Editor’s Note: Download “The New Journey Dynamics: Understanding Today’s Shopper” for a brief, easily shareable presentation that outlines the process we use to help you identify why and how shoppers choose, buy and re-buy their favorite brands.
Earlier this year, we provided a sneak preview into our Omnichannel Brand Index (OBI) at a couple of conferences. I’m glad to report that our approach was well received and has helped some of our clients solve part of the conundrum that is the omnishopper journey. More and more of our clients are looking to innovative research to understand this complex consumer, inextricably linked to the consumer and shopper journey that is already one of the most intricate of research problems. To be clear, the omnishopper journey adds a layer of complexity that pushes the boundaries of traditional research methodologies. Furthermore, traditional purchase funnels and loyalty loops do not always take into consideration the holistic understanding of the person making the decision, and this phenomenon is exacerbated when one of the guardrails we can use in our purchase evaluations is technology.
Our own research into the omnishopper journey has defined a clear decision-making ecosystem that takes into account the person—and not just the consumer—making the decision. Cultural beliefs, demographics and lifestyle choices form the gateway to our purchase decisions and these inform who the person becomes at the point of sale.
If you’re struggling to untangle the omnishopper journey web, this article will:
- Reveal the three core needs of the omnishopper, as we believe it is impossible to understand one without the other
- Share a few of the brands and sectors that omnishoppers believe are setting the standard, according to our self-funded research
- Outline some of the research techniques you can use to untangle the web that is the omnishopper journey
The Omnishopper Decision Ecosystem
Our research discovered four identifiable phases in most purchase journeys. The first and last phases very much belong to the journey the omnishopper makes, while the middle two phases represent the constituent path to purchase within the journey. The figure below shows the entire journey that starts out in some sort of equilibrium prior to purchasing a new product or trying a new brand, for example.
The Discover Phase is very much informed by who we are, and different elements come into focus here depending primarily upon the category or the country in which we live. That is to say, omnishoppers in one country may well have unique cultural needs and are subject to country-specific trends. In different categories, different online resources exist, while different brands offer different research and e-commerce options.
Moving into the path-to-purchase phases of Consider and Shop/Decide, we uncovered what we call the “Instants of Intent.” This is the time when the intent of the omnishopper and of the brand (think of this as omnichannel marketing efforts) must mesh to form a possible match. The intent of the brand and the perceptions it builds have to be acceptable and meet the intent of the consumer. For the omnishopper, this is a key moment when their decision skills and use of technology frame their searching and shopping experience. As an example, here is an omnishopper describing a very simple Instant of Intent:
“I have had great experiences with Kroger and brands I don’t always try. They have the app, website, and in-store options that I use all the time to find the best deals and coupons. For example, a few weeks ago Kroger had Tide on sale. I found this in their in-store ad as well as their website. I then go on their app and see that there are coupons that I can download and get an extra $1 – $2 off. That stands out for me because I don’t find this process as easy at other stores and I don’t have to clip coupons out of the paper to get the additional savings.”
The ability to use all of the technology at her disposal helped bring the Instants of Intent together for this omnishopper.
The Share phase is, of course, more important than it has ever been with the plethora of ways consumers can share their brand, product and service experiences. The ability to share widely means that we constantly look for ways to help our clients achieve advocacy over loyalty. This is the final phase of the journey where not only do our own experiences influence our future behavior, but they can also influence others more broadly. Finding the correct source of information is a huge part of the researching and buying experience for omnishoppers. Trusted sources—whether earned or purchased—are key for any brand to understand and cultivate:
“I don’t always share my own experiences but I read a lot from other people!”
The Omnichannel Brand Index
While the ecosystem above deals with the decision-making process from the perspective of the omnishopper, the Instants of Intent on the brand side must be specific and speak the language of the omnishopper. Our research identified three requirements that brands must provide to be considered true Omnichannel experts. Think of them as a passport because omnishoppers will grant the brand admission should these conditions be met:
- Seamless: The experience the brand provides must be seamless to the consumer regardless of the channel. In the same vein, the brand has to make it easy for the omnishopper to shop through various channels. Omnishoppers simply won’t stand for an experience that is not seamless:
“There is nothing that frustrates me more than seeing that information online does not match information found in the brick-and-mortar store.”
- Customer Centric: The brand should provide a personalized experience regardless of channel. Furthermore, there should be back-and-forth in the experience so omnishoppers know the brand is listening to them and understanding and responding to their needs:
“I recently booked an international flight through the carrier website and the agent at the desk was rude and didn’t recognize the codeshare partner…I asked for wheelchair help online (check a box) but again, that info never made it to the gate agents and I got lectured for not doing the correct thing.”
- Experiential: A great experience offered across channels gives the perception that it is easy to do business with that brand and, as such, is worthy of advocacy. Again, fail to get the total experience correct and the omnishopper will not hesitate to take their business elsewhere:
“Inconsistency across platforms can be very frustrating when you look up a product online and see that it’s in stock in store but then go to pick it up only to find out it’s out of stock. Basically, you’ve just guaranteed I’m going to purchase it somewhere else.”
It is these requirements—Seamless, Customer Centric and Experiential—that make up the Omnichannel Brand Index. Of the 60 brands we researched across a number of categories, OBI scores ranged from 54 to 130.
Somewhat to our surprise, Samsung outscored other brands in every industry—including other consumer electronics providers—and was rated highest by omnishoppers for their payment options, apps and online resources. (Note: Market Strategies was in the field prior to the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 battery issues—the next wave of this study may reflect any residual concerns around that topic). By sector, we also tested brands in the CPG, Retail, Financial Services, Telecom and Travel industries. The top performers in each were Tide, Sephora, Visa, Verizon and Southwest, respectively. Please contact me to discuss your sector and the brands we researched.
In addition to the OBI, we assessed the dependency shoppers have on certain websites for research and e-commerce. Our “Deprivation Index” (should a certain resource no longer be available), builds on loss aversion theory whereby people strongly prefer to avoid loss than to acquire gain. Our hypothesis was that loss aversion might be even greater in the Omnishopper Age given dependency on our devices, which we have likened to always-on, end-aisle displays that stimulate impulse buying.
The Deprivation Index lines up closely with the OBI by brand and by industry and is an element we are keen to research further. It may be that loss aversion can be the one number that brands have to understand in greater detail, with all of the emotional and functional elements contained therein. However, for now we believe the OBI provides the nuances that brands must work towards fulfilling.
Layering Research to Understand the Omnishopper Journey
Market Strategies uses a number of tried-and-trusted research techniques allied to some newer ways to generate and analyze data to truly understand the omnishopper journey. We often recommend layering data where possible, using different sources be they attitudinal, behavioral or based on neuroscience.
Attitudinal research is in our DNA at Market Strategies and provides much of the rich data that we use in our storytelling approach to reporting. It has a place in and of itself, but it also provides valuable information given the increasing number of behavioral data sources at our disposal. We spend a good deal of time looking for behavioral sources of data before asking ourselves how best to analyze them. The analyses of behavioral data can be custom and unique to the data source, however we believe it’s important to meet a few criteria:
- The data source accurately collects data from the behaviors of the participant with their permission, if required
- The data should be quickly available
- We should have the opportunity to follow up on the behavioral data to ask “why” so we can understand the reasons for the behavior
This final element is also true for the ways we harness neuroscience data in our research. For example, understanding the valence of the emotion that triggers pupil dilation is a “why” that we consider a must have.
It is not uncommon for us to use a number of attitudinal, behavioral and neurological data collection and analytical techniques in any one omnishopper journey; however, our modules are designed to be plug-and-play to fit requirements (not the least of which are timing and budget). The end goal can be something like the following chart which shows a hypothetical “Day in the Life” of an omnishopper:
Download The New Journey Dynamics: Understanding Today’s Shopper
Understanding both sides of this relationship – what the omnishopper needs and what omnichannel marketing can provide—is fascinating. When these two come together, we have Instants of Intent that are compatible within the broader journey and the constituent path to purchase. Omnichannel marketers who meet the seamless, customer centric and experiential requirements provide omnishoppers with such a coveted experience that it would leave a huge gap were it to be taken away.
For those who were not able to attend Omnishopper in Chicago this summer, please feel free to email me to share your omnishopper journey conundrum or to get more OBI details for your industry or your brand. I’d be happy to discuss how our approach could give your company’s omnichannel marketing activities a competitive edge.
In the meantime, I invite you to download “The New Journey Dynamics: Understanding Today’s Shopper.” This brief, easily shareable presentation outlines the process we use to help you identify why and how shoppers choose, buy and re-buy their favorite brands.