Qual Street

Dedication to the answer


What's the point of purchase?

What's the point of purchase?


How do you understand what the shopper wants and needs at the point of purchase?

It’s a really tough one to research because we know that asking people about their behaviour at the fixture is not going to work (see all the behavioural science work on asking ‘why’, system one thinking etc etc)…people just don’t know how they behave.

We can ask people to replicate the buying experience – but often just asking them to ‘re-do’ their own behaviour creates a different behaviour. People start to see the fixture and what’s on offer anew… giving it much more consideration than in real life.

We can observe and intercept. Observing people as they shop in-store, asking them ‘what’s going on?’… But, anyone who has done that knows about its difficulties and limitations: being there at the right moment; freaking people out with strange questions; and asking people to explain themselves when they can’t..

Alternatively, we can use eye-tracking work to see what people are looking at. That can help us understand what people are seeing/ picking up…but we get no back-story – and what do you do when you want to understand a whole category, when there’s a huge amount to code and understand?

That was a recent challenge for us at Qual Street – we’ve been researching a changing food category across different bricks and mortar supermarkets.

Our approach was to take a lot of the interview away from the fixture, and try to explore decision making in a different way…

Here’s what we did…

…picture the participants in the coffee shop of a supermarket

First we got to know our participants food needs and cooking habits by reviewing with them a diary pre-task they’d done…

As part of that chat we also asked participants to explain to us how they shopped – big shops, small shops, rolling top ups etc (related to the food they cooked)…

… Next they sorted through a mass of cards, one for each brand featured in the category we were interested in. On the cards was the product price point and a little information about the product. So we asked our participants to sort the cards into piles. What they normally bought, what might they like to buy…

Then we asked them to talk through their selections. Where did they expect to find each of the products in-store, what would the products be alongside, what kind of product was this… what kind of eating occasion would they want this product for…?

We got a sense of how the participant classified or thought about the product/ brand. This gave us lots of clues about how a retailer might want to categorise products, or sort them in a way that reflected the shopper mindset.

Then (with our yes buy/ interested in cards) we visited the fixture, looking at where the products actually were in store and how they were merchandised. We asked shoppers to reference their typical shopping behaviour – (as previously discussed) to see how effective the product was in its in-store position – how well it was placed in-store vs their expectations and needs…

The card exercise gave us a way to get beyond ‘what it is’ to explore what the fixture could be and what their need was… how best the point of purchase could be organised to help a shopper find, make sense of, explore, shop…

This isn’t the only method to use in order to understand category management and point of purchase, but it was, we found, an effective method, a way to ‘look usefully’ at the point of purchase… particularly when used in conjunction with a proper understanding of the shoppers’ cooking and shopping styles. We got a particularly strong sense of how shoppers make sense of products (by being away from the fixture), which gave us a way of helping to imagine how to give the fixture a do-over that would encourage both repeat and explorative shopping modes.

This method worked and we commend it to you!


Kath Rhodes, Qual Street Owner

I love love learning and so I invest time and resources with Ambreen and Claire into exploring social psychology, neuro science, creativity and new techniques in research. Read all about it and help yourself to the ideas that will deliver your business the insight it needs

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@Qualstreet on 17 March 2023