Home > Articles > Business & Management

  • Print
  • + Share This
This chapter is from the book

The Grocery Store with Invisible Patrons

Imagine a fairly normal grocery store, well stocked with cereal, milk, beer and wine, eggs, ice cream, canned goods, vegetables, fruits, and, of course, the usual assortment of treats near the register. Now imagine that the patrons and their carts are invisible. You see the door swing open when they arrive. You hear the cash register ring when they depart. You know what they bought. But everything else remains hidden. It would be hard to know how well the store was working and what you could do to make it better. Is it missing items or brands shoppers want? Is the store laid out in a way that makes life easy on customers? Does it maximize their purchasing behavior? Have you allocated the right amount of shelf space to each type of item? What might you do to get an individual customer to spend more or be more loyal?

These are the types of questions that merchandising experts have studied, pondered, and worked on for many years—since well before the digital world ever existed. Interestingly, they found that they could answer some of these questions even when the customers were, for all practical purposes, invisible. Equally interesting, they found that some types of questions are much harder to answer when you don’t know who your customers are and that, for many questions, the data might suggest possible answers but rarely provides definitive guidance.

Suppose, for example, that you found that the most purchased items in your store were milk, beer, eggs, and chips. You might be tempted to move all these items together in one place right at the front of the store. That should make it easy for customers to find what they need quickly and efficiently. Is that the way your supermarket is laid out, with the items you buy most right up front?

Chances are, it’s almost exactly the opposite. That isn’t because you’re invisible! Supermarkets work differently for two reasons. We’re all deeply cynical consumers, so you probably identified the first reason right away. Groceries aren’t set up for your convenience. They often place the things people purchase most at the very back of the store and might even consciously try to locate them far apart. If you’ve never made an impulse buy at a grocery store, this might seem odd. But if, like me, you’ve wandered by the dairy aisle and added some ready-to-bake cookies, or you’ve thrown a bag of chips next to your beer, it’s not too hard to see why this setup works. By trying out different store layouts and measuring how much people buy (their average cart), store designers can maximize total sales. Mind you, most grocery stores count on you to make your decision about where to shop based on other factors than how long it takes you to get your items. They know price, selection, and location are more important than convenience. If a new grocery store opened right next door and had the same selection and same prices, a store might well compete on the convenience of layout. But most stores see their layout as a chance to maximize their profits, not your time.

The second reason grocery stores aren’t laid out for your convenience is more interesting and more important than good old profit maximizing. Grocery stores have more than one customer. Guess what? They’re all different. When grocery merchandisers began to study what people bought (still without knowing who they were—only what was purchased on the same ticket), they found very distinct patterns. Beer and milk might be two of the most commonly purchased items in a grocery store, but they might not often be purchased together. Chips, on the other hand, go pretty well with that beer. And milk buyers are often looking to add cereal or eggs to their cart. So setting up a grocery with the most purchased items all clustered together might not work particularly well or be particularly convenient for anyone.

What’s more, even if a particular setup worked well for you today, it might not tomorrow. When merchandisers could only look at the receipts from each shopper, they had no way to tell how much people’s habits and shopping patterns varied. That’s a huge hole in their understanding. To get around that, grocery stores created loyalty programs so that, in return for discounts, they could tell what you bought every trip. They found that most people don’t shop the same way every time they visit the grocery store. Most of us have regular shopping expeditions when we buy everything we need and go up and down every aisle. Store layout might not be a big deal when we’re traversing every inch of the store (or, in my case, traversing two or three times as I remember things). But we also have visits when we’ve just run out of beer or milk—or, heaven forbid, both. We might stop to pick up lunch or to shop for specific recipe ingredients (my flour, bag of chocolate chips, vanilla extract, and egg visits). These are very distinct types of visits, and it would be great if the grocery store could make each type of visit perfect (or perfect for the grocer). Stores would love to be able to do that. But it’s hard to push those shelves around when you walk in the door.

Let’s not forget those chocolate bars and women’s magazines perched right at the register. Very few of us go to the grocery store with the express intent of buying a Snickers bar and a Cosmo, but many of us are tempted by one or the other. What spot in the grocery store do people have to linger at with nothing to do but be tempted? That’s where the candy (eye and stomach) goes.

We can learn a lot from those grocery store merchandisers when we start to think about the digital world. The straightest path isn’t always the best. The customer’s goals and your goals aren’t always identical. Not every product is the same, and some products are more position sensitive than others. A store doesn’t have one ideal layout because it doesn’t have one type of customer, and customers aren’t always going to do the same thing anyway. Last, and most important, what people actually do tells us a great deal about who they are and why they are doing those behaviors.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.

Overview


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information


To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.

Surveys

Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.

Newsletters

If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information


Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.

Security


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.

Children


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.

Marketing


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information


If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.

Choice/Opt-out


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information


Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents


California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure


Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.

Links


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact


Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice


We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020