Hindustan Unilever to study how we shop

08 May,2012

By Sagar Malviya


World’s third-largest consumer goods firm Unilever has set up a Customer Insight and Innovation Centre in Mumbai to study how consumers shop FMCG products – its first such hub in India and seventh in the world.


The centre at Hindustan Unilever’s headquarter at Andheri will be used by several group companies in developing and emerging markets to understand how people shop in both neighbourhood stores as well as modern trade. This is the first such centre that provides shopper insight for both general stores as well as retail chains.


“The learning will go typically in developing and emerging markets where traditional trade is big,” said Punit Misra, vice-president, customer development, at Hindustan Unilever. “We have been doing consumer marketing forever where the basic premise is consumers are truly the same,” he added.


The insight centre will simulate the retail environment of any supermarket or neighbourhood store and then invite consumers to shop the virtual store. A device will scan their retina to track the movement of the eye, and then a map will display the spot that catches the consumers’ attention.


Simply put, the centre will help the Anglo-Saxon consumer goods maker advice grocers on how category growth, profit per sq ft and availability can be improved using virtual reality tools.


The company will use the data and insights from the centre to plan packaging design for future products. It will also test new product through virtual reality platform and use the facility for their promotions. So far, the company has engaged grocer outlets with promotions, display materials and margins. The development is seen as a part of Hindustan Unilever’s efforts to increase its sales and widen lead over rivals such as Procter & Gamble, ITC and Godrej Consumer.


Analysts say the company wants to connect more with the trade at a time when millions of kirana stores it sells products to are being increasingly covered by its rivals too. While Hindustan Unilever still enjoys the country’s largest retail network of over 7.2 million outlets as per Nielsen estimates, its closest rival Procter & Gamble now reaches around 5.6 million outlets.


“This means the company wants to come as close to the customer as it can get,” said Anand Mour, senior FMCG analyst at brokerage Ambit Capital. “It will not only increase the category but also help in getting more sales of its products since HUL is present in most FMCG categories,” he added.


But getting millions of kirana stores to sport a look that HUL advises is a challenge. Mr Misra knows that, and feels that the company is ready to overcome that problem. “Modern trade is simpler. General trade is a bit tricky on how do you disseminate a repeatable model to five lakh family grocers,” said Mr Misra. “So we do the creation, the testing, the learning and the models, and then our execution teams on the field convert them into ready-to-use kits which they can take to the retailers,” he added.


The maker of Lux soaps and Pond’s cream has been taking several initiatives to increase its sales and consumer base in the country. One of the recent such projects was Mission Bushfire – an employee-led market execution and customer interaction exercise initiated in 2010 to get the home and personal care giant to connect with the market place in order to increase product visibility.


Bush Fire resulted in over 40 per cent spike in sales in store wherever the initiative were implemented, according to internal company estimates. Recently, a company official on condition of anonymity told ET that Hindustan Unilever has set a target to more than double its turnover to Rs50,000 crore by 2015 in a plan christened ’50 by 15′.



Source: The Economic Times
Copyright © 2012, Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. All Rights Reserved


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