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As the world moved out of the Coronavirus pandemic, our client was faced with the need to reflect and gain a deeper understanding of its business. Competing in the packaged meat industry, they witnessed changing shopping habits, a rise in the demand for packaged meat, and a continued general love for traditional meat overall. At the same time, there were relevant key trends gaining momentum that required a sharper lens, particularly trends toward natural and organic, as well as convenience. 

In the face of this, our client focused on a long-term strategic plan that involved not only optimizing its brand portfolio, but also placed them in a realm of decisions involving other sizeable investments. 
Ultimately, the client wanted to understand how to best position their portfolio of brands to minimize brand target overlap, innovate for future growth, stand out at shelf (in-store and virtually), and maximize shopper appeal.

During this time, there were many unanswered questions and uncertainties that this leading food manufacturer was faced with; our client recognized a couple of key needs:

  • A broader, far-reaching view of this huge category, while concurrently aligning cross-divisional strategies to build a differentiated portfolio; and 
  • A stepwise learning plan that would not only look at what’s happening today but also into the future. 

Seeking answers, they approached C+R Research for help. We developed a multi-phase qualitative/quantitative research program to dive deeply into packaged meat shoppers' life values and philosophies, their needs toward the category, and how they navigate at shelf (in-store and virtually). With these insights, we were able to provide our client with key targetable shopper segments, an understanding of the different ways in which they use the category, what is important to them, and how they shop the category. The insights fueled energizing activation sessions that generated ideas to optimize their portfolio and retailer strategies now and into the future. 

Problem

A leading food manufacturer wanted to inform future strategies by gaining a comprehensive, shopper-driven view that would uncover needs and attitudes specific to packaged meat that were truly reflective of the current landscape – post-COVID, shifting shopping habits, increase in demand for packaged meat, as well as trends toward natural, organic, and convenience products. The intent was to inform the growth of its businesses, with a specific focus on identifying distinctive and targetable high value opportunity segments that could be used to optimize their portfolio. 

They approached C+R for help in better understanding:

  • Packaged meat shoppers and their attitudes toward the category and brands
  • The role packaged meat plays in their lives and the motivations that encourage usage
  • The purchase dynamics (in-store and online), including purchase drivers, the path-to-purchase, and the role of channels
     
Result

We helped our client develop a better understanding of the overall packaged meat shopper with respect to their philosophies and values, attitudes towards the packaged meat category, and perceptions of the different types and brands that live within it. This provided a perceptual landscape of the competitive space that provided perspective on competitors and untapped white spaces. Through our research, we identified the various usage occasions in which package meat plays a role from morning, to noon, to night. By uncovering the daypart usage occasions, we unveiled the various jobs packaged meat fulfilled overall, as well as other types and brands of packaged meat.

Of course, in order for packaged meat to make it into the home, it has to land in the shopping cart – whether that’s a physical or virtual cart. By focusing a sharp eye on the similarities and differences of shopping for packaged meat in-store vs. online, both pre-store prompts and in-store/online influences, we learned the variation in sensory cues. Visual cues play a big part in the in-store experience where shoppers closely examine the product for quality and can easily compare across brands. This visual examination is lost online, which suggested improvements to enhance the online shopping experience, such as closer-in product images and cross-brand comparisons. Through these insights and other distinctions, we were able to arm the client’s Shopper Insights team with retailer fact books to serve as a resource in the creation of fact-based sell-in stories. 

In the end, we identified key shopper segments for their portfolio of brands to activate against, with a nod to key occasions in which these segments use packaged meat. The brands’ teams aligned their brands with key segments in order to create swim lanes for each to minimize overlap of targeting. From there, the brand and insights teams participated in a day of guided, spirited activation to further unpack and digest the research and align on what this all means for their brands. This day generated over 90 ideas for the team to further develop in order to drive success in the future. 

Solution

Given the objectives of the overall project plan, we laid out a multi-phase approach that would take the team on a iterative learning journey. 

To commence this journey – we kicked it off with information sharing from all parties to align on truths (what the team already knew), understand knowledge gaps (what the team needed to learn), and discuss any hypotheses the team sought to explore. As part of the kick-off, we collaborated with the client team to create a trends deck to ground and inspire them in packaged meat. The intent here was to focus on implications for the category through the lenses of these key trends. The trends discussion fueled lively conversation, generated hypotheses, and built more energy around the project!

The next phase involved Qualitative Discovery to explore packaged meat shoppers with respect to their lifestyles, attitudes, motivations for turning to the category, as well as brand perceptions and the path to purchase. The goal was to cover any gaps in knowledge, inform the development of the quantitative survey and enrich the study overall by bringing the segments to life.

This qualitative discovery started with digital ethnography - specifically a two-week online qualitative community, engaging 46 category shoppers. Over the course of two weeks, shoppers took part in immersive discussions and activities, journaling, in-store shopping missions, and in-store remote shop-alongs. The in-store remote shop-alongs were critical in capturing that in-the-moment experience by taking our moderator along on their virtual shopping trip. While the shopping missions were loosely prescribed through a guide, the shop-alongs allowed for an organic shopping experience through fluid conversation. The client team was also able to follow along through the virtual backroom which allowed us to pivot at any moment. 

Given the goal to understand differences in the in-store and online shopping experience, we supplemented the research with remote Ecomm shop-alongs. The team wanted to better understand the online experience to be sure they optimized their online strategy.  This was important due to the rise of Ecomm, not only through natural acceptance, but also forced usage as a result of COVID. If this behavior were to stick, the team wanted to be sure they were well informed to construct channel appropriate strategies. With these shop-alongs, respondents shared their screen with our moderator to view the online retailer. This provided the same organic, fluid shopping experience as in an in-store shop-alongs, but with an Ecomm lens. 
 
The rich learning from the qualitative discovery prepared the team to move efficiently into the next phase – a large-scale Quantitative Study + Segmentation. Given the client’s focus on future growth, we wanted to be sure we provided a comprehensive shopper-driven deep dive around their needs and attitudes that provided insights to inspire strategies for such growth. 

Our specific focus was to identify distinct, targetable high-value opportunity segments that could be used to optimize the client’s portfolio. We accomplished this through the strategic development of two shopper segmentations. 

We employed an efficient, large-scale survey with a core sample of 3000 with 1,000 key retailer boost completes. The survey covered a whole host of topics (lifestyle and attitudes, consumption habits and needs, brand engagement, purchase dynamics (drivers, P2P and role of channel)). Through this wide array of information, we:

  • Created a shopper attitudinal-based segmentation – The segmentation was grounded in shopper attitudes toward packaged meat and brought to life by layering in info related to other attitudinal pillars, consumption, purchasing and category/brand engagement, and psychographic profiling. This enabled us to understand the relative size and importance of each segment to the client – the size of the prize.  
  • Next, we moved to an occasion need-based segmentation. This identified triggers behind the usage of the category and the needs shoppers were seeking to satisfy, emotional and functional.

Through the inter-connection of the attitudinal and need-based segmentations, we could identify the high-value targets and the needs that the category fulfills for them. This inter-connection was a source of inspiration around product innovation, communication, and messaging. The segments were brought to life by written segment personas and videos from the 2-week community and shop-alongs. We also supplemented segment learning with thought-starter playbooks to inspire thoughts around innovation. 

Given their focus to be armed with channel and retailer insights, we developed key retailer fact-books based on the qualitative and quantitative findings. These served as resources to the client’s Shopper Insights team in the creation of fact-based sell-in stories. 

After the client brand teams digested the segments and gained alignment on brand targets, it was time to get into action. We held an all-day activation session. Key members of the client cross-functional teams assembled to translate the research insights into innovation opportunities and activate against the white space for growth. We presented a summary of the research findings, recruited shoppers who fit the key segment personas for “speed-dating”, and then spent the afternoon identifying opportunities and compiling a long, varied list of facts as well as specific categories.

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