Merging Online and Offline Research to Understand Shopper Behavior in Today’s Reality
The concept of online shopping is nothing new. Arguably, we were shopping in an omni-channel way as soon as the internet became mainstream and cell phones became stores in our pocket, so we’re talking a good 10-year history during which shoppers have honed their skills in flexing between channels.
With the rapidly shifting landscape of new technology, the rise of social media, and the changes in infrastructure that allow consumer demand to be supplied at breakneck speed (Amazon and Alibaba, we’re looking at you!), the evolution of new retail breaks down more barriers for how people think, behave, and buy.
While on the one hand this creates huge opportunities for brands and retailers alike, it also creates new challenges for insights specialists and shopper marketers who need to not only understand but activate shoppers at all the right touchpoints. Inspired by the vast body of work in shopper psychology and behavioral economics, particularly the Fogg Behavior Model and work around friction by Roger Dooley, we believe that the best way to motivate shoppers to make a purchase transaction is to communicate clear benefits to act, while also offsetting any physical or psychological barriers that might inhibit the desired outcome, in this case, a transaction.
Why do we need new thinking?
This thinking transcends technological evolution – at least for now – as it explains and reacts to how humans interact in the ever-evolving world.
In the world of new retail, where integrated technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, and the Internet of Things allow shoppers to interact with brands across a multi-dimensional network of touchpoints, understanding and mapping the path to purchase is easier said than done.
Marketers now need to intuit, and then design for a shopper path to purchase that could see optimal benefits communicated online, as well as prepare for a potential experience with physical barriers in store when facing the product ‘IRL’. In reverse, a fantastic store experience that motivates shoppers to make a final selection but with intent to purchase online could be eroded at point of sale if a poor user experience creates a new barrier to purchase. With so many channels and devices available, shoppers can interact with brands in a variety of ways, and it can be difficult for marketers to understand how these touchpoints fit together to form a holistic view of the shopper journey.
Think Marketing. Think Multi-Dimensional.
As the nature of shopping evolves, so does the way in which brands and businesses need to strategize around marketing. Marketers in the era of new retail must consider the multiple touchpoints shoppers are exposed to at various stages of their journey and consider the benefits and barriers at play at every step. Shopper marketing must now adopt a truly multi-dimensional mindset. It’s no surprise that brands who get their strategy right are winning in these new times.
By leveraging key principles such as seamless integration between channels, consistency, strong customer and user experiences at shelf and online, it is estimated that companies with a robust shopper experience strategy retain on average 89% of customers versus 33% with a weak approach. Furthermore, research suggests that 71% of shoppers want a consistent experience across all channels, but only 29% say they get it (Gurus Coach). This reinforces the huge opportunity for brand marketers to better explore and understand the shoppers’ path to purchase in order to maximize the overall experience and ultimately drive growth in what is an increasingly exciting time for shopper insights.
A Shifting Space of ‘Social’ Change.
So, what makes this the perfect time to dive into this landscape and understand even more? Well, the answer is twofold. It’s about acknowledging the recent past and looking to the now and near future because when it comes to changing shopper behaviors, we are operating in a space where consumers shop wherever, however, and whenever they want.
We do not need to remind everyone in detail about the impact of the pandemic on shopper behavior, but we all must acknowledge that the shift to online tools to find, shop and receive goods had a huge impact on the nature of shopping. So significant was this shift that Digital Commerce 360 estimated that the move to online shopping and the evolution of retailers during the pandemic contributed an extra $218 billion to eCommerce’s bottom line between March 2020 and March 2022.
With shoppers now at the top of the learning curve and new operational solutions in place across many retailers (Click & Collect anyone?), it is safe to assume some pandemic positive changes are likely to stay and will continue to evolve as they influence shopper behavior – this again reinforces the need to understand purchase behaviors in a multi-modal manner.
Indeed, while the pandemic provided fuel for which this growth could accelerate fast, credit must also be given to the brands, retailers, and social channels in particular which used this time as an opportunity to innovate. In seeking new ways to market to shoppers and to close the enforced gap between the shelf and store, we saw smart strategies to communicate benefits and diminish barriers.
The expansion of online livestreaming on social channels gives the model made famous by QVC a Gen-Z rebrand. With the likes of Levi’s, Tommy Hilfiger and Kohl’s offering shoppers a ‘phygital’ bridge between store and social, they set the tone for a new way of selling. So much so that according to BrainStation these streamed shopping events, which are already popular in China, are predicted to have generated $25 billion in sales in the U.S. by 2023. But will this last? Needless to say, with this additional touchpoint in the shopper mix, simply thinking ‘on’ versus ‘offline’ is no longer enough.
Understanding the many layers within channels is key, especially as more change is coming to reminds us that no one channel will ever have total shopper domination and that its key to be engaging with your shoppers to understand how their behavior is evolving.
Store over Screen, a Return to Glory for Brick-and-Mortar?
While social media no doubt ‘understood the mission’ when it came to commerce opportunities during the pandemic, as we continue to move further away from the impact of 2020 and beyond, we are starting to see changes in the role these channels play and how each need to work together to provide the optimal shopper experience.
Across several sectors, shoppers are increasingly returning to stores even if just to engage in ‘showrooming’ (i.e., viewing and experiencing the product in store, only to later buy online). It is estimated by Shopify that 53% of shoppers are likely to view in store and then buy online and vice versa. Indeed, the role of the store as an experimental, sensorial, and playful domain is increasingly dominant with the likes of IKEA for example opening new ‘planning studios’ in key cities that offer ‘inspiration and customized planning’, without the scope to actually buy.
“In seeking new ways to market to shoppers and to close the enforced gap between the shelf and store, we saw smart strategies to communicate benefits and diminish barriers.”
Almost diametrically opposite, the Amazon Go store allows customers to shop without waiting in line or dealing with checkout. Leading make up brand Glossier see their stores as distinct in their omnichannel strategy, in this Forbes piece they maintain that the store is “one of the most impactful ways we can further this vision, and maintain meaningful touchpoints with consumers, through experiential retail,”. And one cannot talk new retail without of course noting the advances made by Walmart and its heightened focus on design.
This evolution in the role of stores as we know them and the relationship between online and experiential retail is likely to set the stage for shopping moving forward, and thus understanding the distinct role each play is vital. This is why marketers and brand insight teams alike need flexible and agile solutions for exploring shopper behavior in this ever fluid landscape, and here at Behaviorally, we’re well placed to help.
TransactionPath: Multi-Modal Insights for Multi-Dimensional Marketing.
At Behaviorally, we know that marketers spend trillions of dollars to achieve the most valuable moment in marketing, the moment when a transaction happens. So, we know that navigating the challenges of New Retail is a key part of your strategy and as such, we’re offering you TransactionPath™, our proprietary solution for understanding the holistic path to purchase from a true behavioral standpoint.
TranscationPath™ a connected system of multi-modal research, including our newest offerings ShelfPath and DecsionPath:
- ShelfPath helps to get a deep and rich understanding of the shopper journey whether in store or online (or both!) by using video-based responses and behavior observation. A cutting-edge qualitative solution, ShelfPath focuses on richness and depth. But it also offers the option to scale up, allowing marketers and insights professionals the opportunity to quantify learnings in a truly quali-quant output that drives impact.
- DecisionPath, our evolved quantitative survey solution, helps to explain, quantify, and map the consumer decisions along the path-to-purchase by integrating advanced analytics and choice modelling to give you data driven confidence in action.
- We round out TransactionPath with DigiTraffic and DigiFootprint, services that illuminate online search traffic, website interactions, and conversion activity in a category; and explore the digital footprint of target shoppers respectively. These additions help extract key touchpoints and influences to increase sales.
With this end to end, holistic yet fully customizable approach to shopper marketing research, clients can better understand the key moments that influence consumer choice, and develop effective strategies to reach and engage shoppers at the right time, with the right message. We’re already working with CPG brands like Clorox, Colgate; as well as many other brands across sectors. Please check out our website for additional case studies and get in touch to find out more about TransactionPath, a truly multi-modal approach in the era of multi-dimensional marketing.