Conversations with corporate researchers

You began your career in the grocery industry as a bagger/cart attendant. How does this starting point impact your current role at RB? 

Nathan Noertker, Shopper Outperformance Team Lead – Health, RBHaving worked in the stores for almost 10 years, I gained invaluable experience that has served me very well in my current role. I had the opportunity to witness the challenges shoppers face daily, the difficulties store personnel face trying to execute an objective that is not operationally feasible and a true understanding of what is most important during critical holiday periods throughout the year … customer service!

As a bagger and then a cashier, I would watch as a mother had to choose what items to keep on her order and which ones to put back because her budget wouldn’t allow her to get everything her family needed. This translated to a better understanding of why, in part, online is doing so well with budget-conscious shoppers during COVID-19, and why the savings tools offered by retailers/manufacturers are needed and well utilized.

As a deli/bakery manager, interacting with someone selecting a cake – seeing the importance they placed on getting just the right details for their loved one for that special moment – has helped me understand how key shopping missions/trips can be very powerful and emotional when their expectations aren’t met. Fast forward to today and my work in OTC/health, these shopping missions can be even more emotional when a child or loved one is ill and the shopper is trying to determine the best product to help with this situation. The shelf can be overwhelming and confusing at a time when the shopping experience is critical. How do I make this better? How do I help reduce confusion for the shopper while making the trip faster and more successful?

There are many more examples that have helped shape my understanding of the shopper and their experiences. I would never have the true appreciation for these shopper moments if it were not for my time in the store.

What is the best part about working within shopper insights? 

My favorite aspects of being in the SI world include the ability to continuously learn new things; interacting with internal and external partners; the ability to interact with shoppers to understand how I can help tackle the challenges they face; and the opportunity to be the educator in the room. While SI doesn’t sell a physical product, per say, we do have the opportunity to sell a vision – a story. I personally think SI is the best role to have when interacting with retailers. SI gets to listen to the challenges the retailer is facing, help answer their questions and partner in bringing shopper-focused solutions to drive results.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way you conduct research? 

We were already on the journey of increased speed to insights while driving quality information, and COVID has only enhanced that mission. We have continued to push for even faster research while maintaining the quality we expect. Our methodologies have included digital/mobile studies, enhanced surveys with panel data deep dives and an increased focus on more DIY. We’ve also leveraged our vendor partners in the industry even more than before, and the insights community has really stepped up! From webinars to whitepapers, we have been utilizing each piece of information we can obtain. Not just for our own use in SI, but to ensure our leadership and field resources are fully equipped for retailer conversations and key decisions.

COVID has been a time to increase our research, to increase our shopper touchpoints in order to understand challenges and opportunities. We didn’t pull back, we pushed forward.

Do you have any tips for researchers trying to navigate an influx of COVID-19-related data? 

We have found that utilizing multiple touchpoints/methodologies has provided us the most well-rounded view of the current situation. Don’t rely on one study or one webinar. The power in insights has been driven by the partnership of all of them. For example, we have utilized our panel data with the digital/mobile studies to inform additional surveys we’ve fielded via DIY and/or confirmed purchasers. Once all have been completed, the intersection of each study showcasing common themes has really helped us determine our path forward – and how to best help our retailers navigate this not-normal time.