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Small is the New Big

[Insights that Work - Case Study] Coca-Cola Councils reached out to Nielsen to create a new framework for small stores to benchmark against large retailers to ensure they compete effectively.

Editor’s Note: Every year, participants in the GreenBook Research Industry Trends (GRIT) Report survey vote for the most innovative companies in market research. In Insights That Work, these top companies share the real-life challenges and solutions of their biggest clients.


Coca-Cola Retail Research Councils were set up in 1978 with the aim of providing independent third-party research to the retail customers of Coca-Cola globally to help them grow their businesses. The EMEA council came to Nielsen with this new challenge as the 100+ countries of this region have seen increasing rates of urbanisation, modernisation and digitisation which have changed consumer demand and the structure of retailing.

Small stores are showing strong growth, ahead of larger store formats, and there is significant retailer innovation and trials underway to try to capture a greater share of these shopping trips and figure out the right business model for success which balances shopper need with profitability. Shopping trips in small stores are increasingly diverse and vary from “eat now” to “social” and “main shop” from a history of mainly “distress” or “confectionery, tobacco” trips.

There is now a need to consider the future of these concepts to make the best investment choices for future sales and profit, grounded in shopper insights.



This brief required a 2-dimensional approach – one for Shopper and one for Retailer – a more complex solution and a mix of research methodologies. Also, selecting only 6 countries, representative for overall EMEA, so that the conclusions are relevant in as many countries as possible, but diverse enough to provide clarity on the different trends and opportunities based on a set of economic and retail market indicators. This also meant selecting methodologies which could be deployed in all 6 markets (South Africa, Russia, Turkey, UAE, Spain, Belgium) to ensure research consistency, albeit with some local tailoring.

5 stages of the research project:

  1. Desk research to leverage the breadth of Nielsen assets and existing data sources.
  2. “Super Shopper” (biggest users of small stores) qualitative week-long mobile diary, tasks and video capture of shopping trip usage and attitudes.
  3. Expert interviews with retailers or industry leaders to capture perspectives on current challenges of small stores, strategies and future expectations.
  4. Quantitative surveys to capture and measure all motivations for using small stores both now and future.
  5. Future Qual with a specialised creative consumer panel on “future store”, ran as a global competition



The project output was a 96 page PDF shared with retailers and manufacturers and presented at several industry forums. The report contained many areas of clarity for retailers against the challenge of small stores:

  • Current small store landscape, reasons behind the growth, why we predict growth will continue on the back of favourable global megatrends.
  • How shopper needs would evolve in the future and how small store retailers could best meet them based on a new “success equation” using the research findings generated.
  • A framework for small stores to benchmark against large stores or online retailers to ensure they compete effectively in the future as “convenience” USP erodes and they search for a new one.
  • A glimpse into what shoppers see as the future of small stores to provide inspiration for store tests and innovations.

Featuring case studies from ‘GRIT Top 50 Most Innovative’ companies, Insights That Work is your ultimate guide to understanding the process of producing pivotal insights with impactful business results. Download Insights That Work to read more case studies.

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