Written by Roger Jackson,
July 12th, 2017 | Views

Shopper Research Briefs: Good, Bad and Ugly

It’s a truism to say a research project is only as good as the brief. But how much time really goes into the planning of research versus the doing of research and the attempt to land the learnings from the research? All too often the bias of the time and effort is on the latter two and not in the planning of research.

Look at these 3 possible research briefs for example:

  • “We need to know how to grow in Tesco”
  • “We think our category is hard to navigate, please tell us how to fix it”
  • “Please do 200 accompanied shops and a survey”

I ask you – are these good research briefs? No, they are not. The first is too general and lacks any direction. The second brief talks about the objective but not the problem or hypothesis and the third is of course just a methodology.

At Shopper Intelligence, we believe the entire briefing “core” can or should be summarised in a sentence or series of sentences (if we are not sure which of several problems we are dealing with) with the following kind of thought structure:

We believe we can solve X sales problem (or exploit X sales opportunity) by undertaking Y business actions because shoppers currently think/do a,b,c, and we can instead persuade them to think/do d,e,f

The “brief” coming directly from this is simply to say: “please confirm this and tell us more about it”

For example:

“Sales of our cheese in Tesco are down 5% due to reduced frequency of purchase, and we think we can fix this by increasing the choice available. This is because shoppers currently don’t see an adequate solution to their cheese snacking needs and are buying in Asda, so by adding new SKUs targeting this usage we can bring back that lost occasion to Tesco.”

Believe us when we say that, as an agency, that’s what we want to be asked. You don’t need to add fluff and padding to this (we will come up with the discussion guide or questionnaire, that’s what we do!).

So, what this has done is to work out a hypothesis. From everything you know already, what might be the problem/opportunity so that this project is rooted in the commercial business situation and isn’t just a research ‘fishing trip’. It is also clearly considering tangible changes in shopper behaviour; which is what shoppers are qualified to talk about!

In our experience, if the work is done properly on this planning/briefing process, sometimes the desire for shopper research might even go away (what if it’s a ‘no- brainer’!?). But critically, it greatly increases the chance that research will end up being useful rather than just interesting. What’s the one thing a brief mustn’t say? Well, our least favourite brief of all time is surprisingly common: “We want to understand the shopper better”. Well that narrows it down, right?