Creating A Picture of Your Marketplace – Target Behavior

Image 15

Image Credit:  Black Friday at Target

A couple of weeks ago, I made a last minute Thanksgiving run to pick up a few things at our local Target.  After I picked up some forks and other odds and ends, I noticed something odd – the Seventh Generation toilet paper was out of stock.  It was not a sale item and it was not terribly cheap.   I went to an adjacent aisle and noticed that containers for taking lunch to school or work were also out of stock.  Then, the lightbulb went on with this epiphany:

You can learn more about local retail consumers by observing what’s out of stock rather than what’s in stock

This of course assumes good inventory management and this Target happens to be well run as evidenced by personal experience and good Yelp ratings.  I started to feel like an anthropologist (or more precisely an ethnographer) studying the habits of the “Target consumer” and wondered if the Target consumer was the target audience for the health and fitness business that I’m assisting.  I also wondered if people who were watching me go through the aisles thought I was nuts when I looked at empty shelves with delight.

In the previous post on demographic research, I laid out a few key stats for 20904 zipcode residents .  Below are more additional pieces of information that I’ve uncovered to fill out a more complete 20904 demographic profile.

Silver Spring, MD 20904 Travel Time to Work Graph

This chart tell us that residents in 20904 spend more time commuting to work than most other people in MD and across the country.  Data from other sources like indicates that 70% of commuters drive in the car alone and most do not live where they work.  We also know that there are few retail shopping locations in this zipcode compared to other suburbs like Bethesda or Rockville.  This suggests that this Target is the store of choice for many shoppers in the 20904 zipcode.  To summarize,  here is what we know about 20904 residents so far:

  • More affluent on average that most Marylanders
  • More likely to be women 25-44
  • Have longer work commute times than most Marylanders
  • Shop outside of the zipcode given limited retail presence

Another important signal to the target consumer in this area is that Starbucks placed 2 locations in the same shopping center (one co-located in Target and one company-owned store) to serve the entire zipcode.  Coincidental — I think not!

Alright, back to my Target ethnography project.  Here is the list I compiled of out-of-stock (or nearly out of stock) food and household items.  Note:  The majority of these items were not on sale or commonly used for Thanksgiving Day preparation.

  • Plastic Entree Containers (small sandwich sizes, small leftovers)
  • Sandwich Bags
  • Seventh Generation Toilet Paper
  • Natures Own’s Bread
  • Kashi Go Lean Honey Almond Crunch
  • Gallon Containers of Organic Milk
  • 1/2 Gallons of Organic Chocolate Milk
  • Kids Cuisine Frozen Dinners
  • Healthy Frozen Dinners (Kashi, Smart Ones, Lean Cuising, Healthy Choice)
  • Organic Tazo Tea (green, peach)- 4 Pack
  • Motts for Tots Apple Juice
  • Pretzel Chips
  • Kettle Chips
  • Smart Water
  • Annie’s Pnutty Granola Bars
  • Skittles Blenders
  • Tootsie Roll Midgees
  • Perrier

Based on the above list and the demographic profile, here is how I would describe the 20904 Target Dept Store shopper:

1) Moms who are time-crunched and are concerned about making healthy, quick meals for their families.  

2) They spend lots of time in the car driving to work and driving their kids from point A to point B so snacks are essential

3) 20904 moms likely have the disposable income to make good food choices yet are budget-conscious and concerned about value.  

The next step in the process of understanding our marketplace is to translate our demographic profile into a persona so that we can more effectively market products and services to the 20904 marketplace.


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