In the never-ending quest to possess every meaningful detail about their target audiences, innovators are looking beyond just Consumer Insights and adding Shopper Insights to their own shopping lists of foundation learning. To wit, Procter & Gamble recently introduced the term “store back,” meaning that any innovation must succeed at the store first and then work back from there to drive consumer usage and satisfaction. So, what kind of Shopper Insights do innovators really need, and why, and how do you get them? Given the vast territory that these questions alone cover, for this article we’ll focus on one specific aspect of Shopper Insights: the “Path to Purchase.”
“Path to Purchase” is the understanding of the specific steps of the consumer’s journey, and an essential foundation for Shopper Insights. While identifying the consumer’s product purchase process is critical, is not always easy to discern and often varies by product category. That being said, the user/shopper/buyer cycle generally goes something like this:
Why is this important? The innovator benefits from understanding the Path to Purchase in several ways:
How can you get these insights? To understand the Path to Purchase, you need to interview shoppers pre-shopping and combine that with shopper interviews conducted in-store during or immediately after they have made a category purchase decision. Traditionally ethnographers conduct both in-home and shopalong interviews, but increasingly the pre- and post-shopping questioning are done online in combination with virtual reality shopping systems. Four major suppliers are providing virtual shopping services, and you can read more about their capabilities and relative merits in this white paper. Another new approach to consider is BVI Networks’ RetailNext system, which uses in-store videocameras linked to analytic software to observe and count shoppers as they walk through each category and look at, handle, and/or buy individual items.
It’s partly about facts… The Path to Purchase is, in part, logical and fact-based, so you want to make sure your research asks about all of the variables that shoppers might consider when making a purchase decision. For example, a shopper seeking an anti-aging solution is likely to want some scientific or visual proof of an anti-aging cosmetic’s efficacy before spending $20 or more on a solution. One variable has often been frequently overlooked in pre-innovation research is the manner in which a shopper compares alternative solutions in-store. It’s a gap that has caused high-scoring concepts to fail in-store.
… It’s mostly about emotions. One of the leading authorities on Shopper Marketing, Andy Murray of SaatchiX, stresses that the vast majority of final purchase decisions are driven by emotions, not facts. So make sure your research goes beyond the facts and also helps you understand when, where, and how that emotional spark occurs.
Understanding how your consumer navigates the purchase process – from identifying a need through satisfying that need at retail – is an essential part of Shopper Insights, and ultimately an invaluable tool in the innovation process. In future articles we’ll look at other key elements of Shopper Insights including Engagement, Product Locating, Question Answering and Claims/Benefits/Offers.