Are shopper missions still relevant?

For a long time now missions have been a core part of the category management / shopper marketing language. Identifying which missions are important in which channels, allows brands and retailers to flex their offering and target specific shoppers on key missions.

But, shopping has changed considerably in recent years as channels have multiplied and evolved and shopper behaviour has fragmented to take advantage of the greater choice, and to better fit with today’s lifestyles. The old notion of basket = top up and trolley = main shop is being swept aside: 16% of UK shoppers now shop groceries little & often, across multiple channels, avoiding any big shopping trips altogether.

All these factors mean that having an updated and clear understanding of why (mission) and where (channel) shoppers shop is fundamental for CPGs looking to increase sales. But, whilst understanding missions at the level of ‘top up’, ‘distress’, ‘main shop’, etc., sets the important context of how much time, energy and money shoppers have to spend with individual categories it will only get you so far. Understanding if the snack that I want to buy is for now, for later, for me, for a group of people (is it a store cupboard item for my family, or for a social occasion with friends), adds a more detailed level of insights that allows category and brand managers to activate with influence.

This means we need to think more along the lines of ‘horizons’:

  • When will the purchase be consumed – now, later today, tomorrow, this week…
  • How long is the purchase intended to cover – stocking up vs distress
  • How important is this category to the trip – destination, convenience, planned & impulse
  • Is the purchase anchored to a key event on the horizon – visitors, party, birthday, weekend…

Of course there is a balance to be achieved between the granularity that identifies the opportunities vs overwhelming detail that swamps the business decision making process. But with the right balance we are already seeing some retailers trialling mission-led ranging to boost sales and satisfy shoppers by providing for shopper’s specific needs on a particular mission. As shoppers increasingly flex their shopping around the wide variety of retail options available, it will become ever more important to identify the mission horizons that retail can target.