Shopper insight and buying behaviour

Astrid Baron - 25/05/2021

What is a Shopper insight?

There is a wide variety of shopper insight, as decision analyst explains: “The term “shopper insight” refers to an in-depth study of the influences and factors within the retail environment that shape consumers’ perceptions and buying behaviors.“. Shopper research helps to identify the behaviour of the consumer during the buying process and thus to adapt the product to their expectations. They allow us to understand what makes consumers loyal to a brand or a product throughout the decision-making process. They can be quantitative or qualitative.

What is the difference with consumer research?

For consumer research, the aim is to test the relevance of a new concept/idea. Then, they test this new product in order to establish a diagnosis after use, unlike shopper research, which specialises more in shoppers’ purchasing behaviour. They enable a diagnosis to be made of the shelf/site and identify the areas for developing sales in a category.

Until recently, studies were based solely on the shopper and his or her purchasing intentions. “They had a separate vision of the consumer and the buyer” stresses the site.  They did not take into account the shopper, the consumer in a buying situation. Today, they have a real legitimate place, combining the act of buying with the upstream part of the decision-making process. But how can shopper research be used to analyse buying behaviour?

shopper insight

Shopper insight and buying behaviour :

Purchasing paths are becoming more complex, understanding shoppers behaviour and expectations is becoming essential. Shopper’s decisions are not always easy to interpret and understand. The objective of the research is to observe shoppers during their choices in a shop or on an e-commerce site. The research institutes analyse their behaviour during their journey and draw conclusions. We can understand and analyse their hesitations, their decisions. This allows you to evaluate the levers and brakes during their purchases.

This approach makes it possible to define the most relevant courses of action to strengthen a brand’s position in the market. For the BVA group: “In a tense competitive context, the Shopper study provides a complete understanding of the decision-making process at the “first moment of truth“.

But how does a physical shopper study work?

For physical shopper research, a distinction is made between shopper research in a real point of sale, in a laboratory or on a printed sheet.

In a real point of sale : it is necessary to obtain the agreement of a shop and then to build a predefined customer path : it is an investment. A real purchase mission is submitted to people who are pre-recruited according to criteria defined beforehand. Once the person is on site, they comment on their journey, explaining why they chose a particular product and this makes it possible to establish a diagnosis.

However, there are some points of friction in this process :

These in-store surveys take time to set up. The workshop area is limited, and they can only reach a limited number of targets.

For laboratory studies, they require space and the purchase of all the products that will be displayed on the shelves. They also need to be set up with different merchandising scenarios to assess the best possible option.

For studies on printed tarpaulins (which reproduce a shelf to be tested): also time-consuming to set up and design, studies using tarpaulins can be extremely costly and sometimes unrealistic. In addition, the production process has an impact on the environment due to the carbon footprint. So what can be done about it?

The contribution of virtual reality to shopper insight and purchasing behaviour :

shopper research

Thanks to virtual reality, we can now immerse the shopper in a real shop environment. They can carry out their shopping journey as usual. By using virtual reality, we are freed from the constraints of physical shops.

Moreover, unlike a “classic” shopper study, it is possible to carry out several studies at the same time. (With greater geographical coverage national / international). The time needed for implementation is considerably reduced. This allows a larger target to be reached more quickly. It is no longer necessary to have the consumer move to a point of sale, nor to set up the entire installation physically. Moreover, as Yann Malvoisin, Managing Director of Action Plus (research institute), points out in his interview, “it allows us to test a greater number of proposals (3, 4, 5 or even more). Generally this number of proposals is almost impossible to test in real life.

Saving time and money :

A classic shopper study is very expensive (but necessary in view of the information gathered). Virtual reality cuts costs by a factor of 5. There is no need for special sized tarpaulins, everything is done in 3D.. Virtual shelves have another major advantage. They have no size limit (as opposed to tarpaulins that have to be installed in specific rooms). Once the tarpaulin is installed, there is no possibility of going back on it. The flexibility of the virtual system means that certain elements can potentially evolve as part of a “Test & Learn” approach. For example: to make its markup evolve according to the lessons learned.

All the logistics (date of creation of the study in physical form, agreement with the shops, production costs) are non-existent with shopper studies in VR. We have the possibility of creating everything to measure, just like in a physical shop. Here are some examples:

Example of achievements by Retail VR :

The video below highlights the benefits of VR research. The shopper will be able to walk around just like in a physical shop. Click on the products, put them in the shopping cart and simulate a purchase. In a simulation logic, Retail VR will be able to take 3D models and design them before they are even manufactured. This allows us to work very early on with a design office, for example. The 3D model is then integrated into the virtual shop and allows consumers to make their traditional purchase.


For example, you want to evaluate the impact of your new concept and see how it is perceived by consumers? Or test the relevance of your strategy on customers? Retail VR and the research firm Enov will be able to offer an online experience, consisting of a purchase path, a behavioural diagnosis and a classic diagnosis. Shopper experience, shelf performance, brand impact, the tests are endless!

Virtual reality shopper research is a real time-saver. For both marketing and retail professionals. They will allow you to analyse a range of behavioural indicators in a simple, quick and efficient way.


Would you like to know more about shopper research? Get in touch now!