Explorer Group launches high-tech shopper insight facility

CPG manufacturers can harness virtual aisles to test products and more.

Mississauga-based Explorer Shopping Solutions has recently launched its new Centre for Shopper Insights (CSI), a 6,000-square-foot research, design and meeting facility to help understand shopper behaviour and purchase dynamics in Canadian retail.

The facility can be used to test planograms, package design or shelf set ideas, determine where to put and how to merchandise displays and products as well as conduct shopper focus groups, shopper marketing planning and sales meetings and training sessions.

But the real differentiator is the technology investment, says Explorer Group president Marc Inkol. CSI features two shopper labs, the first is staged like a grocery store that can be adapted to any store and retail banner type, which is equipped with eye-tracking technology on the shelves and on packaging that can hone in on what a shopper is and isn’t looking at. “We can give you up to 16 camera views of what a shopper is doing,” says Inkol.

The second lab, a virtual aisle where two movie screens, 24 feet long by 10 feet high, have images from actual store aisles projected onto them, can give CPG manufacturers and retailers an idea of what their main competitors look like in situ. “We can put you into 40 stores in a minute.”

CSI will have a virtual aisle with images of product from actual stores projected onto screens.

Though Inkol sees CSI benefitting retailers and manufacturers alike, he suspects there will be heightened interest from manufacturers, as leveraging the insights gleaned from the centre can give them better clarity and better context to engage specific retailers, he says.

Explorer started as an innovation and product development company in 2004, working with major CPG manufacturers, but went in the shopper marketing insight and strategy direction when the product development business dried up and clients started asking for path to purchase studies exploring how shoppers react to different stimuli in different retail situations.

The centre was created to address that need, which has become more acute of late, as Inkol says the clean store policy of many retailers means shoppers need more prompts to help them decide what to buy. The typical Canadian family buys 300 grocery store products a year yet there are 46,000 out there, he says. “There’s more variety than ever before yet Canadians are not buying more products.”