Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably already know that customer loyalty, as we’ve traditionally understood it, is on the decline. This reality has been fueled by what we call Shopper Promiscuity, or the propensity for consumers to take risks, experiment and try new things. They are unbound by traditional constraints and do not comply with historical purchase funnels.
Yet, brand tracking relies heavily on the outdated path to purchase and metrics of awareness, familiarity, consideration and purchase intent. The model was created decades ago in a time of limited purchase opportunities and knowledge.
We believe that these metrics don’t work anymore. In our opinion, it’s time to redefine the brand tracker.
What most researchers will admit if you catch them in a moment of truth is: brand trackers are expensive, the metrics can be extremely frustrating and numbers are often slow to move. The ensuing data often doesn’t give us the “aha” moments we crave as researchers and need for better decision making. It’s hard to keep brand managers and marketers engaged and interested when the data doesn’t change, doesn’t seem to reflect market share realities, and provides no new results.
Yet, somehow we still believe in trackers. Our penchant for brand tracking studies is deep seated, and it is not going away. So, how do we change them so that we actually get the insights we need?
We need to change the ways we actually ask our target audience questions. We should move away from narcissistic questions about a brand’s “me, myself and I” and move toward more powerful shopper-focused, customer-centric questions. This means leaving some traditional metrics behind, and throwing out the notion of the purchase funnel. Because we can’t make that approach work in our new environment. Questions based on an outdated framework no longer reflect what is happening with shoppers in real life.
Today’s shoppers operate in an unbound economy. The choices are so vast that the ability to predict behavior is diluted past the point of utility. Neither behaviors nor decisions take a linear path due to the many different factors, influences, purchase channels, brands, and disruptors that are present. One person can shop drastically differently from one category to the next or from one day to the next in the very same category. This means hypothetical research like brand tracking often fails because with so many options in front of us, we can’t predict exactly how we’re going to behave in the marketplace at the time.
What Can We Do to Fix it?
We want our brand tracker to be smart, deliver the most compelling, fresh, meaningful and interesting insights possible. After much deliberation, testing, research and more, we concluded that we must rebuild tracking by designing actionable research that works with the way people shop today for products or services.
Shoppers do not think in terms of brand or brand attributes. But, in brand tracking, these are generally the primary things we are exploring. Questions such as “what do you think of my brand? How do you think my brand measures up to competitors? Is my marketing and advertising effective? How have your feelings about my brand changed over time? No one actually thinks this way when making a purchase decision, so research that focuses on this will fall on its face.
If we ask different questions, questions that focus on shopper needs and the problem that needs solving, we can start to make progress. Things shoppers might be asking themselves during the purchase process are:
- Will this dress make me feel confident at the party?
- Does this bread contain high fructose corn syrup?
- Will this webcam make me look more professional for video meetings?
Notice something about those questions? The brand never comes into play there. Yes, brand matters and can be one of the deciding factors, but these questions are focused on solving the shoppers’ problems. With this framework, brands can still track brand health over time, in a more agile manner that fits the evolving shopping environment.
In today’s ecosystem, traditional brand tracking may be limited in its ability to help a brand make the right decision. Without understanding consumer needs, the influence of the sources they consult when making a purchase decision, the context in which they are making decisions and other consumer-centric information, brands are making guesses in the dark about what their shoppers need and when they need it.