Grocery Guru Episode 16: The Importance of Using Shopper Language with Andrew Grant & Darren A. Smith

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Making Business Matter (MBM)
Making Business Matter (MBM)
Grocery Guru Episode 16: The Importance of Using Shopper Language with Andrew Grant & Darren A. Smith
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Using Shopper Language

Join Andrew Grant and Darren A. Smith in the sixteenth episode of Grocery Guru: The Importance of Using Shopper Language in your category.

Not using industry terms or category terms because they are creating the buffer for what should be created. By eradicating industry terminology you will discover opportunities to communicate better with your shopper and then sell more.

Alphabet fridge letters spread out on a surface

Industry and category terms can promote confusion. Speaking to the shopper in their own language will reap dividends.

You Can Read the Full Using Shopper Language Episode Transcript Below:

Darren A. Smith:

Welcome to Episode 16 of the Grocery Guru with Andrew Grant. How are you?

Andrew Grant:

Hi, Darren. Good morning. Yeah. Very nippy I think is the best thing to say this morning.

Darren A. Smith:

It’s supposed to get to minus 10, but let’s move on from how cold it is. Last week, we said to our viewers that this week we would talk about terminology. Now, I’m going to lead the charge on this one, because something that we’re doing wrong as an industry, or as category managers, or as suppliers, or as supermarkets, is when we use terminology that the shopper doesn’t understand.

Darren A. Smith:

And I’m going to give you an example. My dad used to run, he was a project manager in a Sainsbury’s store back in the 70s. And they used to have those three-legged tables and he used to have the best top fruit display in the area. “But Dad, what’s top fruit?” So Andrew, what’s top fruit?

Andrew Grant:

Do you know, is top fruit, apples, oranges, and bananas?

Darren A. Smith:

Well, it’s apples and pears, but I didn’t know. I had to ask that. So there were the signs that say top fruit and I’m thinking, “Well, no one understands what top fruit is.” When I asked that, he didn’t know. So eventually, some years ago, I asked some guru in produce. And he said, “Well it’s top fruit because it grows at the top of the tree.”

Andrew Grant:

Okay. Yeah.

Darren A. Smith:

These can’t be terms we can use in our industry if the shopper doesn’t understand them.

Andrew Grant:

Well, I guess also, going back to your dad in the 70s, there’s a lot of stuff. Obviously, supermarkets kicked off in the 70s in terms of the superstore format. And there’s probably terminology that was invented back then, maybe meant something to customers back then. But because most people are used to sticking their dinner in a microwave and heating it up for two minutes, it’s been lost. I mean, the one that gets me, condiments. Does the average millennial know what a condiment is? Would they expect to wear it rather than eating it?

Darren A. Smith:

That’s condiments. So, our challenge to our viewers is, the more we can use language that the shopper understands, the easier the category is to shop.

Andrew Grant:

Yeah.

Darren A. Smith:

And the flip side of that coin, the more we use examples that the shopper doesn’t understand, the less easy it is for them to shop, the more they’ll go somewhere else. So I wanted to give you another short story.

Darren A. Smith:

I was buying frozen fish for a supermarket, many years ago. And in the conversation I used to have on the phone with my account manager, we called two products, the most popular selling battered frozen fish, 076 and 077, which was their scheme number because we could differentiate it away from 079 and 080. That’s crazy.

Andrew Grant:

Well, I guess internally it’s not an issue. There’s a whole industry lexicon of three-letter acronyms, isn’t there?

Darren A. Smith:

Yeah.

Andrew Grant:

Or four letter acronyms. There’s your GSC, your PORS, your LFLS. Those never, if you like, leak out to the shopper. So I guess that’s okay. It’s the stuff that gets in the shopper’s face that they just don’t get. I mean, to flip the condiments one on its head, one of the more modern categories in world foods. Now, world foods. Okay. Pretty broad category. But why does just about every supermarket spit out pasta? Because I think pasta’s a world food, isn’t it? They have a world food section, they have a pasta section.

Darren A. Smith:

The bit that bothers me is when we try to be the buffer. So the 076, 077 was us using it. And when I think back, we were using that term because we couldn’t differentiate it. But if we couldn’t and we bought the damn thing, how the hell could the shopper at the merchant or at the fixture differentiate? And when I think now, I look back at those four products on the fixture, there wasn’t a difference. No, actually, one had the skin on and one didn’t, but we didn’t tell them that. Crazy. Crazy.

Andrew Grant:

Yeah, yeah. No, I guess, going back to what we spoke about last week, it’s that shopper decision hierarchy. How do you please most of the people most of the time in terms of what they’re looking for? So, you’re right. To some people, skin on skinless, it wouldn’t matter if it’s covered in breadcrumbs anyway. Is that one of the important things they’re looking for when they’re shopping? So yeah, maybe it’s that the breadcrumbs are gluten-free, something like that is more important to certain people than others.

Darren A. Smith:

And that would have been much better. We were not tough enough on understanding our category, understanding the decisions and rooting out some big sellers because there was no differentiation. Now, here’s the other one that really just batty.

Darren A. Smith:

We work with a supplier, we shall remain nameless for a moment, some years ago. And they had cooked ham and it was about this big. It’s important that it’s about this big. And it was four by four. So we said to them, “Why did you call it four by four?” “Well, it’s four by four inches because that fits in a slice of bread.”

Andrew Grant:

Yeah.

Darren A. Smith:

But on the fixture, four by four was never mentioned, but this was the biggest selling product. And they called it four by four to differentiate it from the other sea of pink cooked meats on the fixture.

Andrew Grant:

Yeah.

Darren A. Smith:

Crazy.

Andrew Grant:

Yeah. Yeah. I mean, yeah, that’s where obviously, the marketers need to think of the right way to sell that product. And they haven’t thought about consumer usage or the consumer benefits for it.

Andrew Grant:

I guess sometimes that can go wrong. What gets me is when the marketers actually… What’s the right word? Hoodwink the shopper with some of the phraseology. So they call it pizza Donna Letta. And then it says, made in Grimsby. Fresh Italian-style pizza made in Grimsby.

Andrew Grant:

The one that always gets me is, in the good old days when you were driving around looking for a pub to have lunch in. And you drive past the first one and it says, “Home prepared food.” You’ve driven past it before you can work out that actually, that means it came out of a big breaks truck. And what you’re actually looking for is the home prepared, I think. No.

Darren A. Smith:

Home-cooked, home-prepared.

Andrew Grant:

Home-cooked is heated up.

Darren A. Smith:

Right.

Andrew Grant:

Home prepared is we took the lid off the packet first. Homemade, homemade is what you’re looking for.

Darren A. Smith:

Ah, so it’s three.

Andrew Grant:

Yeah. But as you can see, you’ve driven a couple of miles by the time you’ve worked out, “Am I getting fresh, prepared, cooked, and made food in my pub? Or am I just getting something that’s had the lid taken off?” (silence)

Darren A. Smith:

Cheers.

Andrew Grant:

With the truth.

Darren A. Smith:

Andrew. Oh, you’re back. Okay. You froze for 30 seconds.

Andrew Grant:

Okay. Well, yeah. A bit like the food, I guess.

Darren A. Smith:

All right. Let’s talk about a few other examples. So I saw that even Amazon, who are obviously doing very, very well. We’ve got Amazon Prime instant video. I have no idea what that is and I’m fairly tech-savvy. Do you know what that is?

Andrew Grant:

Yeah. No, I’m just one of the people that whenever there was something like that, I think of whether the acronym makes up something rude. So, APIV. No, it doesn’t. APIV.

Darren A. Smith:

Well, we’re also working on a product slightly outside of training, but we’ll talk about that at the moment. Cyber-security. Do you know what phishing is? I’ve learned about phishing. Do you know what phishing is? P-H. What is it?

Andrew Grant:

That’s sending an email with a dodgy link, isn’t it?

Darren A. Smith:

I think that’s it.

Andrew Grant:

You then click on.

Darren A. Smith:

That’s it. So we’ve changed the training course for phishing, which people can reach to, to something called email safety.

Andrew Grant:

Yeah. Yeah.

Darren A. Smith:

And then. Sorry, go on.

Andrew Grant:

As you say, it does what it says on the tin is usually the best starting point for deciding what to name something.

Darren A. Smith:

That’s probably true. And we ought to turn the mirror on ourselves. So in our industry, we have things that we use at MBM, like individual ILO, individual learning objective. Okay. We use that term, but actually, what we’re trying to say is what’s in it for you? What the hell do you want to get out of spending five hours training to that?

Andrew Grant:

Yeah.

Darren A. Smith:

So, it happens in the training industry as well.

Andrew Grant:

Yeah. No. It goes back to your four by four. It should have just been called fits on a slice of bread.

Darren A. Smith:

It could be. And I understand what they did was by understanding there was a piece of the terminology they were using, the shopper wasn’t, then they got to a point of sandwich ham. Ideal for sandwiches, ideal for bagels. So they had different hams. So by trying to figure out what terminology they were using that doesn’t fit with the shopper, they found a new opportunity.

Andrew Grant:

Yeah. And I guess, talking of the bread analogy, we have toaster bread, don’t we? So what came first? The toaster or the bread? interestingly, the toaster came second, and then they reinvented the bread to fit the toaster. Because otherwise, you get a standard loaf of bread and the top third of your slice sticks out and doesn’t get nicely toasted. Unless you buy square toaster bread. So, I don’t know if you can buy a toaster that is loaf size, but most of them are square size.

Darren A. Smith:

Probably true. And then the other part, is sometimes we need to lead the consumer, the customer, the shopper because they won’t have the vocabulary. So I’m trying to think of what categories where we’ve led the shopper.

Andrew Grant:

Well, I think there was the example, a couple of examples last week. Would frozen foods really exist unless the supermarkets put it all in one place?

Darren A. Smith:

Yeah. Probably true.

Andrew Grant:

Because if you’re cooking Sunday lunch, you’re looking for again, if we use our industry terminology, a main plate protein item is what shoppers look for their Sunday lunch. So, are we having chicken, lamb, pork or beef?

Darren A. Smith:

Yeah.

Andrew Grant:

They don’t think, “Right. I’m going to have chicken. It must be frozen chicken.” Yep. We’re having chicken. And then the decision is, is it going to be fresh? Is it going to be frozen? Is it going to be wings? Or, is it going to be a whole bird? Et cetera.

Andrew Grant:

So, in true shopper decision hierarchy, you should put the frozen chicken portions next to the fresh chicken. But from a technical perspective, that’s tough. And it’s very expensive. So this category called frozen foods was invented.

Darren A. Smith:

Yeah. Yeah. True. True. Okay. Yep. That makes sense. That makes absolute sense. Yeah.

Andrew Grant:

Yes. I guess it is the challenge of product developers, marketers, buyers, that you don’t get hoodwinked by your own internal thinking and knowledge. Too much knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

Andrew Grant:

When you’re talking about, I always remember somebody saying to me the average shopping trip is about 45 minutes. There are 25,000 SKUs in a superstore. Divide 25,000 by 45 minutes. You’re down to a decision of less than half a second per product.

Darren A. Smith:

Yes.

Andrew Grant:

So, don’t make it complicated for the shopper. You’re asking them to make a decision in less than half a second. So it’s got to say what it does on the tin.

Darren A. Smith:

And I think that there are some categories like cooked ham, which to me seemed like just a wall of pink. Bagged salads seemed like a wall of green. But let’s talk about bagged salads just for a moment. We’re working with a client and we had shoppers in a room, one of those shopper focus groups.

Darren A. Smith:

And these shoppers were picking up the bags and doing this. We sort of had to, “What are you doing?” And then it reminds me of when we saw people do it with fruit. You know when you pick up fruit and you do this? The pressure test. Now, the consumer doesn’t really have a description of what they do, they just do these things.

Darren A. Smith:

Where we got to with the bag of salads is they call it bounce. If it felt sort of bouncy as a bag, thumbs up. If it didn’t, they weren’t going to buy it. And what the supplier cleverly did, was then put that in their QA, bounce. And tried to take the intangible to tangible. It has to look like this.

Andrew Grant:

Yeah.

Darren A. Smith:

So our challenge for our viewers is to identify five pieces of terminology that they use, but the shopper doesn’t.

Andrew Grant:

No, that’d be great. Yeah. Let’s get our viewers to send in some, maybe we can talk about them next week.

Darren A. Smith:

That’d be great because I think every one of them is an opportunity. Where we are the buffer, we need to take that, identify it and find the opportunity that sits behind it.

Andrew Grant:

Yeah, I agree.

Darren A. Smith:

All right.

Andrew Grant:

Very good.

Darren A. Smith:

Okay, Andrew. So terminology this week. Any ideas what we’re going to talk about next week? Or are we going to keep it a surprise?

Andrew Grant:

I think we keep it as a surprise. There’s so much potentially happening out there that something will have cropped up by next Friday, I’m sure.

Darren A. Smith:

Okay. Andrew, you have a good weekend.

Andrew Grant:

Take care and you too. Bye.


For further tips and information, you can take a look at our Ultimate Guide to Category Management and our Category Management YouTube Channel. Also, check out our award-winning blog to see more Category Management tips and articles.

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