Shopping Research (Path-to-Purchase Research)

The term “shopper insight” refers to marketing research focused upon the in-store and near-store behavior and experiences of consumers.

Shopper Research & insights

In particular, it is an in-depth study of the influences and factors within the retail environment that shape consumers' perceptions and buying behaviors.

While “shopper insights” or path-to-purchase research is very popular right now and is receiving much publicity in the media and at conferences, it is not a new idea or new concept. Shopping research goes back at least 75 years or more. The rapid growth of self-serve retailing in the U.S. after World War II led to extensive research on store design, the shopping experience, store layouts, shelf organization, packaging, point-of-purchase signage, and other in-store influences. We prefer the term “shopping research” over “shopper insights” because “research” is a more inclusive and more precise term.

Shopping research does not, and cannot, exist in a vacuum. It is just one piece of a larger puzzle, the overall marketing of a brand and all of the research related to that brand. That is, shopping research must be understood and interpreted within the context of all of the factors and forces affecting a brand, including product, pricing, positioning, advertising, packaging, and promotion.

Shopping research encompasses the following types of studies and projects (the terms “retailer” and “store” are defined very broadly to include any type of shopping environment, such as a bank, a dentist’s office, a supermarket, a home improvement store):

  • Simulated Shopping with Shelf Sets. Retail environments and the simulation of a shopping experience.
  • In-Store Cameras and/or Mobile Cameras. Attached to shoppers to record details of the shopping experience.
  • Ethnography. In-store observation of the shopping experience.
  • Shop-Alongs. Walking through a store with consumers, observing their behaviors and asking questions as the shopping trip unfolds.
  • Mobile Phone GPS. Can trigger surveys at specific locations or plot traffic patterns as respondents shop.
  • In-store signage. Posted signs can alert shoppers to text a keyword to a specific number to leave comments (likes, dislikes, etc.)
  • Retail Sales Analyses and Data Mining. What are the hidden linkages among various categories and products? How do sales of one item affect sales of other items?
  • Shopper Motivations. What underlying motives are driving different patterns of consumer shopping behavior? How do these motives vary across different types of retail outlets?
  • Shopper Segmentation. Different people shop in very different ways. What are the major shopper segments? How can these segments be exploited?
  • Store Optimization. How can the design and layout of the store be optimized to achieve various objectives?
  • Category Management. How can a particular category be assembled, organized, and displayed to maximize sales? Or maximize profits?
  • Retail Employee Research. What role do the store's employees play? How can employees' attitudes and motivations be optimized?
  • In-Store Signage and Media. What are the most effective ways to communicate ads and information in the store?

Qualitative Research

Shopping research, often takes the form of qualitative explorations (depth interviews, focus groups, shop-alongs, and ethnography). Qualitative insights sometimes stand alone to inform improvements to the retail experience. Additionally, they frequently help identify the most important variables and issues, and they help us understand how to design quantitative studies and experiments to optimize the shopping experience.

Why Decision Analyst?

Decision Analyst is a global marketing research and analytical consulting firm with more than four decades of experience in shopping research. Our staff has worked on hundreds of successful shopping research engagements.

Shopping Research Services

Decision Analyst is a leading global marketing research and analytical consulting firm and a recognized leader in consumer research. For more information on Shopping Research, please contact Bonnie Janzen, President, by email at, or Jerry W. Thomas, Chief Executive Officer, by email at">. Both can be reached by calling 1-800-ANALYSIS (262-5974) or 1-817-640-6166.