Podcast: Rebecca Brooks of Alter Agents talks about shopper behavior

Alter Agents CEO and Founder Rebecca Brooks joined our “Now That’s Significant” podcast to share more about how market research needs to change in the face of the promiscuous shopper and changes in consumer decision making.

We were thrilled to welcome Rebecca Brooks, CEO and Founder of Alter Agents, as one of the first guests on our new podcast, Now That’s Significant. Alter Agents is a full-service, strategic market research consultancy reimagining research in an era of shifting decision making. Rebecca is co-author of the upcoming shopper marketing book, “Influencing Shopper Decisions”, to be published by Kogan Page in April 2022.


Here is the introduction to the wide number of market research issues we spoke about during the broadcast: 

The rise of shopper promiscuity

The two main issues that Rebecca and her co-author and Chief Strategic Officer Devora Rogers have been tracking for the last decade are shopper behavior and shopper decision making. Beginning in 2009, the work they did was fed into Google's Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT) research, which was when Google needed to prove that search was a part of the shopping journey and that organizations should advertise there.

So, that kicked them off. And Rebecca and Devora have been exploring this area for the last decade. And the impetus for writing the book and getting this out there is this rise of shopper promiscuity or promiscuous shopping behavior. And they use that word intentionally: the idea is that shoppers are much more open to new brands, new distribution channels, category disruptors. And they've seen this trend continue over the course of the ten years that they've been doing this research.

Shoppers are much less likely to come into the category with the brand in mind and buy that brand. Now, of course, there's a ton of difference between categories and between brands, but that trend is consistent. When you look at it on a demographic basis, about 56% of Boomers go into a category with a brand in mind and buy that brand. That is what she would consider kind of traditional shopping behavior. That's how Rebecca has thought about shopping behavior, this idea of loyalists who know what they want to buy and they just go buy it regardless of the other inputs they come across. But as you scale that down and you look at Gen X and Millennials, it's a stair step down. When you get to Gen Z, it's a drop down to 36% of Gen Z who start with the brand in mind and then buy that brand.

Well, and this isn't a generational trend that's going by: Gen Z is not going to age into Boomer behavior. This is a new way of looking at shopping. Gen Z are truly digital natives, having grown up with all of this access around them, and it's wired the way their brains work. So the big idea, the big premise of the book, and what Rebecca and Devora out here trying to promote is that those of us in the market insights sector need to change the way we think about research and the way that we talk about brands with consumers in order to really get the correct insights. Because market research has really been set up more around this idea of loyalty. And so we're positing that unless we change, we're going to ask the wrong questions of the wrong people, and will not get the insights we need.

During the podcast, we go on to chat with Rebecca more about her background, the work that Alter Agents does, and some of the findings from their most recent research projects - including a study of 6,000 recent purchasers in six different categories. She talks about how their experience and research, and changing shopper habits, have clearly illustrated the need for change in our industry. Rebecca also covers how her new book, co-authored with Devora Rogers, explores in-depth how shopper promiscuity is not just a trend but a new reality for brands and, thus, "that we as an industry really need to rethink the way that we're approaching research."

She goes on to discuss further issues such as:

  • Alter Agents expertise in shopper insights and shopper research
  • Use of multi-modal studies, including agile neuroscience, to uncover new insights
  • Summary of a recent study of 6,000 consumers that uncovers how people are researching purchases in various categories
  • How consumers are moving away from brand loyalty and are becoming "promiscuous shoppers"
  • Ways that market research needs to change to fit these new models 

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