Research with Impact: Shopping Mission-based Assortment Organisation in Retailing

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Global and Strategic Marketing Research Centre

Dr Aristeidis Theotokis is Associate Professor of Marketing at Leeds University Business School. He has industrial and academic experience in the fields of e-business, services marketing, consumer behaviour and retailing. His research has received strong recognition in the form of best paper awards and funding from research councils, government organisations and large multinational companies. Dr Theotokis has been studying consumer psychology and responses to retailing and shopper marketing practices, corporate social responsibility and prosocial behaviour.

Photograph of Cathy Cassell presenting Aris Theotokis with his award.

Research with Impact:
The Effect of Shopping Mission-based Assortment Organisation on Purchase Behaviour and Store Performance

About the research:
"Organising retail assortments to better meet shopping needs down ‘the path to purchase’ is at the forefront of efforts for both online and brick-and-mortar retailers. The most common retail assortment organisation strategy, namely taxonomic, is based on grouping together categories that share the same physical characteristics.

This ongoing research project is based on the collaboration between researchers from Leeds University Business School, Athens University of Economics and Business, Marinopoulos S.A (a leading Greek retailing company) and Procter & Gamble S.A (a fast-moving consumer goods multi-national manufacturer.) This project introduces and tests a new assortment organisation concept, namely mission-based, where product categories are organised according to the shopping mission they serve eg. “breakfast”, “lunch” or “BBQ party” for grocery retailing.

The first part of the project included the development of an analytical method (Shopping Mission Analytics Toolkit) for the identification of shopping missions by clustering product categories found in grocery sales data. The method developed using a data set comprised of 4 million baskets from six stores of different formats of Marinopoulos S.A.

We then conducted four focus groups with shoppers and two lab experiments, using virtual store technology in the Innovation Centre of the collaborating manufacturer (P&G), in order to uncover the psychological mechanism that underlies consumer response to the suggested assortment organisation. Finally, a field experiment in a supermarket store in Athens of Marinopoulos S.A was used to validate findings in a “real-world” setting.

In both lab and field experiments we show that mission-based organisation compared to the currently prevailing taxonomic assortment organization led to increased: a) retail shopability measure (5%); b) purchase rate (6%); c) basket size (15%); and d) unplanned spending (3%).

During the two months of the field experiment project phase, store revenue increased by 13%. Marinopoulos SA has since adopted the shopping mission-based assortment organisation concept. Eight stores have been renovated so far and fifty more stores are scheduled in 2016.

The case stimulated the interest of leading FMCG manufacturers and retailers for mission-based shopper marketing projects. Leading retailers in Europe have started implementing the shopping mission-based organisation in their online stores.

A manuscript based on the results from the first part of the research was published in the Journal of Business Research. We currently have a manuscript based on the results from lab and field experiments under review at the Journal of Marketing.

The project won the prestigious “Best Activation Award” in the ECR Europe Awards 2015 and honorary award, in the Self-service Awards 2015. We have also presented our research at industry conferences such as the ECR Hellas Conference, Athens, May 2015; the Supply Chain and Logistic Summit, Limassol, November 2015; and the e-Business Forum, Athens, December 2015.

'Traditional’ practices of retail category management as well as the relevant academic literature do not take into account that the modern shopper enters a store having a specific “mission” in mind. This project advances the notion of category management in retailing by introducing and testing the impact a shopping-mission based assortment organization. Results are quite promising and show that the modern retailing field needs new approaches and methods to proceed to the next level.”

Comment from the judges:
“The retail sector is recognised as one of the most fast-paced technological areas with changes happening all the time. Yet in the current competitive and economic climate many retailers are on a knife edge. This research by Dr Theotokis is a prime example of big data analysis being used to creatively help retailers improve their businesses and hence their customers satisfaction. His retail partner completely refitted a whole supermarket to enable the research to be conducted, such was their level of commitment to this innovative work.” 

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author and may not reflect the views of Leeds University business school or the University of Leeds.