How To Start A Qualitative Research In Trade Marketing
By: Emilio Macasaet III
“We have finally set up our Trade Marketing team and have identified target customers where to focus our sell-out programs. We are fortunate to have been chosen by a big key account to lead in the revamping of a category in their top 20 stores. This key account recently tasked us to conduct a qualitative shopper research to develop a more shopper-fitted program to dramatically grow the category assigned to us. Can you share in your column some practical and inexpensive tools for qualitative shopper research?”- Trina
Congratulations on your new trade marketing team and for being chosen as category captain! I’d like to give you a menu of practical and inexpensive tools in qualitative shopper research that I teach in my Trade Marketing training program. It is definitely not an exhaustive list but absolutely suits your requirement. As a framework for easy reference, I will use journalists’ questions in determining what to ask from respondents.     
Who is the target shopper segment? This refers to shopper targeting where you identify your primary target shopper segment for the category.
When do they buy? This talks about trip types or trip drivers. Information Resources Inc. (IRI), the leading global provider of enterprise market solutions for consumer packaged goods (CPG), retail and healthcare industries has identified 31 different trip types that roll up to 4 trip missions for all of CPG such as: Quick Trips (very few items), Special Purpose (targeted set of items), Fill-In (several categories), Pantry Stocking (10+ categories).
Where do they prefer to buy?Refers to shopper’s outlet choice or where they prefer to buy.
What do they buy?  Refers to category, brand, and product choice.
Why do they buy?  Deals with purchase influencers.
How do they buy?  Refers to path to purchase - the path by which consumers discover, learn, purchase and experience a product.
As cited in Snap Surveys website, Susan E. Wyse defines Qualitative Research as   “primarily exploratory research. It is used to gain an understanding of underlying reasons, opinions, and motivations. It provides insight into the problem or helps to develop ideas or hypotheses for potential quantitative research. Qualitative Research is also used to uncover trends in thought and opinions, and dive deeper into the problem. Qualitative data collection methods vary using unstructured or semi-structured techniques. Some common methods include focus groups, individual interviews, and participation/observations. The sample size is typically small, and respondents are selected to fulfill a given quota.”
I am enumerating below specific methods of approach, which you may use in your next qualitative research.
Observational or In-Context. This aims to provide a richer understanding of the life, habits and desires of target consumers in shopping mode. There are various in-store methodologies that help pinpoint the rationale behind purchasing decisions as they happen. One is accompanied shops – online and in-store or shop alongs, which use the store environment as a real-life stimulus for discussion, enabling researchers to explore the trade offs and influences of layout, product positioning, communications, pricing and promotions, etc. In-store observations and intercepts are a cost-effective means of exploring spontaneous purchasing behavior at point-of-purchase and uncovering the rationale behind it. In-context observations outside the store includes dine alongs, in-home observations and house tours, cook with me and cabinet raids.
On-line Technology. Thisallows shoppers to engage personally. Examples are on-line bulletin board, journaling, shopping video logs, mobile texting interactions and user-generated content (UGC).
Retail / Retailer Audits. A study of a selected sample of representative retail outlets which aims to measure the effectiveness of in-store display and promotion efforts, sales trends, sales volume, stock levels of a brand or product in the retail outlet. These in-store metrics which are related to the category, brand and retailer are the aisle, referring tocategory location, adjacencies, proximity to front or back of store and category, pertaining to brand configuration and placement, signage, facings.
Trade Probes.Theseinvolve confidential discussions with Category Managers, Buyers and Directors of Merchandising at key trade outlets to obtain critical wants and needs, other categories purchased, competitive programsand similar others.
Competitive Intelligence.  This will help you formulate insights into the strategies, tactics and general approach of key competition. Gather competitive intelligence on Category Management, such as assortment, Shelving, Pricing, Promotion, New products or new product segments and new initiatives.
I hope you find the tools helpful. God bless you and more power!
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Emilio Macasaet III is a Partner and the Chief Distribution Strategist of Mansmith and Fielders, Inc., the only advocacy-based training and consultancy firm focused on marketing, sales, strategy and innovation. For feedback, write to
mentors@mansmith.netor log on to www.mansmith.netfor more information.