Category Shopping Fundamentals: Understanding Consumers’ Path to Purchase

Category Shopping Fundamentals: Understanding Consumers’ Path to Purchase

Understanding what drives shoppers to the store—and why they make the choices they do—is foundational when it comes to gaining a complete view of today’s consumer. To gain deeper insight, a recent Category Shopping Fundamentals (CSF) path-to-purchase study examined  the key metrics that influence purchase decisions across the fundamental (and emerging) stages of the shopper path to purchase.

Among other available breakdowns, CSF provides an understanding of consumer shopping purchases and whether they are planned, reminded or impulse. Planned purchases cover the items that consumers intend to buy, while reminded purchases are those that are likely needed, but somehow didn’t make it onto shoppers’ lists. Impulse purchases include the unplanned decisions that consumers make once they’re in the store. In Canada, 65% of grocery items around the perimeter of the store are planned purchases, compared with just 52% of the items purchased from the center of store. However, the centre of store is growing, with dollar sales up 3.4% in the year ended Aug. 20, 2016. The centre of the store is also responsible for more impulse buys than fresh items found along the perimeter of stores.

In addition to knowing where consumers make impulse buys, retailers and manufacturers can get ahead of the pack by understanding the specific categories that consumers gravitate to when making spontaneous purchases. While more than half (55%) of shoppers’  food purchases are planned, a few specific food categories are impulsive-buy drivers. Snacks, frozen and refrigerated foods are the top impulse buys in the food realm. Household and personal care products are the top drivers in the non-food category, where 30% and 29% of purchases respectively are made on impulse.

Retailers and manufacturers that know whether a product is a planned or impulse purchase will help them activate category-specific plans to capitalize on growth opportunities. Being aware of the influencers that consumers consider before they get to the store (e.g., replenishing need, coupons, promotions, household requests and advertising) will help pinpoint when, where and how to stimulate purchases. In-store influences (e; promotions, price checking, merchandising, flyer,, out of stock) is equally important when working to prompt reminded and impulse purchases.

Understanding where and how shoppers can be influenced will help build plans to effectively reach desired consumers. Planning and engagement options can boost pre- and in-store activation efforts to make an impact on the bottom line for both perimeter and centre of store items.


Category Shopping Fundamentals is a quantitative study, capturing 72,374 purchases among 16,222 Canadian households that examine what influenced purchase decision along the shopper path, both pre-store and in-store, for 102 consumer packaged good food and non-food categories.