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Frozen food sales surged over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, and retailers took note. In particular, a frozen foods manufacturer saw an opportunity to grow their business in key growth channels like club and dollar stores.

To approach club and dollar retailers with category opportunities, they needed to conduct in-depth research to understand what drives purchases of frozen products at these particular channels, as well as barriers to buying. By understanding shoppers’ needs and pain points, the team hoped to optimize their product offerings and enhance key retailer partnerships by understanding the needs and triggers of key segments.

The research team developed a robust approach to dig further into frozen foods purchasing in club and dollar channels.

  • First, qualitative research was conducted to understand the drivers and barriers to shopping key categories in club and dollar vs. other channels and explore value dimensions. 
  • Subsequently, a quantitative phase was conducted to confirm and dimensionalize the behaviors observed in the qual phase. It sought to profile shoppers’ channel behaviors, identify elements attracting them to the category at club and dollar stores, and understand opportunities to influence their shopping.
     
Problem

This frozen food manufacturer understood that ‘value’ is a key reason why shoppers opt to shop club and dollar channels but needed to understand value dimension beyond just price alone. Recognizing that price wars are counter-productive to category and share growth, they wanted to be able to help retailers convey ‘value’ to shoppers in ways that resonate, while protecting sales for their product portfolio and retail partners.

The manufacturer also recognized that bulk sizing is key to club shoppers, but that larger packages can have downsides as well. Therefore, they sought to better understand specific motivators, trade-offs, and pain points to optimize their product assortment to best meet the needs of frozen food shoppers at club and to strategize targeted solutions to improve purchase interest and retain new category buyers.

Additionally, given the explosive category growth that took place during the pandemic, the manufacturer (and their retail partners) wanted to understand how to retain new category buyers and support heightened category sales once pandemic-driven routines subside and shopping behaviors ‘normalize’.

Result

The research outlined the many ways in which shoppers assessed value and identified numerous dimensions that could be leveraged to support value perceptions beyond price alone. It identified the promotions and value-oriented messaging that shoppers find most compelling to guide communications strategy and support a strong value proposition while also driving category growth. 

The learnings also addressed the ways in which bulk packages of frozen foods in the club channel both delight and frustrate shoppers. This information helped the manufacturer strategize targeted solutions to alleviate consumer pain points and thereby motivate brand choice.

The research identified common drivers and barriers to category conversion in these channels, which allowed the manufacturer to align their messaging strategy – focusing on the outcomes that consumers value most and connecting with shoppers in a deep and motivating way. It also revealed opportunities to help retail partners increase their respective share of category purchases by speaking to key shoppers’ needs/reservations in communications. Specifically, our analysis highlighted opportunities to drive retention of new category buyers through assortment optimization, merchandising refinement, and category innovation.

By mapping the full category shopper journey, the manufacturer was able to customize their shopper marketing plans to each channel. This allowed them to drive both planned and impulse purchasing through an enhanced understanding of the shopping process, including triggers, motivations, decision-making, and points of inflection.

All of these elements helped the manufacturer craft compelling sell-in stories by aligning shopper insights with retailer struggles to identify mutually beneficial opportunities and drive results. 

Solution

A multi-phase research approach was used to gain a deep understanding of the frozen category purchases in club and dollar channels. 

First, qualitative research was conducted to understand the drivers and barriers to shopping key categories in club and dollar stores vs. other channels and explore value dimensions. Webcam interviews were conducted to uncover:

  • How shoppers are ‘doing the math’ when shopping for frozen foods at club and dollar stores
  • What on-pack communications signal value-related benefits
  • Comprehensive drivers and barriers to shopping for key categories in each channel 
  • The nuances around specific shopping dynamics such as seasonality and treasure hunting

Subsequently, a quantitative phase was conducted to confirm and dimensionalize the behaviors observed in the qualitative phase - profiling consumers’ channel behaviors, identifying elements that attract shoppers to the category at club and dollar and discovering opportunities to influence shopping. The online quantitative survey enabled us to capture shoppers’ last purchase occasion of a frozen product across three different frozen food categories at different key retailers to understand:

  • Pre-shop planning and triggers
  • Drivers of retailer choice
  • Perceptions and performance of club/dollar channels
  • In-store influencers and browsing behaviors
  • Post-purchase consumption and usage patterns
  • The impact of the pandemic on shopping habits

Deliverables included a qualitative report with retailer playbooks, a quantitative resource deck comparing channels and categories, and compelling share-out presentations for each frozen category of interest. The presentations were conducted virtually due to the pandemic. To drive client engagement, we leveraged a game-based platform to intersperse interactive, findings-related quizzes throughout the presentation. The platform maintains a leaderboard which encourages friendly competition, and we awarded top-scoring participants special prizes. The presentations received incredibly positive feedback and were described as fun, engaging, memorable, and actionable - helping the team build a plan they could execute against.  
 

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