New agency to address perceived research gap

Shopper Strategy and Research hones in on the need to distinguish between consumers and shoppers along the path-to-purchase.

Two industry vets have teamed up to launch a new agency looking to address a gap in research between consumers and shoppers.

Dr. Hugh Phillips of Phillips Foster & Boucher, who works in the field of shopper psychology, and Maxime Bourbonnais of MBA Recherche, who brings his e-comm experience to the table, have joined forces to create Shopper Strategy and Research. The two agencies have blended to form the new entity (although MBA will continue to operate separately), with all five Phillips Foster & Boucher employees coming to the new shop.

The new Montreal-based agency is predicated on the need for a cohesive, cross-channel strategy from a path-to-purchase perspective, and the pair’s view of the whitespace in research stemming from the difference between shoppers and consumers. Traditional research tactics address the consumer phase during the path-to-purchase, according to the duo, but don’t take into account the nature of a shopper’s decision-making, which they consider to be fleeting and subconscious. And they view classic research to often be a solution in search of a problem to address.

“People use research techniques from consumer studies, which work perfectly well,” says Phillips. “They try applying them to shoppers and they don’t work at all.”

With their own techniques based on the shopper, the pair believes this kind of research generates results that differ greatly from consumer research, spurring the need for a new strategy.

“If the client is already working with an agency then we can build our own approach and tailor it to that specific need,” says Bourbonnais. “At the same time, if a client would not have an agency or needs expertise in data or strategy insight before contacting an agency to get something developed, then we can feed into that process also.”

The duo brings a client list of brands such as P&G and Rona to the table, while working with agencies is also a possibility.

In fact, it’s agency folks who’ve taken an interest in the pair’s approach. Phillips and Bourbonnais delivered a keynote presentation at the Shopper Marketing Forum in April entitled “Shopper psych: Why Target missed the mark and who’s getting it right,” and the positive reception led them to develop Shopper Strategy and Research.

“It was the agencies who particularly came up and contacted us afterwards because they wanted a specialist who was talking their terms – strategic terms, implementation terms,” says Phillips. “We’re talking on the same level.”

Image: Bourbonnais at the Shopper Marketing Forum in April by Ryan Walker (