Guest Blog By Carrie Shea

Shoppers are in control. Retailers face this reality daily. What shoppers decide to spend their hard-earned cash on and how they make those decisions ultimately determine how retail merchandisers and marketers operate. So how are shoppers adapting to the recovering economy — and what does that mean for retailers? According to our biannual “The Why? Behind The Buy” report, in today’s sluggish economy, shoppers are still holding on to the budget-conscious behaviors they developed during the prolonged recession.


Not just reserved for shoppers struggling to make ends meet, this trend is prevalent at both ends of the income scale. Despite otherwise divergent shopping behaviors, shoppers with annual incomes of less than $45,000 and shoppers with annual incomes of more than $100,000 are making purchase decisions based on similar factors, including price. In fact, 55 percent of shoppers bought more items on sale than last year, and 88 percent of shoppers have bought buy-one, get-one offers.

How does this price sensitivity manifest itself in day-to-day shopping behavior? Now more than ever before, shoppers are moving across store channels — from grocery to drug and discount — to find the best deals and value. At the same time, shoppers overall are making fewer shopping trips due to increased gas prices, thereby further driving competition among retailers. Adding even more complexity to the situation are rising commodity costs, which means retailers are realizing narrower profit margins while also facing intense pressure to discount prices in an effort to lure shoppers. These price wars are unsustainable and also diminish the value of brands and products.

Rather than competing on price alone, retailers should consider these best practices to generate true demand and capture their share of shopper dollars.

Get Creative with Promotions When it comes to promotions, shoppers want customization and flexibility. For example, try offering discount programs that give shoppers the option to mix-and-match among items, or reward shoppers for buying multiple products that reinforce certain lifestyle choices. By getting creative with promotions and testing different programs, retailers can discover what resonates most with their shoppers and replicate those efforts to continue to drive sales.

Incorporate Digital The influence of digital marketing continues to grow as shoppers strive to increase productivity. Retailers need to move quickly to stay ahead of the technology curve by integrating traditional marketing tactics – such as store circulators, shelf tags and point-of-sale displays – with digital, mobile and social media elements to enrich the pre-shopping and in-store shopping experience.

Help Solve the Meal-planning Dilemma Shoppers are looking for meal solutions that are inexpensive, easy and provide options for different tastes and dietary requirements, even within the same family. Cater to these needs by grabbing the attention of shoppers with prominent in-store displays, because many shoppers are not pre-planning meals and need compelling messages to deviate from their usual purchases. Despite the challenging economic climate, retailers can effectively capitalize on the shopping landscape by truly understanding and adapting to current and future shopper needs.  

Carrie Shea is president of AMG Strategic Advisors, which is Acosta Sales and Marketing’s growth strategy consulting unit. “The Why? Behind the Buy” was produced with research from a random sample of 1,098 shoppers via Acosta’s proprietary ShopperF1rst™ online survey. To access the full report, visit Retail Merchandiser magazine is pleased to present the points of view of many different industry stakeholders. If you would like to contribute your own guest blog to our site, please contact the editor at


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