The emotional shopper

Wendy Lanchin, planning and strategy director at The Marketing Store, sheds light on the role of emotions in the shopper’s decision making process and how brands can use this when planning their shopper marketing strategies.

We teamed up with shopper research specialists BrainJuicer and Shoppercentric to pilot a new way to apply BrainJuicer’s proprietary measurement tool, FaceTrace, to the shopper journey across several retail sectors. In doing so we have transcended the usual shopper research techniques and can measure not just positive and negative reactions but also understand what sort of emotion is being felt, at key stages of the shopping trip.

The emotional engagement of our participants’ customer journeys was largely driven by happiness, rather than negative emotions. So whilst on the surface it is seen as a weekly chore, the results prove that grocery shopping can actually be highly satisfying, with the average happiness rate jumping from a pre-shop 40% to 61% post-purchase.

But the more complex the shopping trip, the more pronounced the emotional peaks and troughs. Our research shows that in grocery stores every aisle prompts a different emotional response, often driven by category issues. Emotional intensity also rises as the shopping trip unfolds. Perhaps not surprisingly, grocery shopping generates the highest amount of negative emotion for men during the shop.

We’re happier buying electrical goods than food or DIY

Predictably, levels of happiness varied across categories. Retailers with a more interesting and involving product range engage shoppers more wholeheartedly during the shopping experience. This could be the reason for shoppers feeling much happier in an electrical store compared to those in a supermarket or a DIY store. In electrical retailers we found that those who only browsed did not have nearly as positive an emotional response at 53% as those who actually bought, at 79%. Could browsing then be made more emotionally engaging and satisfying by providing a ’takeaway’ of some sort, so that shoppers felt they had a tangible outcome of their time in store?

Leaving a lasting impression

Leaving the store is a crucial element of the consumer experience as it is the final brand contact point. Across all the brands and categories, our research found that the till could be a focal point for negative emotions. Grocers have done much to alleviate this, but perhaps the answer is to provide an alternative finishing line for the shopping trip, a nod of recognition to the shopper for a job well done. This could take the form of a small post-shop treat or a small thank you as you leave the store.

Managing gender expectations

Shopping is often a contentious activity for couples, and now we have a clear insight into the emotional reasons behind this. Although men’s happiness scores tended to increase during shopping trips, they were still lower than their female counterparts’ post-shop, suggesting that they enjoy the shopping experience itself much less than women.

Most surprisingly, however, the results showed that women actually enjoy DIY shopping more than men. Like most shopping, men tend to be task focussed and can be easily enraged by not completing the task, whereas for women the focus of DIY shopping is the imagined ’new home’. Many DIY brands have already demonstrated a real understanding of the emotions connected with DIY for women, putting the ’end dream’ on show. But with DIY marketers providing a plethora of curtains and scatter cushions to draw in women, where does that leave men? Are they being neglected? Perhaps retailers can offer more focused, task oriented experiences for men and more browsing opportunities for women.

We’ve seen that emotions play a fundamental role in a consumer’s retail experience. Why, then, are so many store messages still so often centred on the rational? Positive emotional ’hot spots’ in store are often triggered by new discoveries, surprises, treats and ideas, so there is huge potential for brands to capitalise on new product development, relevant promotions or to create their own consumption occasion.

Other studies by Brainjuicer have proven the case that emotional measurement is a very accurate predictor of both business effectiveness and brand advocacy. It seems likely that happy shoppers spend more, so injecting more emotion across the customer journey could be a logical, rational choice for brands and retailers alike.

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