Hannah scours the web for the best laptop deals but tends to make a purchase in store. But Julie likes to find out about the latest skincare products from in-store beauty experts, while checking the product information online.
The shopping journey that consumers take depends on the product they’re buying, according to a study carried out by Leo Burnett’s marketing services arm, Arc, which asked almost 6,000 consumers in the UK, the US and France about their multichannel shopping habits.
The main distinction marketers have to make is whether shoppers are looking for the lowest price or for the best brands and products.
Six multichannel personalities (see box, top right, for full explanation) have been identified by the study and are based on whether a customer is shopping with price or a product in mind.
For “savvy passionistas”, the key driver for multichannel shopping is to explore the possibilities that different brands might offer. “Quality devotees” are more habitual shoppers, who want quality products in the categories which matter to them.
At the other end of the scale, “dollar defaulters” don’t really care about brands and look only for the best price. Meanwhile, brands are important to “strategic savers” but they always look for the best deal.
Sitting between these extremes are “opportunistic adventurous” people, who look for bargains but are always open to new brands, and “treasure hunters”, who are motivated by new things but are still very price conscious.
“Deficient sprinters” are very habitual and list driven, putting a premium on convenience. They are prepared to pay a price for a quick service.
Certain personalities are more prevalent in certain countries. UK shoppers are much more likely than others to look for the best deals available for a particular brand and want to buy products as quickly as possible.
The US has many more shoppers interested in saving money than seeking out particular brands. Dollar defaulters make up 16% of the population, compared with 8% of the UK population.
A quality brand or a funky product is much more likely to appeal to a French shopper with quality devotees and savvy passionistas much more prevalent on the other side of the Channel (63%), compared to 39% of the UK population and 32% of US shoppers.
Certain products drive customers to look at several channels before making a purchase, with almost all consumers now considered to be multichannel in some way – 86% use two or more channels when making a purchase.
The journey that shoppers make varies widely depending on the products they buy. Durable or infrequent purchases see the highest levels of multichannel shopping. Computer hardware and accessories is the most popular category to use multiple channels before deciding on which brand to buy. Shoppers also use several channels before deciding on which skincare brand to buy.
Computers and skincare buyers act in very different ways on their route to purchase, however. Three-quarters (73.5%) of those shopping for computer hardware and accessories use four or more channels before making their decision on what to buy, compared with 41.2% of those shopping for skincare.
When shoppers are looking to buy skincare products, the store is the main channel that is used, regardless of whether they are at the start of their shopping journey or at the end. In other words, customers like to do their research in-store with the help of beauty counter assistants. The internet is the second most important channel in the skincare category because shoppers like to find out in-depth information about the ingredients in the products that they want to buy but they will also consult relevant magazines.
Buying a computer leads to a different shopping pattern. Shoppers will find the internet a much more important channel at the beginning of their shopping journey than a physical store, according to the study. As shoppers move closer to making a decision on which brand they want, the internet becomes less important and bricks and mortar stores are key to the actual purchase.
Price comparison is the top reason that motivates people to use multiple channels on their shopping journey, with just over 70% falling into this category. Almost half (40%) say they use several channels to help them to conduct research about the product they want to buy.
Marketers need to understand how each shopping channel is used by each shopper and make sure they communicate in an appropriate way, argues Alan Treadgold, director of retail strategy at Leo Burnett. “When you’ve got shoppers who are using a multitude of channels to search for information and make purchases, they’re often dipping in and out of channels on their route to their purchases. Therefore, you have to make sure there is consistency in the messaging,” he advises.
But consistency doesn’t mean rolling out the same visual identity and information across every channel. It means taking the core communications idea and executing in the most appropriate way. “Take the idea and play to the strengths of the channel,” argues Treadgold.
Each channel has a different purpose, he adds. An automobile marketer needs to think about exposing the customer to their brand and making sure it’s on their consideration list at the online research stage. Whereas at the end of that path it’s much more about the practicality of buying a particular brand, such as what is included in the warranty.
The key is to look at how to engage customers along their shopping journey. “We are finding the store is still a key point of purchase decision making. One shouldn’t allow the multichannel connected nature of the landscape to obscure the fact that the store is still the key part of customer decision making,” argues Treadgold.
The research suggests marketers need to work harder at building fundamental equity of the brand to stop shoppers drifting to rivals on their path to purchase. Remember, a cheap alternative or a sparkly new brand is just one click away or on the next page of a magazine.
Six multichannel shopper personalities
- Strategic Savers – do the most research, with a big emphasis on finding the best price.
- Opportunistic Adventurers – love to shop and enjoy the thrill of hunting for bargains.
- Savvy Passionistas – trend setters who enjoy shopping, and have emotional connections to the shopping experience.
- Quality Devotees – put their shopping emphasis on quality, and are loyal to the brands that deliver it.
- Efficient Sprinters – don’t enjoy the shopping process, and just want to get their buying over and done with.
- Dollar Defaulters – are very disengaged and use price to make quick brand decisions.
Channels explored in the study
- In-store, online, catalogue, infomercials or home shopping channels, landline telephone, mobile phone, in-home parties outdoor-to-door sales, magazine, mail, store and flyer or circular.
Simon Piper, head of business development and partnerships at price comparison site Consumer Choices
Consumers in the UK display “efficient sprinter” traits, which fits with some of the ways that Consumer Choices tries to maintain loyalty.
We’re finding that shoppers conduct research on more than one comparison site, before making a decision. Once they make a decision it’s not always the cheapest package that they will go for because they will look at factors like reliability of the service. Once they make a decision on the product or service they want, they look for the most convenient route to purchase. In terms of loyalty, the supplier ratings and the site content are important. Listing the top offers on the market means that consumers should trust us.
Ben Freeborn, head of brand development at Interflora
Our customers use lots of different channels to purchase, so it’s vital to make the experience relevant to the channel.
We’re fortunate to have a lot of heritage with 85 years of being on the high street, so we’re on the first step forward in terms of brand awareness. It gives us a competitive advantage to have a network of florist shops. It plays a part of the initial awareness, getting engagement into the brand.
Being able to use the website like a catalogue helps in that early stage of research and they might follow this up by ordering on the phone or visiting one of our florists. We need to make our experience appropriate to what the customer wants.
We’re hugely aware that customers might be using the mobile service for research and then will cross over to another channel to make their actual purchase. It’s always difficult to know where your sales are coming from, tracking where the initial point of stimulation is coming from and how the consumer has crossed those channels along the way. The blog helps greatly in terms of developing brand personality.