Consumers now receive information about a brand through innumerable sources. Social media and smart technology provide them with more and varied brand introductions, perceptions and predispositions than traditional mass media ever did. Shoppers are still driven by brand loyalty, awareness and emotional attachments, but as media channels proliferate, consumers can easily fast-forward through or omit traditional advertising.
As a result, manufacturers are no longer the primary or sole influencers and retailers have developed their own brands, gaining consumer trust, market share and shelf dominance and challenging brand marketers in new ways.
Today’s shopper is influenced by a wide community that extends beyond their friends and family, including online reviews, user recommendations, bloggers and tweeters. Point of purchase is still the last place to influence in- store but there is a common perception among marketers that up to 70 per cent of purchase decisions are made in the aisle or at the shelf.
Research shows this depends on the category.
For example, in-store decisions can range from as little as 30 per cent for over-the-counter medicines to 50 per cent for beer. Online purchases also have influences outside a company’s website, whether it’s a web banner or a blogger’s review. For a brand to succeed, it is imperative that marketing efforts are focused on decision touchpoints that yield the greatest return.
The role of shopper marketing
The key to influencing a consumer is to understand a category’s exact shopper touchpoints and use that knowledge to win at the ‘decisive second’. Shoppers’ consideration, influences and purchase routes have changed with the rapid adoption of social media and mobile technology for product and price sourcing.
Savvy brand marketers are increasingly using shopper marketing research to uncover insights into the best path to engage the customer. The results are then used to manage the marketing mix to effect change in shopper behaviour and to drive sales. Shopper market research typically seeks answers to these purchase issues:
- What are the unmet needs, the market gaps and truly unique propositions for a brand in-store or online?
- Who are the best targets and where and how do they shop/purchase?
- What are target shoppers’ purchase touchpoints?
- What is their purchase pathway and behaviour? G How can these shopper decisions be reached and influenced? G Which methods and channels offer the best connectivity?
Mapping a consumer’s purchase route
One of the most critical insights shopper marketing research can deliver for a brand is to address this critical purchase issue: What are consumers’ purchase pathways and behaviours? With so many influencer touchpoints in the marketplace, it is vital to understand each one in order to manage and exceed shopper expectations.
Decision pathway research is a specialised approach in which the survey follows the same route and behaviours as the consumer. Analysing the decision process at the shopper level can shed light on the factors that can influence how to promote a brand’s offerings, connect with key decision influencers, leverage touchpoints and position the overall brand offering.
Decision pathway research asks shoppers:
- What or who initiated the decision process?
- What was the nature of the consideration set?
- What decisions led to the purchase? G In what order did they take place?
- What details surrounded each decision?
- Why was each step taken? G What external factors played a role?
- Who was involved at each step?
- Was there a final piece of information that sealed the decision to purchase?
Better return on shopper strategies
A decision pathway research approach provides profitable insights from which marketers can develop the most effective strategies and tactics to influence shoppers. This customised research enables a brand to measure which of the touchpoints best engage the shopper in order to maximise a return on marketing spend.
Crucially, this research determines the size of each pathway based on the number of shoppers involved and how shoppers use that pathway to get to the brand. It also provides an analysis of the relative impact of each touchpoint within the pathway in terms of its importance in the final purchase decision.
In concrete terms, a brand-specific decision pathway research study:
- Quantifies the overall role and importance of each step in choosing a particular brand.
- Determines which touchpoints are most meaningful to drive decisions and motivate the target.
- Uncovers the stated and derived importance of the critical points along the pathway.
- Creates a comprehensive purchase perspective that can be used as the foundation for driving more effective marketing strategies and tactics.
Shopper marketing research, including the use of a decision pathway approach, guides marketers in making the most efficient use of resources. These insights gives them a significant advantage over their competition by providing very specific information on where and how to engage shoppers to influence their purchase decision – the final ‘decisive seconds’ for the brand.
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