Retailing market research

While markets in Asia-Pacific, Africa and the Middle East are still experiencing significant growth in ‘bricks-and-mortar’ retailing, the US and Europe are suffering from harsh market conditions which can be attributed in large part to the rise of online retailing.

E-commerce currently accounts for around 14% of global retail sales and this figure is predicted to rise to 22% by 2023. China is believed to have the highest proportion of e-commerce in the world, with online sales accounting for around a quarter of total retail sales. The UK is not far behind with 19% of retail purchases currently made online, compared to 11% in the US.

A string of recent business failures involving well-known retailers on both sides of the Atlantic, such as Forever 21, Payless Shoesource and Toys “R” Us in the USA, and BHS, Debenhams, Mothercare, Laura Ashley and Oasis/Warehouse in the UK are evidence of the tight squeeze that traditional retailers were already facing before the coronavirus pandemic forced them to close stores.

In this tough operating environment a clear understanding of customers’ needs and opinions is becoming increasingly important. Five percent of market research globally focuses on wholesale and retail trade.

FieldworkHub has successfully completed many projects for both online retailers of products ranging from cars to insurance. Projects with bricks-and-mortar retailers include face-to-face interviews with shops that sell mobile phone top-cards, pharmacy audits in London and research with eye-tracking software in petrol station shops.


Young female consumer walking past a London corner shop selling SIMs and mobile top-ups on a rainy day

UK brand positioning research amongst mobile SIM and top-up retailers

A management consultancy that was working for an investment fund wanted to talk to shopkeepers in London who sell SIMs and top-ups for a mobile virtual network operator that focuses on the international calling market. Originally the plan was to ask the retailers to complete an online survey but feasibility testing by FieldworkHub established that they were poorly represented in online panels so we switched to face-to-face interviews with owners and managers. We also arranged two focus groups so our client could obtain more in-depth qualitative views on the brand’s positioning relative to other mobile operators.

Close up of room scent sticks in a pink glass bottle domestic setting

Customer videos on home fragrance products

A well-known FMCG company was carrying out research on air fresheners and home fragrance products. We recruited over 160 UK purchasers of these products to make a 5-minute smartphone video in their usual supermarket (with quotas on different supermarkets), describing how they select these products and what they noticed about the in-store displays. We managed the entire process, including quality control on the videos, and also arranged for 25% of the participants to make a follow-up video at home giving their opinion about the home fragrance product that they had purchased.

Petrol station at dusk with cars visible on forecourt and shop at the rear. A car passes by at speed in the foreground

Multimodal research on purchasing habits in the UK

A well-established fuel retailer wanted to carry out 30-minute interviews which consisted of an initial eye-tracking activity and a follow up interview. Our work involved recruiting particular B2C profiles to take part in research into purchasing habits in petrol stations. Respondents had to live within a certain distance of the stations where research had been scheduled and meet particular screening criteria set by the client. The main focus of the research was on how customers were drawn to particular product categories and various advertising spaces once they entered a petrol station. We recruited and screened in over 40 participants and arranged for the client to speak to them all.