Why In-Store Intercepts should be on your research radar


It’s a common problem. You’ve designed a product that addresses a real gap in the market, your branding stands out against competitors – you’ve even got some feedback from consumers saying they would definitely buy your product.

And yet, when your product hits the shelves, sales are nowhere near your forecasts. You’re shocked, the retailers are stunned, there is even talk of delisting.

But how did it all go so wrong for a brand that seemed to be destined for success?

Such stories are common, but how can they be avoided?

One of the key issues is neglecting to test consumer reactions to brands in situ.

Sure, the packaging may look fresh and vibrant on your screen, but how does it fare in person amongst its competitors?

Your SRP may have been expertly designed, but does it detract from the product packaging design? You may think your product is best placed in a certain section of the store, but are consumers really looking for it there?

One way to really address these questions in to conduct in-store intercepts.

This method is invaluable in food market research and can be conducted at the early stages of listing discussions if you can get a retailer to agree to a product trial in a small number of stores.

This way, you can gain feedback from consumers at the fixture, as well as getting some initial figures on rate of sale. Alternatively, they can be conducted once the product is on shelf to investigate whether anything can be adjusted to help maximise sales.

How do in-store intercepts work?

We would usually recommend selecting a small number of stores, preferably in some spread out locations to ensure a representative sample of consumers. There will likely be multiple fieldworkers involved with one in each store.

These fieldworkers must be thoroughly briefed to ensure they have a comprehensive understanding of what areas are of particular interest and therefore which topics of conversation they need to probe with consumers. They will usually stand in the relevant part of store, speaking with consumers that show an interest in the fixture. They will be provided with a pre-set list of questions along the lines of:

  • Which products here stand out to you and why?
  • What are your initial thoughts on this product? Does it stand out to you on shelf? Why/ why not?
  • What do you think of the packaging/ labelling/ branding/ product name/ product format/ size/ price point?
  • Would you buy this product? If so, what instead of? If not, what would you buy instead?

What are the benefits of in-store intercepts?

While focus groups and online surveys are methods central to FMCG market research and are often invaluable in getting feedback on product propositions and packaging, there is nothing quite like testing in a real-life scenario.

Some of the key advantages of in-store intercepts include:

  • Honest feedback: As these consumers are not usually being incentivised and are being made to give an opinion on their feet, you will often get some very honest, unbiased feedback.
  • Qualitative & quantitative data: Depending on the amount of time invested, you can either opt for a small-scale study with an emphasis on qualitative feedback, or can choose to focus on gathering quantitative data from a larger sample.
  • Cost-effective: Without the need for venue hire and pre-recruitment, this methodology can often be very cost effective, particularly for categories in high-footfall areas of store.
  • Valid findings: Seeing the product on shelf lets you test how the whole product proposition is coming together for consumers e.g. price, packaging, labelling, SRP, format, size, stand out against competitors. Outside of store, it is easy to look at these areas separately but can be difficult to get a comprehensive picture of all these components together.

What are the potential issues with in-store intercepts?

While there are clearly many benefits to in-store intercepts, there are also drawbacks, as there are with any research methodology. These may include:

  • Store permissions: Getting store permissions can be tricky, particularly if there are no discussions taking place with relevant buyers.
  • Store bias: In an ideal world, you would select a number of stores which would give you a broadly representative sample of the consumers you are targeting. However, some stores will be more forthcoming than others so this can be difficult.
  • Sample issues: It tends to be far easier to persuade shoppers with a lot of time on their hands to stop and talk than it is a busy, working professional. It is therefore important to stick to strict sample criteria.
  • Standardisation: With a number of interviewers used in different locations, it is important to brief interviewers carefully to ensure results are comparable. Trained interviewers should be used to ensure they are not asking leading questions that could skew results. It is also important to ensure fieldwork is conducted at the same time of day in each store – you don’t really want to be testing meal deals in the evening or ready meals in the morning.

Are in-store intercepts the right method for me?

When considering any research in the food and drink marketing space, it is always worth considering other methodologies to see which is best suited to your aims. If your interest is in gathering rich, qualitative feedback, focus groups may be a preferable method. Alternately, if you’re in the early stages of NPD, a quantitative survey may be a more straightforward way of getting feedback on designs.

Interested in discussing what research methodology is best suited to your needs? Contact [email protected] or [email protected].

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