March 27, 2024

What Is Pre-Shop Planning? A Guide For CPG Brands

Learn the definition of pre-shop planning and how can it impact CPG brands' advertising strategies

Did you know 87.5% of the items on a shopper's grocery list end up in their cart? That's right; nearly nine out of ten planned purchases make it to checkout (Source: The CPG Pre-Shop Planning Report). But with packed shelves and endless online choices, can the modern shopper handle processing all those options? A classic paradox of choice – too many alternatives can lead to indecision and missed opportunities for your brand.

In today's omnichannel shopping world, reaching consumers with your CPG brand's message can often feel like throwing darts in the dark. Shoppers research online, browse in-store, and even use voice assistants to add items to their carts. This fragmented landscape makes capturing consumers’ attention a challenge.

But what if you could influence brand choices before consumers even step foot in a store, making it fundamentally easier for shoppers to decide what to purchase? Enter the powerful concept of pre-shop planning.

This blog post will explore the sometimes overlooked pre-shop planning phase, explaining what it is and why it's vital for CPG brands to understand its importance in influencing purchase decisions in a crowded retail space.

So, What is Pre-Shop Planning?

Pre-shop planning refers to the crucial decision-making stage consumers engage in before physically entering a store or going online to buy groceries. It encompasses all the activities that influence what ultimately ends up in shoppers’ carts. 

Let’s break down the main stages of pre-shop planning:

  • List Making: This is the cornerstone of pre-shop planning. Most consumers (98.3% according to the CPG Pre-Shop Planning Report) use shopping lists, with a growing preference for digital options on smartphones and tablets alongside traditional pen-and-paper methods.
  • Research and Inspiration: Consumers don't just pull products out of thin air. Pre-shop planning involves researching new items and seeking inspiration for meals. Planning in this stage can include browsing online stores, checking recipe websites, or using favorite health, planning, or lifestyle apps.
  • Planning for Needs: Pre-shop planning goes beyond impulse buys. When building shopping lists, many consumers consider upcoming events (birthdays, holidays), dietary restrictions, and planned meal occasions. This targeted approach creates a more efficient and needs-based shopping trip.

The Rise of the Digital Planner

Mobile devices and digital tools have revolutionized traditional pre-shop planning behavior like clipping coupons and making lists. US consumers now have access to a wealth of information and resources at their fingertips and are projected to spend over three hours daily on their mobile devices in 2024. For these digital-first grocery shoppers, several planning tools and preferences rise to the surface, including:

  • Digital Shopping List Apps: 98.3% of consumers use shopping lists (CPG Pre-Shop Planning Report), and the digital versions are only becoming more popular year over year, allowing for easy list creation, editing, and sharing. Many list apps integrate with grocery store loyalty programs and online retailers, streamlining the shopping experience.
  • Recipe Inspiration Platforms: Recipe websites and mobile apps like Side Chef and Tasty provide endless meal inspiration, often with built-in functionality to add items to lists or retailer carts based on recipe ingredients.
  • Online Grocery Shopping: The rise of online grocery shopping has further blurred the lines between pre-shop planning and the actual purchase. Consumers can browse online stores, compare prices, and add items directly to their virtual cart before placing an order for delivery or pick-up.

The prevalence of digital pre-shop planning is undeniable. By understanding these primary aspects of online shopper behavior, CPG brands can develop targeted digital advertising strategies to reach consumers during this critical window and influence their purchase decisions before they embark on their shopping journey.

Why Pre-Shop Planning Matters for CPG Brands

In the competitive world of CPG marketing, we know that reaching consumers at the right time with the right message is the name of the game, but not all outreach tactics are equal. Pre-shop planning offers a strategic advantage by allowing digital advertisers to connect with high-intent shoppers before they enter the store or open a shopping app. Here's how:

  • Reaching Consumers Early: Traditionally, marketing efforts have focused on influencing decisions at purchase. Pre-shop planning allows CPG marketers to get ahead of their competitors, planting a brand preference seed while consumers actively consider what to buy. Targeting during the pre-shop phase increases the likelihood of branded products landing on consumers’ shopping lists and staying there for repeat future orders. 
  • Targeting Intent: Pre-shop planning activities like browsing recipes, creating shopping lists, and researching products reveal valuable insights into consumer needs and purchase intent. By leveraging this data, CPG brands can craft targeted advertising campaigns that resonate with specific wants and preferences. For example, imagine serving up ads for your new organic pasta brand to consumers searching for healthy recipe inspiration online. Your pasta is more likely to get purchased because it appears when a shopper is most apt to add it to their list. Better intent data = better outcomes for brands and shoppers.
  • Boosting Brand Awareness: The pre-shop planning phase presents a golden opportunity to increase brand awareness and consideration. By strategically showing your brand message during this vital period, you can introduce new products, educate consumers about existing offerings, and position your brand as the go-to choice for their shopping needs.

CPG brands gain a significant edge in today's competitive landscape by understanding and integrating pre-shop planning into their marketing strategies. The ability to influence brand choices earlier in the customer journey translates to increased brand awareness, consideration, and, ultimately, sales.

Want to learn more about channeling the power of pre-shop planning? Download our CPG Pre-Shop Planning Report today, or book some time with  AdAdapted for a personalized demo of our ad platform built for CPG brands!

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