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Using shopper data to develop insights that drive better decisions is an approach many modern retailers follow, but how many manufacturers are really reaping the rewards that granular shopper data can provide…

With many sources of market data available and product sales data, manufacturers may feel that they have sufficient insight to understand which of their brands are performing well and which may need intervention. But to get a true understanding of who is buying your products - why, how and when - a far more granular level of data is required.


Here are some examples of how shopper insight can give brands deeper knowledge of consumer habits in relation to their products:

Your promotions – are they really working?

If you're running a promotion for one of your products, you'll hopefully have sales figures which show whether there has been an uplift in LFL sales during the period of the promotion. An increase probably can be attributed to the promotional campaign. So far so good. But what else do you know about that promotion campaign which could help your future marketing activities and investments? Who is buying your product on promotion? Are you cannibalising sales from existing shoppers who would have bought it anyway at full price? Are they 'pantry loaders' who are buying in bulk, bringing their spend forward? Is it one shopper buying 3 products, or 3 shoppers buying 1 product each? Are you keeping and converting new customers who buy your brand on promotion? By knowing more about who your shoppers are and what motivates them to buy your product, you'll be able to steer your marketing spend more effectively and avoid wastage.

Brand loyalty – does it really exist?

It's one of the biggest challenges for brands in the face of changing consumer habits and proliferation of channels to purchase: generating and maintaining brand loyalty amongst shoppers. Common beliefs that brand loyalty no longer exists and mass marketing is required to keep continually topping up the funnel with new shoppers in order to keep brand sales buoyant are hard to dispute, unless you have data to prove otherwise. Yet if brand owners don't understand who is buying their product and where there might be headroom for growth, they will struggle to create the right environment for this to happen. Industry sales data might tell you what your market share is, but do you know what your shopper's repertoire is? Are they only buying your brand or buying competitor brands within the category as well? How frequently are your shoppers making purchases? What events or factors are prompting their purchase decisions: pack size first, then brand? Or the other way around? Understanding switching, cross-shopping and retention behaviours are key KPIs you can measure from granular shopper insights.

Giving your new products the best chance of success

New product development is viewed as a great way to encourage existing shoppers to buy more of your products, and attract new shoppers to your brand, yet the failure rate for NPD is remarkably high. Convincing retailers to give up shelf space for your new product can be difficult, and if it doesn't bring in the expected return on investment for both parties, retailers will be quick to de-list it. Understanding category dynamics and the likely universe of shoppers who have the highest propensity to purchase will create a solid foundation for your NPD. Using shopper insight can help you determine what proportion of the retailer's customers you should target with your new product – based on previous purchase behaviour and basket mix. Who has a history of trying new products and sticking with them? Getting an early read of 'trial and repeat' behaviour can help with targeting.

Category growth and shopper Needs

Brands and retailers can both be winners if they work together to grow categories. But understanding shopper needs is vital in making this happen. Key questions you'll want to answer are: What are the gaps in the range? Are there any un-met customer needs which could point to opportunities for growth? What is driving loyalty amongst shoppers within particular categories? Did your promotion or new product launch drive overall category growth? What's the relationship between certain products in the category, and which matter most to shoppers?

A great example of collaboration between manufacturer and retailer to co-create a promotional plan to drive sales and category growth can be viewed here.

There are many issues that will undoubtedly be keeping manufacturers up at night – generating and keeping brand loyalty, creating excitement for shoppers in a sustainable way that doesn't damage your brand (overpromotion), driving growth through innovation (NPD) and increasing brand penetration through retail outlets. The great news is that shopper insight can play a key role in solving these issues and giving your business competitive edge. Getting access to more granular data is the starting point…

white and blue magnetic card

Photo by Avery Evans on Unsplash

Most companies attempting to drive customer loyalty fail miserably—and few so-called customer-centric companies generate sustainable customer loyalty that drives measurable business results. Why? Because they get three key principles completely wrong, right from the start:

  1. Loyalty is about the company acting loyally to its customers, not vice versa.
  2. It is about a loyalty approach, not a loyalty program.
  3. Loyalty is about the store, not only about the CRM.

1. Loyal to Customers

We start to act loyally to customers when we understand them to a level of detail that ensures that we remain responsive to changes in their behavior, relevant to ever-changing customer needs and rewarding in the way we treat customers.


Acting loyally is about adopting a loyalty mind set of managing customer segments as strategic business units (aligning with how we think about a category management strategy as managing categories as strategic business units). This context demands change that is both incremental and transformational—evolution, but with a bit of manageable revolution.

What customer loyalty is, and is not:

  • Acting loyally (responsive, relevant, rewarding) to our customers; not about customers being loyal to us
  • An overall approach throughout our business; not a proposition or program
  • Earning customer loyalty; not thinking that customers should become loyal
  • Collaborative partnerships to win customers together; not tolerant of internal conflict between areas of the business or with suppliers
  • Transparent; not opaque
  • Driving sales and cash margin; not customers being responsible for percent margin

2. Loyalty Approach vs. Loyalty Program

We demonstrate loyalty to our customers by taking a loyalty approach wherein we commit to rewarding and delighting our customers with products and experiences that meet their wants and needs.

  • We call this putting customers first—when we decide on priorities and actions based on insights from our customer data.
  • By doing so, a retailer becomes an even more prominent choice in the customer's consideration set. This is not a tactic; it is a long-term strategy that makes the customer the focal point of our business decisions and objectives.

The loyalty program is an important element within a loyalty approach, as the key source of the data that enables customer intelligence, and as the channel that enables us to talk to our customers personally. I call the loyalty program the "little l" in loyalty, with the loyalty approach as the "big L."

But a loyalty program is not required to act in a loyal way to customers. Here's how to think of "big L" loyalty:

A loyalty approach, simply put, embeds customer insight throughout the retail organization to enable better, faster decisions and thereby increase sales and profit sustainably. Best-in-class practitioners have seen an incremental sales uplift in the early stages of a loyalty approach of between 1% and 2% and later stages between 3% and 4%, quarter over quarter and year over year.

3. Loyalty Is About the Store, Not Just the CRM

As I used to say to my retail colleagues, "If the store is lousy but we deliver brilliant targeted CRM, the store will still be lousy."

Even if the personalized CRM is perfect, customers need to perceive that tangible changes have been made in the store itself before they will respond by giving more of their custom. We must put customer insights into action within the "hardwiring" of retail practices—pricing, promotion, assortment, adjacencies, new products, the checkout experience and so on.

In a previous article, I shared several examples of being loyal to customers in store by simply making the shopping experience easier—setting the yogurt section by customer need rather than by brand blocks, for example, and by setting product adjacencies according to how customers shop, rather than by how items are sourced in the supply chain.

3 Ways to Activate a True Loyalty Approach

  1. Make better business decision by putting the customer first. Everything is better when you start with the customer. Start with the data you hold on customers—understanding how they shop and behave, what is important to them and how they engage with your business. This insight will identify a number of opportunities for better decisions using the data.
  2. Improve the customer experience by using data-driven insights to improve your retail offering, such as assortment, pricing and promotions. Use insights to connect you to your customer through the store. Think of the mantra "data to insights to actions"—this is how improved like-for-like sales growth and customer loyalty is delivered.
  3. Transform the organization using customer-driven insight to help you better understand, anticipate, measure and continually respond to your customers. This is realized through empowering, aligning and equipping your people with relevant insights, values, goals, strategies and actions.


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[This is the fourth in a series of articles advocating the voice of the Customer in the highly competitive food-retail industry. David Ciancio is Global Customer Strategist for dunnhumby, a pioneer in Customer data science, serving the world's most Customer-centric brands in a number of industries, including retail. David has 48 years experience in retail, 25 of which were in Store Management. He can be reached at David.Ciancio@dunnhumby.com].

Treating Customers differently based on their 'profitability' is counter-productive to building loyalty and toward creating a healthy retail Customer Experience.


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Memories of panic buying may be fading here in the UK but have resurfaced elsewhere1. The near constant threat of another wave of Covid-19 may yet prompt another round of hyper demand. Whilst there is little hard evidence to determine the underlying drivers of panic buying2, there are numerous theories that the retail industry may benefit from exploring.

Feroud Seeparsand, dunnhumby's Senior Consumer Psychologist, outlines some likely theories to explain the 'why' behind the 'panic buy' and some implications for retailers to prevent it reoccurring in future.

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The dunnhumby Consumer Pulse Survey is a multi-phased, worldwide study of the impact of COVID-19 on customer attitudes and behavior. We surveyed more than 27,000 respondents online in 22 countries, with interviews conducted for Wave one from March 29 – April 1, for Wave two from April 11 – 14, and for Wave three from May 27 – 31. Due to the rapidly unfolding crisis in North America, dunnhumby conducted Wave four from July 9 – 12 in the U.S., Canada and Mexico only. Here are highlights from the study:

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In a series of posts published earlier this year, we covered the results of the dunnhumby Customer Pulse – a global study designed to explore changing consumer mindsets during the COVID-19 pandemic. Over three waves, conducted between March and the end of May, we polled thousands of people from more than 20 countries on subjects including supermarkets' responses to the outbreak, the economic outlook, and how their shopping behaviour had changed due to COVID.

At the beginning of September – three months on from the previous wave and with supply chains stable and the changing nature of lockdowns – we wanted to revisit the Customer Pulse to see what, if anything, had changed. Below are some of the standout findings from this fourth tranche of research.

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assorted fruits at the market

Photo by ja ma on Unsplash

In the decade since Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein's Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness was published, nudge theory has enjoyed unprecedented success.

Predicated on the idea that individuals respond better to indirect suggestion than outright commands, nudge theory is commonly used as a way of subtly influencing our behaviour towards positive choices. The idea has gained such traction, in fact, that many governments around the world have created "nudge units" in a bid to tackle thorny issues like obesity and the climate emergency.

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Are you looking to increase your contactable Customer base? How much money are you losing on incorrectly identified Customer communications? Throughout our 30 years of big data experience working with clients across industries around the globe, we have found that maintaining contact through relevant Customer engagement is a crucial component of putting the Customer First.

Essential to preserving contact data is ensuring that you have the most up-to-date information from your Customers; not an easy task. On average, people in the United States will move an average of 12 times in their lifetime. United States Postal Service data indicates 14% of the population change addresses annually. As email contact has grown, it's important to note that, on average, 30% of people change their email addresses each year. This is driven by ISP or job changes, or just to stop being spammed. As people move away from home phones to primarily mobile devices, phone numbers are stabilizing as consumers maintain the same numbers through physical moves.

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In order to reflect on how the grocery world changed in 2020, we have changed how we calculate our overall Grocery RPI score. Given the historically unique metrics we've witnessed in the economy, the restaurant industry and the grocery industry, along with the rare influence a global pandemic has brought to consumer behavior, we're viewing grocery success in 2020 through a different lens than we viewed grocery success in prior years.

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In the first episode of Customer First Radio, Dave Clements, Global Head of Retail for dunnhumby and David Ciancio, Global Head of Grocery for dunnhumby kick off the series by discussing what it means to be a truly Customer First business, share which retailers and brands today embody a Customer First mindset, and examine how Customer First materialized during the pandemic with retailers.