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How replaceable is your brand?

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Rabih Soueidi, research director at Mindsight, Mindshare and Mediacom’s research arm, says shoppers can easily switch sides

July 22, 2012 9:41 by

As consumers, we all know how confusing supermarket shelves are these days. Today’s retail environment is rapidly changing. The com­plexity of choosing a brand, when bombarded by products, is making it far tougher to achieve impact on-shelf.

On average, shoppers only spend between five seconds and two minutes choosing products, and this varies by category. When standing 60cm away from a typical shelf layout, multiple emotional and physical factors come into play. Our “OOHA Shoppers” shopper-marketing focused study [conducted in six markets in the MENA] shows that for some products, the selection of brands is based on heuristic choices – ie shoppers choose the same brand through force of habit – while in other categories, more complex psychological processes are triggered. For example, heuristics is common in a category, such as instant coffee. Most consumers choose their usual brand with barely a second glance at the shelf and the total time taken on the decision is unlikely to exceed a few seconds. But for a more involving category, like chocolate, a majority of people tend to “try” something new (such as new flavors), and this evidently involves decisions and time.

The findings show that almost half of all shop­pers plan what products they will buy, the per­centage varying between markets (approximately40 percent in Jordan and Tunisia, but 60 percent in Saudi and the UAE, for example). Moreover, there are enormous differences in the types of category people plan to buy: while personal care products are usually well-planned (shampoo, soaps), biscuits are bought on impulse – more than 60 percent of us will buy them on the spur of the moment across all markets.

However, our intentions are rarely borne out in practice. Our research shows that on average across all categories, more than one third (35 percent) of MENA consumers buy a completely different brand as a direct result of tempting offers and promo­tions, new variants or flavors, or some other kind of in-store activation or sampling. There are some categories where this is particularly prevalent – salty snacks for example. In the UAE and Lebanon, up to 30 percent of shoppers switch brands due to promotion. In Kuwait and Tunisia, fruit juice is similarly dynamic: 25 percent of shoppers switch when faced with new variants or flavors.

Distribution should also be a major worry for brand owners: a fifth of eventual purchases is driven by the original brand simply being unavailable on shelf or out of stock (the figures range between 18 percent in Tunisia to 23 percent in Saudi Arabia).

On a more positive note, one out of three con­sumers does profess loyalty. They claim they would not exchange their brand for an alternative – even if their first choice is unavailable. This proportion varies significantly depending on the category: 60 percent of people in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE always buy the same brand of instant coffee, and a similar share buy shaving and grooming products in Lebanon, Tunisia and Jordan. But for categories where product differentiation is typi­cally a struggle, such as tissues and milk, loyalty falls to 10 percent and 16 percent, respectively.

In short, too many brands are easily replaced by an alternative. In general, people are easily persuaded to switch due to impulse behavior and as a result of promotion at point of sale.

If marketers and advertisers do not invest the time and effort to gear the shopper decision-making processes in favor of their brand, and if they do not provide any stimulus to trigger purchase, then the message from consumers is loud and clear: we’ll buy something else.

Bear in mind that today’s consumer is better informed, has wider choice, has higher expecta­tions, is less trusting and is far more prepared to take control. The wise marketer takes these factors on board and actively plans not only to win the battle for hearts and minds, but also to compete fiercely for the last 60cm of the journey.

-By Rabih Soueidi, Research director at Mindsight

*First published on Communicate

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