t all convert to purchase. The barriers, and consequently our opportunities for improvement could lie at any one of these stages.

Researching and creating simple conversion funnels diagnoses where our issues are, allowing us to size the missed opportunities.

This simple process allows us to pinpoint exactly where our efforts should be focused – and therefore where we should be further investigating the WHY.

Diagnosing why

If our funnel reveals that we are not encouraging shoppers to visit our category in discounters, our next phase of research can concentrate away from the aisle, or even away from the store/channel, exploring WHY discount shoppers don’t visit our category (what are their barriers?) … for instance do shoppers even know that our products are available within this channel? Do they have poor perceptions towards retailer range and quality? A treatment for this diagnosis could include shopper marketing coverage in the retailer magazines, showcasing the great brands and range available.

As another example, our conversion funnel may highlight that shoppers do visit and shop the category in supermarkets, but they don’t go onto purchase. Here we want to concentrate our research focus within the aisle, talking to shoppers that engage but walk away without buying. Barriers may be around ease of navigation, ease of shop, or we may have issues with out of stocks. The treatment for such a diagnosis may be a shopper-led merchandising solution supported with communication to improve ease of find and aid the decision making process.

Once we have established where our issues lie and why, we may wish to hone this further by exploring what the most pertinent issues are for our key shopper groups – WHO are we really losing at this point and HOW can we concentrate our effort on removing the barriers that are having the greatest effect with our key shopper groups?

Finally, we may wish to run this exercise with a brand focus – shoppers may buy from the category, but are rejecting our brands in favour of the competitive set. The barriers here could be different again, more likely to be focused on the brand proposition – e.g. on-pack messages, previous product experiences or price/promotions associated with brands.

It is unlikely that any category will have major issues across the entire funnel – so diagnosing WHERE the biggest conversion opportunities exist allows you to tailor barriers and triggers research towards the right stage within the funnel. This way you observe and talk to the most pertinent group of shoppers, ensuring you are more targeted (and cost-effective) with the WHY. Start with the big picture, then narrow the focus down until you are drilling into the real barriers impacting your category, your brands, your shoppers.

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