Dutch breeding company Rijk Zwaan has opened a groundbreaking ‘retail experience’ centre for vegetables to provide retailers and plant breeders with insights on consumer shopping behaviour.
Research methods at the mocked-up supermarket in Berlin will include eye tracking – to find out what catches a shopper’s eye the most; assortment planning – to work out the best combination of products to display; and on-shelf positioning – to determine how product layout affects consumer choice.
Tests will also be done to gauge the impact of different packaging, labelling and point-of-sale marketing features, such as cooking demo videos that can be projected on the wall behind a fixture.
The retail centre has an extensive range of vegetable products, with various fixture layouts.
Trial shoppers from different age groups and demographics will be invited to the experience centre for a combination of guided test shopping, followed by on-the-spot in-depth interviews and focus group discussions to find out the motivations for their behaviour.
Each test shopper will be asked to wear the eye-tracking glasses, worth €25,000, and complete a shopping task, such as buying ingredients for a mixed salad. The glasses, which have infrared cameras mounted in the frame of each lens, will then be used to map their eye movements and how many milliseconds they look at each product for.
Although eye-tracking glasses have been used in other areas of retail for several years, this is possibly the first time they will be used in vegetable shopping research.
Surveillance cameras have also been installed in the retail centre to monitor shoppers’ movements and record how they interact with different products and fixtures.
Rijk Zwaan’s manager for chain and retail Jan Doldersum said: “The most important thing the new retail centre will offer the supply chain is better consumer insights on point of sale. In fresh produce there are hardly any insights on shoppers’ path of purchase and their motivation for buying.
“By combining eye tracking and cameras with follow-up interviews we can get a much better idea of consumer behaviour. If people are just being interviewed, they might give socially acceptable answers, but here we can literally see how they act.”
Rather than sharing research findings with the industry as a whole, Rijk Zwaan will work with retailers on an individual basis to answer specific research questions. The findings will also help the Dutch plant breeder develop varieties and concepts aligned to market demand.
Fixture layouts in the retail centre will match fruit and veg displays in different countries and markets. One section imitates a convenience store with products behind glass doors; another follows the Aldi and Lidl model of displaying fresh produce in crates at waist height and eye level; and the third area matches the British and American preference for using taller, more angled shelf displays.