Archive for March, 2017

Confused about confusion?

Whilst on my way to the nursery pick up recently, I had a few minutes spare, so I popped into our local supermarket to pick up some milk and bread….”popped in” being the operative words! I weighed up the benefits of shopping with a tired and hungry child and thought whizzing in earlier was a better option…how wrong could I have been! I had to negotiate my way around other shoppers, who seemed to be standing there staring at the fixtures in front of them. Others were simply wandering, very slowly, gazing upwards…..and it got me thinking….what exactly are they doing?

It seemed as though many were struggling to find the category or item they were looking for. Many shoppers genuinely seemed confused…or were they? And how would this “confusion” manifest itself in their shopping behaviour, let alone mine!


  1. Are shoppers’ confused in-store?

14% of shoppers we recently surveyed told us they had found one or more categories of interest confusing to shop in their usual supermarket. The biggest culprits that shoppers tell us they find confusing to shop? Wine (18%), Ice Cream (15%), Beer/Cider (15%), Nappies (14%) and Skincare (13%).

These are categories where we might expect a level of confusion, as they tend to be products requiring higher levels of decision making, however, any level of confusion should not be ignored in any category.

  1. Why is it important to minimise confusion?

We would argue that any claimed confusion level above 10% in a category IS something to be concerned about, because confusion basically equates to wasted shopping time, unhappy shoppers and in the longer term, potential sales loss.

The quicker and easier it is to find a product, the more time shoppers will have to browse other products and make subsequent purchases. Whilst we won’t necessarily spend any longer in store or at a particular category, our allocation of time can become more efficient…meaning spend per second increases – a positive for the brand, the category and the retailer. The worst case scenario is that someone looking for a product wastes all of their time searching (confused), still doesn’t find what they are looking for, and leaves feeling frustrated and without buying anything. Thinking back to my bread and milk mission, if I couldn’t get to the fixtures, I would have given up and the store would have lost my sale. Equally, I might have spent more, had I not been frustrated at the time it was taking to get the basics.

  1. What are the biggest causes of shopper confusion?

Our research showed that the number one reason for shoppers being confused is too much choice (42%), closely followed by confusion over the best deal (39%), with a lack of understanding of the product (26%), coming in 3rd. Three very different reasons, arguably, managed by different members of a category/brand team….but all registering as valid reasons for “confusing” and potentially hindering shoppers.

Delving a bit deeper, even within one category (BWS), reasons for “confusion” vary – with deal confusion/lack of price visibility being key in Cider/Beer, yet choice/lack of product understanding being the biggest source of confusion for wine.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Mums and Dads are getting confused in the Nappy aisle due to confusion over promotions and product suitability. The aisle being badly laid out is also a cause of frustration for parents here, so there are clearly some solutions that need to be put in place to create an easier shopping environment.

  1. How can we improve our execution to minimise confusion?

Too much choice – the solution here may be to reduce the range but equally it could be a more straightforward task of reviewing the layout and creating better signage to make things appear more organised and easy to find. Clearer packaging can also help here

Pricing and promotions – often we over complicate offers – we know shoppers don’t do the maths and they will judge value in different ways in different categories; is it price per gram? The physical pack size? The number of scoops/uses? It comes down to finding out what equates to VALUE in the eyes of the shopper, tailoring price and promotional strategies according to this and keeping it consistent across the category/subcategory

Lack of understanding of the product – perhaps this is the barrier we have most control over. We need to ensure we know what information people are looking for when searching in a specific category. Is it about ingredients or product usage? Are we using consistent messaging through the line to ensure product claims are understood? Once we know the messages we need to convey, we can address this with clearer shopper marketing through pack and POS messaging

Confused?? We hope not, it’s really quite simple, shoppers do find certain categories more confusing than others, but for different reasons. If your category is deemed confusing then you are putting one more obstacle in the way when trying to convert shoppers to purchase. However it is not a one size fits all solution, and may well need different fixes, to achieve your aim of making time spend as efficient as possible, driving shopper satisfaction and ultimately increasing conversion.

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