Author Archives: Jonathan Smith

About Jonathan Smith

Managing Director and Consultant Jonathan launched Axis in 1996. He began his marketing career at Procter & Gamble, and subsequently held various marketing posts in two divisions of Rank Hovis McDougall and then at St Ivel. From 2004 to 2008, he was also Non-Executive Director and Chairman of Ilchester Cheese Company, prior to leading the sale of the business to TINE BA, a large Norwegian dairy business. “Meeting the expectations of the major multiples is a tough challenge for food businesses. It’s great to be able to play a part in helping them to succeed in this”, says Jonathan. Outside business, his interests include swimming, running, flying light aircraft, travelling, reading, and improving his french language skills.

Consumer and Shopper Research in Category Management – 10 Questions To Help You Get It Right

Getting category management right is critical for food businesses of all sizes. It’s not just for  the “big boys”. It’s an important source of profit growth and a major part of the “glue” in the relationship with the retailer.

One very important component of this is the use of consumer and shopper research; it’s a vital source of insights that can lead to action to develop the category.

Consumer and shopper research relevant to category management can take a wide range of forms from in-depth interviews in stores to video observation, and focus groups to large quantified studies

There is clearly a need to focus on maximising the returns on research spend. A high proportion of research should be clearly linked to specific actions to develop the category, rather than just building general category knowledge; research should be done at the right scale, not overdoing it; and duplicating what other suppliers have done, and covering things the retailer already knows, needs to be avoided

A large proportion of the research should be specific to, and tailored to, individual retailers. The situation, performance, and aims of individual retailers often vary massively within a given category. Also, the personnel in the commercial team vary greatly: some love numbers, some love concepts.

To gain maximum relationship benefit, it’s important to be pro-active in proposing the right consumer and shopper research as an integral part of the overall category management effort

Try the following 10 questions about how your business uses consumer and shopper research in category management:

1. Is the balance right between spending on continuous data and spending on consumer and  shopper research?

2.  Are each of the four main roles of consumer/shopper research in category management being given the right level of attention?:

  • building a comprehensive understanding of consumer and shopper behaviour
  • identifying specific opportunities for developing the category
  • generating evidence to support proposals for action
  • responding to requests for insight from the retailer

3. How much of the overall consumer and shopper research effort is directly linked to specific actions to improve category performance (versus adding to general category understanding)?

4. How much of what we do is duplicating what other suppliers are doing?

5. How much of what we do is covering things the retailer already knows?

6. What proportion of our research effort is specific to individual retailers (versus being about the category overall)?

7. Are most of our research projects tailored to the known preferences of the individuals we are dealing with at the retailer?

8. What feedback are we getting from retailer personnel about our consumer and shopper research?

9. What concrete business results are directly linked to the consumer and shopper research we have done in the last year?

10. How much of our research is initiated pro-actively by us versus reacting to retailer requests?

Following through on the answers to these questions should help to point out some areas for focus. If you would like a little more guidance, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Using Consumer Research To Reduce New Product Development Failure – 10 Questions To Help You Get It Right

It’s widely accepted that around 8 out of 10 new product launches in the food sector fail in the first year. This is very costly and this cost is ever more difficult to sustain given the margin pressures on food businesses today.

So much of this NPD failure is avoidable and consumer research is one of the most powerful weapons to help with this. Amazingly, too many new products still get launched without the benefit of any consumer research input. Is it any surprise that so many new launches fail? Continue reading