Stewart Easterbrook, CEO, Starcom MediaVest Group UK
Stewart Easterbrook, CEO, Starcom MediaVest Group UK
A view from Stewart Easterbrook

Think BR: Supermarket shoppers get emotional this Christmas

In an economic downturn, supermarket shoppers want competitive prices and quality, however the new battleground is in providing a sense of society and enjoyment, writes Stewart Easterbrook, CEO, Starcom MediaVest Group UK.

Supermarket shopping can be an emotional experience at the best of times, especially if, like me, you have children under the age of 10.

But a study from our new Supermarket UK series has revealed this to be an opportunity for retailers.

Our research tool, spaceID, has tracked a fascinating swing in consumer attitude away from autonomy and responsibility and toward community and pleasure amongst UK shoppers, in particular supermarket shoppers.

In these times of austerity, you could interpret this as an antidote to a general malaise.

Shoppers are asking themselves what they themselves get out of the experience. Quality and competitive prices, while important, are ubiquitous.

The study reveals an attitudinal shift suggesting the supermarkets need to place greater emphasis on fulfilling emotional needs, which presents an interesting new way to create marketing and media differentiation.

And its interesting to see we’re not the only ones challenging the established thinking - a fascinating piece of research out on the BBC website points out the weaknesses with pricing strategies, with Morrisons saying the industry is simply point scoring against competitors, rather than engaging with customers and their needs.

Our spaceID tool measures subconscious reactions to 210 key words. Every year since 2008 we have sampled 2,500 people, measuring shopper motives and emotional values, which is how we have been able to track this pattern emerging over time.

We have measured general trends, but we have also been able to map the emotional profiles of the 'big six' supermarkets in the UK - Tesco, Asda, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Co-Op.

Through the research, we’ve discovered that Sainsbury’s and the Co-Op are already best placed to take advantage of an increasing desire for community (the importance of neighbourhoods, friends and family) and pleasure (self-gratification and enjoyment of life) as the emotional values of these shoppers are already closely aligned with these measures.

Even more fascinating, we have been able to identify which competitors each brand should target with poaching strategies, in terms of the level of receptiveness among these opposing shoppers.

The research reveals that Sainsbury’s should chase ASDA on community and pleasure, and the Co-Op should go after Waitrose on community and Tesco on pleasure.

Morrisons on the other hand provides a fascinating case study in reverse on both metrics, perhaps revealing the biggest opportunity for any of the ‘big six’.

So while community and pleasure now rank highly across the UK consumer base, only 10% of the emotional profile of Morrisons customers is based around community, and 45% is based around responsibility rather than pleasure.

Morrisons is now seemingly the last bastion of autonomy and responsibility!

As theory would have it, this could present an opportunity for Morrisons to reach out based on new measures.

The study shows Co-Op shoppers to be the closest in profile to Morrisons shoppers in terms of community and Waitrose in terms of pleasure.

These findings are part of a new SMG research series, Supermarket UK, which involves an industry-wide series of studies into the changing values and behaviours of shoppers.

It investigates the effect of societal changes - including the economy, new technologies and social media - on supermarket consumer behaviour, and examines trends for the future.

Stewart Easterbrook, CEO, Starcom MediaVest Group UK