It is difficult to overstate the importance of “unplanned buying” to retailers and branded goods suppliers. Managers and consultants believe not only that is it ubiquitous but also that most of the action occurs inside the store. Recently, Advertising Age has reported that because consumers tend to make 70% of their brand decisions in the store, this has boosted shopper marketing and made other advertising seem almost obsolete. In addition, most academic research provides insights into how unplanned buying varies by category or by shopper.
In this article, the authors investigate the effects of important, yet largely overlooked, “preshopping” factors—the overall trip goal, store-specific shopping objectives, and prior marketing exposures that the shopper brings to the store. The goal is to show how managers can benefit from understanding and shaping the consumers’ shopping mission as it is being formed on the path to purchase. Unlike most prior academic studies, this article relies on rich survey panel data in which the same shopper is observed over several trips. (The final data set covers more than 400 shoppers making approximately 18,000 category purchases in more than 50 product categories). This means that the analysis shares features with an experimental design in which the same shopper is observed invoking different goals, shopping in different stores, and buying under different circumstances. The authors also control for the effects of demographics and exposure to in-store marketing activity.
Three new findings are uncovered: First, unplanned buying increases with the abstractness of the overall shopping trip goal established before the shopper enters the store. Retailers stand to benefit when they can get the shopper to think more abstractly about the shopping trip mission. Second, store-linked goals affect unplanned buying. Although any reason for choosing a store has a positive effect on store traffic, not all store choice reasons have a positive effect on unplanned buying. Unplanned purchases are higher on trips in which the shopper chooses the store for favorable pricing and lower on trips in which the shopper chooses the store as part of a multistore shopping trip. There are also differences across store formats; hard discounters attract more “abstract-goal” trips; however, when full-service supermarkets attract shoppers with abstract goals, the store obtains a greater overall lift in unplanned buying. This suggests that consumer packaged goods manufacturers and full-service retailers should partner to stimulate more abstract shopping goals for trips to these stores. Third, although shopper exposure to out-of-store marketing has no direct effect on unplanned buying, it reinforces the lift in unplanned buying from shoppers who use marketing materials inside the store. In summary, the authors advocate a focus on both shopping trips and shoppers, as well as efforts to understand not only behavior at the point of purchase but also behavior on the path to purchase.
David R. Bell (PhD, Graduate School of Business, Stanford University) is Xinmei Zhang and Yongge Dai Professor and Professor of Marketing in the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. David specializes in retailing, and his research investigates various aspects of shopper behavior in conventional and Internet retail settings. His work on pricing, promotions, contagion, and related topics has appeared in Journal of Consumer Research, Journal of Marketing Research, Marketing Science, Management Science, Quantitative Marketing and Economics, and Journal of Retailing. David also advises retail startups and speaks about retailing topics at general interest conferences.
Daniel Corsten is Professor of Operations and Technology Management at IE Business School. Previously, he was a visiting associate professor at the London Business School and an associate professor at University St. Gallen. He has also visited INSEAD Singapore and Fontainebleau and the Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania. Daniel’s research has appeared in Journal of Marketing, Management Science, and Strategic Management Journal. Dr. Corsten serves on several industry advisory boards and regularly consults and instructs Fortune 500 companies. He is a frequent keynote speaker at international conferences and has written influential practitioner articles for Harvard Business Review, the Financial Times, and Neue Zuercher Zeitung.
George Knox (PhD, the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, 2006) is Assistant Professor of Marketing at Tilburg University in the Netherlands. His research focuses on two different areas: customer relationship management and in-store marketing. His work has been published in International Journal of Research in Marketing, Manufacturing & Service Operations Management, and International Commerce Review.
Journal of Marketing, Volume 75, Number 1, January 2011
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