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BW Businessworld

The Moment Of Truth

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A traditional view of an organisation’s operations leads one to begin the value chain upstream… but truly the fortunes of an organisation depend on this moment when a customer decides to pick up (or ignore) its product at the point of sale… a supermarket in this case. So, everything done to get a product onto the retail shelf —R&D, product development, manufacturing / sourcing, logistics, distribution, marketing, etc., blurs at the point of purchase, when a consumer does not choose the product amidst many others on the shelf. This really is the moment of reckoning!

What Abhi and Salma witnessed is possibly an everyday occurrence wherein many consumers’ decision to pick up a brand/ product or drop another is influenced in varying degrees by the interaction between the product and the consumer at the point of sale... be the brand a household name or an unknown, be the purchase a routine buy or an occasional indulgence.
No wonder then that organisations need to really know what happens between the consumer and the product at the moment of purchase.

In the case situation, Abhi and Salma run through various possible reasons why their juice brand Kanto was placed back on the shelf after a close inspection by Sarlaben, the consumer. However, before we get to these reasons and other influencers such as ‘time pressure’ on the shopper, it is important to understand that the behaviour of consumers depends on whether the purchase is a routine one or a new purchase.

Routine replenishment where the product is standard and familiar, the purchase frequency regular and the purchase being low involvement. It is normal for consumers in such cases to go with their standard brand without browsing. However, the standard brand could get rejected if there are doubts on the freshness and quality of the units being stocked. In such a case, consumers may pick up packs only to return them to the shelves and pick up another from the consideration set, or walk away if they are fixed on a brand and unwilling to consider alternatives.

New buy where consumers seek newness / variety, where the product / variant is not familiar or the purchase infrequent. Consumers may look at the pack for more information on the product / brand / manufacturer that gives them the confidence to buy, beyond price, and addresses their concerns on quality, freshness or health considerations.
In this context, the importance of making it easy for most consumers to find simple things like price, weight, manufacturing date, expiry, contents, etc., on the pack cannot be overstated. The absence or difficulty of finding such details does lead to stress / dissonance.

Further, consumers are getting increasingly more individualistic in their usage and expectations from products. They are keen to know beyond the details on the label and how they can get more from their purchase, like when Salma asked, “Can I use orange juice to marinade chicken.” However, this cannot be left completely to in-store promoters, call centres, traditional media or even the packaging to address, as the queries are very specific.

Many brands use this as an opportunity to engage directly with consumers via content rich sites, blogs, forums, etc. Thus creating a wider world of interaction, learning and discovery endears the brand closer to consumers. On Marico’s Saffola site, for instance, you get tips for a healthy heart, recipes and you can pose questions to cardiologists and fitness specialists. There are many other such brand examples —Maggi, Sunsilk, etc.

All this said and done, organisations still miss out on what really happens between the consumer and the product at the moment of purchase. Honestly, the truth is really out there…. on the shop floor. It may be forgotten by the time the consumer reaches the check-out counter. The search for truth calls for managers to step out of their cubicles, spend time on the shop floor and interact with consumers to get a more hands-on feel of this final “moment” that can go a long way to strengthening brand-consumer relationships.  So, dear Abhi and Salma, keep observing and learning more about your consumers as they interact with your brand at retail.  

(This story was published in BW | Businessworld Issue Dated 14-07-2014)