Desperate Housewives

Updated: Jan 28 2014, 14:35pm hrs
Draped in a crisp saree with ample make up on, Megha Desai from Vadodara looked both curious and amused about the fact that a market research firm wanted to know more about her life. For the last 14 years, her daily schedule had revolved around cooking, getting the kids ready, packing lunch, cleaning the house, shopping for groceries and watching TV. Fourteen years on the loop. Her life had become an inescapable chore. Absolutely predictable and hopelessly routine. Her big escape was the TV daily soaps, dance and reality shows. Besides TV, there was another escape shopping for groceries. Though it was an everyday affair, it was her legitimate outing for the day.

But last year, the joy of shopping reached a whole new level for her. She discovered the More Hypermarket. Though it was a bit further from her home and she had to take an auto-rickshaw to get there, she found herself frequenting it quite often. She could spend hours wandering through the aisles learning more about a detergent that is milder on her hands or the thirty seven types of cream biscuits that her children would love or discovering why brown rice is better than white rice. The transaction was merely a formality at the end of a very engaging trip.

One of the reasons why women like Megha are turning to modern trade for shopping is because they are big boxes of boredom killers. Now it is upto brands and retailers to keep the engagement quotient high in every part of this joyous shoppers journey.

The Journey is the joy

Meet Divya Mishra and Sandeep Singh who have big corporate jobs and live in a rented apartment in suburban Bombay, away from their parents from Punjab. As time poor urbanites, they had employed a maid who cooked all meals through the week. But once in awhile they like to indulge in a bit of adventure cooking. Divya confessed that she wasnt much of a cook but enjoyed the process of cooking more than the result.

It was a weekend and Divya was in the mood to try something new in the kitchen. And today she was going to attempt one of her favourite dishes Chole Bhature. All the ingredients were laid out. And so was the Everest Chole Masala, complete with instructions for use. But she felt something was amiss.

The Chole Bhature that her mom made was legendary, hard to find even in the best of restaurants. May be there was a secret ingredient. She called her mother, but she was busy. Damn. If she followed the spec sheet at the back of the pack would it get her the same result Frustrated, and without a choice, she followed the prescribed instructions. It turned out fine. But it wasn't quite the same.

As families are getting smaller and young couples are living away from their parents, the nurturer is being missed. On the rare occasion when we step into the kitchen we feel inadequate, lacking the flair with which our mothers stirred up the most amazing dishes when we were kids. We're time poor urbanites who are craving an experience, not completing a task.

There is a void that needs to be filled. And brands can play the part. So far brands have approached food from the lens of convenience -sliced veggies, ready to eat biryani and two minute noodles. But there's more to cooking than convenience alone. Some food brands could do with a mother's touch or a little secret on the back of the pack. Or educate her about the finer nuances like an experienced hand. As long as they pitch the idea of art and not task, she will be most welcome.

Engagement in every aisle, shelf and pack

Whether it is a bored housewife like Megha or a weekend chef like Divya, they actively seek solutions that turn routine tasks into engaging joyous acts. They prefer shopping at hypermarkets and are willing to travel a longer distance for the experience. This is a big opportunity for brands to step in and engage with these joy-seeking shoppers.

For example, three engagement platforms that work with the bored housewife are education, inspiration and entertainment. It gives her a purpose beyond getting job done. When it comes to new category adoption, shoppers need a helping hand that makes the product seem relevant. To achieve this, category management, aisle domination and clever use of shelving become effective tools in a shopper marketing toolbox. But slapping on your brand campaign on retail media isnt good enough. One needs to build context. The store isnt just a place of transaction. Its an environment designed for building equity of your brand, moments before it enters the basket.

Praveen Vadhera/Tanvi Singh

The article is an excerpt from the nationwide proprietary shopper study 'Selfishness & Shampoo' conducted by BatesCHI & Partners, co-authored by Praveen Vadhera, divisional CEO, BatesCHI & Wallstreet and Tanvi Singh, Planning Manager, BatesCHI & Partners.

The aim of the study was to look at shopper marketing from a cultural lens to understand how the changing Indian mindsets are reflected in shopping behaviour & basket.