In today’s omnichannel era of retailing, smart devices and superfast connectivity are taking the shopping experience beyond the high street or a fixed-line internet connection. EE’s recent Mobile Living Index, for example, found that 71 per cent of users shopped online using their 4G smartphone or tablet while out and about.
We are at a technology-driven tipping point for consumer shopping as we know it, meaning retailers need to sharpen up their strategies and redesign their methods if they want to connect with consumers. We view this as an emerging era in which retailers need to move from the simple ‘voice of customer’ (VoC) mentality to a ‘connected with customer’ (CwC) mindset.
Why is this so important, and besides the evolution of technology, what is driving this shift?
The redefined purchase cycle
The internet, social media and mobile technology have torn up the traditional linear path to purchase used by marketers and researchers to target audiences. Shoppers use PCs, laptops, tablets and smartphones to discover and research products, so it’s no longer a singular device touchpoint. They may research online and buy in-store at a trusted or favourite brand or they may look and feel the product in-store and buy online. There are now many points and many different ways along this cycle for retailers, including marketing and consumer research arms, to tap into the discovery and purchase journey of the connected consumer.
Any time, anywhere retail
Online shopping is no longer a single source, single platform static experience confined to the home laptop or PC. Tablets and smartphones mean we can, and do, shop online anywhere and at any time. Tablets are still largely used at home for online shopping, and industry trends research shows that consumers who research items on their tablets tend to buy from that device rather than in-store. What is interesting is how mobile devices are changing our bricks-and-mortar shopping habits when we’re in the high street or at a shopping centre. Research shows that more than 80 per cent of shoppers use their mobile device in-store to enhance their shopping experience and 39 per cent use it in-store to search for product reviews and price comparisons.
The growth of customisation
Technology is enabling some retailers, especially those in the fashion and clothing trade, to deliver a personalised experience to their consumers. This is another strong tool to make consumers hold their favourite brands in greater esteem and attune the products to their personalities. Consumers can now go on to Nike’s website, for example, and customise the design of their trainers. This shift from mass-produced items to mass customisation gives retailers and their research wings the opportunity to connect with consumers, collect insights to further strengthen the brand propositions and build consumer engagement and loyalty.
The in-store experience, with a difference
What does the future hold for the physical retail store? We may see many retailers downsizing their high-street footprint for the sake of efficiency and cost, but stores will still have a vital role to play. The opportunity exists to provide more of an experience in-store. For example, one-to-one customer service, special offers and, critically, the chance to look, touch, feel and play with the physical product.
Emphasis on understanding the in-store experiences of consumers is going to be crucial to a successful omnichannel strategy. Stores are where consumers can connect with their favourite brands or build an impression of the brand. Researchers focused on consumer insights will need to sharpen their toolkit with new research methods to enhance the in-store insight resources at their disposal.
From VoC to CwC
Traditional methods of marketing and engaging with consumers are gradually giving way to more in-the-moment methods – the so-lo-mo effect. Both traditional retailers and online stores are advancing with rapid and personalised connection points:
- With their consumers.
- At various touch points with their brands.
- At different stages in the consumer’s purchase life cycle. This trend is pointing strongly towards the emergence of a mindset that, by engaging with them and staying connected, makes consumers feel a sense of belonging with the brands. Instead of one-way messaging from brands to consumers, the shift is towards a two-way dialogue in which brand evangelists are bred from within the consumer base and not necessarily via celebrity brand endorsers.
These are just five of the significant trends that we expect to see in the next few months or years. At Research Now, we have worked with several of our clients on research projects that looked into some of the above and the results have been astonishing, both for us and them. We have found that traditional research methods, augmented with online and mobile behavioural tracking – plus mobile surveys to reach the right audience at the right time in the right manner – have helped us tap into the consumer mindset. What we found from these projects went on to further confirm our hypothesis, that in order to understand consumers’ mindset and their path to purchase: G We must consider understanding the non-declared behavioural patterns and a mix of online and mobile surveys to understand the attitudinal aspects.
- Behavioural data should be tracked online, via PCs and smart devices (tablets and phones).
- This should be augmented with in-store shopper research programs to understand the in-store impressions, product considerations and purchase decision-making process in the moment.
We would also recommend using tools that help establish and study mobile and online ad effectiveness to enrich the understanding of a consumers’ mindset and, more importantly, their decision influencers.
Likewise, include programs to track and measure out-of-home, print media and TV ad effectiveness; for which mobile surveys provide a very strong solution for in-the-moment insights.
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