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A new study from Retail Forward suggests “that retailers who understand shoppers' most likely primary and secondary shopping modes can create the basis of relevant differentiation from the competition.”

"Knowing what shopping modes consumers are most likely in when visiting certain types of stores can help retailers and their suppliers efficiently meet the needs of shoppers along the customer journey," says Mandy Putnam, a vice president with Retail Forward and author of the study, entitled American ShopperScape 2005. "And, understanding shoppers' most likely secondary shopping modes will keep their customers coming back for more.”

The study breaks shopping modes into six basic categories:

1. Low-Cost Replenishment, described as “the primary shopping mode for shoppers buying goods that they buy habitually and that require limited decision making.” Wal-Mart is cited as bring the kin g of low-cost replenishment.

2. Thrill-Of-The Hunt, “the second-most popular shopping mode and the primary shopping mode of shoppers in small format value retailers, off price stores and factory outlets. It also is closely associated with discount store warehouse club shopping.” However, the study notes that “retailers that are capable of serving this mode of shoppers are generally not reaping as much benefit as retailers that serve multiple modes.”

3. Speed & Convenience, which is dominated by the convenience store channel but is being coveted by other players (supermarkets and drug stores, for example) looking to build sales.

4. Sense Of Discovery, which is a shopping mode generally enjoyed by consumers in book and media outlets, as well as sporting goods stores – people often are just browsing, looking for something to engage or captivate them.

5. Solve-A-Problem, which is very specific, and often related to the home improvement store or auto supply store experience.

6. Self-Expression, which is tied to ego-driven shopping trips, especially to apparel and shoe stores.
KC's View:
The question, we suppose – and we don’t really know the answer – is whether shopping modes that traditionally are connected with nonfood venues, like the bookstore or the shoe store, can be inspired in a food store.

Probably not in all, or even most. But we suspect that when people go to Wegmans or Ukrops or Dorothy Lane or Andronico’s or Byerly’s, for example, they may be enjoying a sense of discovery or looking to solve a problem. It isn’t just stocking up…it is something more.

Which is what differentiation is all about.