You all know the story of the hunter gatherer groups from the past. Each had their own skill set and capabilities. Hunters worked as a group to go out and find prey that was often much larger and stronger. However, by using their bigger brains they were successful in taking them down and bringing home the bacon (or in their case the wooly mammoth.) Gatherers, on the other hand, went out and foraged for what they could find. Much like their counterparts, they had to use their brains to ensure they weren’t picking anything poisonous and killing the entire tribe with that night’s stew.

After spending some time generally observing shopping behavior in a multitude of retail channels (hey, we are ALL about going hyperlocal and understanding human behavior), we found something that surprised us: history repeating itself. Well, sort of. The hunter gatherer behavior applied to today’s shopper. Really? Really. And while the groups may not come together to achieve their goals exactly as they did in the past, what they do is mimic the same traits to find the goods. So, after putting our even larger brains together on this, here is what we unearthed:

  • Let’s talk about the Hunter first. This is a person who knows what they want. They identify the item, when it will be at the best price and are single-minded in their pursuit of bringing it home. They head out to the store (or online shop) and go directly to where the product is displayed. They may tap into the zeitgeist of the group hunting mentality by reassuring their selection with a salesperson (the likelihood of this increases as the price or value of the item increases) but many times they are good to go on their own (they spend a great deal of time researching before they buy.) They grab the item, head for checkout, and then head home. They are most proud of the receipt showing their success, which for them is the right item, at the right price, right now (or soon.)
  • The Gatherer knows their stuff too but doesn’t take a lot of time before going out to shop. They want to be able to spend time in stores (or online) looking around and discovering what’s to be found. They love to impulse buy and never stick to their list nor budget. After all, you never know when that item might be there again, at that price, in that color or with that style. They do like to participate in their gathering of goods with others, just as their ancestors did. They feel most satisfied when their baskets are overflowing with a multitude of items. For them it is not about the receipt and the item, but the overall experience of shopping. How long they can do it, how great their finds are and how joyful they feel while it is happening (did they get to sip a Starbucks while finding their treasures? That scores high on their satisfaction list.)

I bet you can guess how these two shopping types skew. Yes, over half of Hunters are male and over half of Gatherers are female (much along the lines of the original hunter gatherers.) But that’s not what I want you to think about. Where do you, as a brand, believe you have the greatest chance of connecting with these two very different shoppers? How do you make your mark?

HINT: It’s the same behavior but just at different points in time. For the Hunter, you need to speak to him before he decides to go to the store (when he’s looking for details about what he wants to buy) or after he has bought (to buy again.) For the gatherer, you must connect with her at the store and in the moment of choice (when she’s generally in a looking for something/anything mindset.) As you can imagine, the conversation is completely different. Hunters want reassurance that this is the right purchase. Gatherers want you to help them find your item and understand why it’s so unique. Both respond better to the right communication at the right time when they are in that looking mindset on their “trail to the sale.”

If you are in the CPG category, connecting with a Hunter works best either before he buys (so online ads, offers, sales) or after, on his receipt. He will be looking at that closely and can be given incentive to buy again (after all, he came, he bought, he conquered.) For the Gatherer, you can supply her with recipes or alternative use ideas or special packaging and catch her eye to get her to buy. She’s the one that will interact with POS materials while she’s shopping. Remember, she may organize her shopping list around what you have featured, but chances are she will go off-list and find something new. Target stores know their target audience well enough to understand this is how they shop (which is why you never walk out of a Target without something you never went in intending to buy–I see you Burt’s Bees Coconut & Pear Lip Balm that called to me from the HBA aisle during my last trip.)

So, long (her/his) story short: ask yourself – do I have a Hunter or Gatherer who shops my brand? Once you have decided, think about ways to connect to the behavior they already exhibit. Oh, and yes, you can have both; you just need to message map your communication at different activation points. But that’s for another blog. Until next time, happy trails + sales to you!

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