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The New Path to Purchase by Mary Brett Whitfield


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Shopping moments are now ubiquitous, particularly for the growing proportion of shoppers using “smart” mobile devices. In a world where it is difficult to distinctly identify when a consumer is “going shopping,” it is time to rethink our understanding of shopper journeys.

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The New Path to Purchase by Mary Brett Whitfield

  1. 1. - 1 -© 2013 Kantar RetailShopping moments are now ubiquitous, particularly for the growing proportion of shoppersusing “smart” mobile devices. In a world where it is difficult to distinctly identify when aconsumer is “going shopping,” it is time to rethink our understanding of shopper journeys.The initial Path to Purchase models typically depicteda linear journey, beginning from the point at which theconsumer recognizes a need (the “Create Demand” phasein many models), through a multi-step shopping process, tothe point at which the consumer evaluates the experiencewith the product purchased (“User Satisfaction”). However,even casual observers of consumer/shopper behaviorusually recognize that these Path to Purchase modelssimplify what is often a complex, multi-faceted shoppingprocess.With the advent of and increasing adoption of digital toolsand technologies, the initial Path to Purchase models havebeen reincarnated in myriad forms that have one thingin common: they are not linear. In these “post-digital”models, a new conventional wisdom holds that shoppersrepeat steps, reconsider, and review alternatives acrosschannels and touchpoints—sometimes in an iterativefashion—and this manifests itself in a model that is circularor asynchronous. Kantar Retail challenges that newconventional wisdom with the assertion that the shoppingprocess in the digital era is indeed linear in the sense thata straight line can be drawn from the starting point of needrecognition to post-purchase consideration—regardlessof the path, the final goal is the same: purchase. Themore representative way of mapping the behavior from“point A” to “point B” morphs from “straight-line linear”to “sequentially linear”—a continuous, connected seriesof events that looks like a series of zigs and zags until apurchase is made (picture a Chutes and Ladders gameboard—as you move along the Path to Purchase, you runacross information or run into barriers that either launchyou forward or set you back).This process becomes potentially even more recursivewhen shoppers leverage digital tools and technologies—especially those that are mobile—as part of the shoppingprocess. Because mobile touchpoints are ever-present—literally in a shopper’s pocket or only an arm’s lengthaway—it is increasingly common for shoppers to beshopping two retailers at the same time (in a store inthe “real” world and virtually on a smartphone) or to beshopping while interacting with multiple screens (so-calledcouch commerce—i.e., shopping on a tablet while watchingtelevision). Consequently, the concept of “channel” isincreasingly irrelevant to a shopper who is omni-channel inher interaction with retailers and brands in both the “real”world and the virtual world.Regardless of the image used to visualize or map theprocess, it is the combination of on-demand access toinformation and mobile engagement that has transformedthe Path to Purchase.The Shopper Has Gone Omni-ChannelOmni-channel is a term that has been used by retailers todescribe the evolution of their often-compartmentalizedmulti-channel operations to an eco-system that wouldprovide a seamless experience across all platforms andshopper touchpoints. From the retailer perspective, atrue omni-channel experience requires knitting togetherdisparate customer database, supply chain, marketing, andmerchandising systems—all very much a work in progressfor most retailers. However, the equipped, engaged, activedigital shopper is already there. She is interacting with theretailers and brands that resonate with her across myriadplatforms, via multiple gadgets and technologies … in theshopper cloud (Figure 1).Source: Kantar Retail analysisFigure 1: The Omni-Channel Shopper Cloud
  2. 2. - 2 -© 2013 Kantar RetailThe New Path to PurchaseContrary to popular belief, the Gen Y cohort is not on the leading edge ofeCommerce but clearly leads in terms of eShopping activity.Shoppers today are:ƒƒ Equipped: Shoppers are clearly operating in a post-desktop world, where access to information is nottethered to a deskbound computer. Among primaryhousehold shoppers, 47% have a smartphone and 24%have a tablet computer, according to Kantar Retail’sShopperScape®research.ƒƒ Engaged: ShopperScape®also indicates that across13 measures of digital activity, from spending timeon social networking sites, to accessing retailer Websites on a mobile device, significantly more shoppersare participating this year vs. last year. Shopping-related digital activities with the greatest growth inparticipation include downloading coupons to a mobiledevice, using retailer apps on a mobile device, andresearching products on a mobile device while instores. Contrary to popular belief, the Gen Y cohortis not on the leading edge of eCommerce but clearlyleads in terms of eShopping activity. Gen Y shoppersare perhaps best characterized as “(digital) socialbutterflies” with above-average rates of participationin social networking and social media activities.Meanwhile, Gen X shoppers also have high ratesof participation in social networking activities, buttake digital engagement one step further by alsoover-indexing on more purposeful activities such asresearching online and in the store before purchasing.ƒƒ Active: Nearly six in 10 primary household shoppershave made an online purchase in the past six months.Additionally, digital tools and technologies play agrowing role in the shopping process across a widevariety of situations:-- Shoppers are increasingly more active when itcomes to pre-trip planning for grocery shopping.Even though the most prevalent pre-trip activitiesare “old school” (e.g., making a handwritten list,selecting paper coupons to take on the trip), thegrowth in pre-trip engagement comes from digitalactivities such as looking at online circulars,searching for coupons online, loading electroniccoupons to frequent shopper cards, and usingTwitter and Facebook to scout out deals andconnect with retailers.-- A significant increase in shoppers participating inAmazon’s Subscribe and Save discount program isevidence of more active Amazon grocery shoppers.-- Regardless of where shoppers ultimately make apurchase, more than a quarter start the process ofshopping for consumer electronics at Amazon.-- Stores may still be the top source of decoratingideas and where the most shoppers learn aboutnew home décor products, but nearly a quarterof Gen Y shoppers get décor inspiration andinformation from Pinterest.-- Online shopping sites have the most monthlyapparel shoppers, surpassing power centers,regional malls, and lifestyle centers—all of whichexperienced a year-over-year decline in theirmonthly apparel shopper bases.New … and Evolving … ShopperExpectationsThe omni-channel shopper evaluates all shoppingexperiences against a new criteria set that is influenced bythe depth and breadth of her interactions with retailers andbrands.ƒƒ Personalization: Web sites and apps adjust shoppingexperiences and offers based on shoppers’ history andstated preferences.ƒƒ 24/7 Access + Convenience: Always-on accesscombined with continuing innovation in delivery models(e.g., augmenting home delivery via van delivery orthird parties with click & collect options and “drive”formats) match up with the shopper’s definitionof convenience, regardless of how she definesconvenience for any given shopping occasion.ƒƒ Conversation: Digital technology makes it easier forretailers and brands to solicit shopper input … andeasier for shoppers to reach out.ƒƒ Price Transparency: Price comparison tools andrelated functionality make shelf price knowledgeuniversal.
  3. 3. - 3 -© 2013 Kantar RetailThe New Path to PurchaseSource: Kantar Retail analysisFigure 2: Two New Steps in the Path to Purchaseƒƒ Exclusive Promotions: Retailers use digital’s abilityto personalization communication and experiences tomake shelf prices less relevant by offering unique andcustomized promotions.Two New Steps in the Path to PurchaseAccess to and use of digital information alters pre-shopping research and post-purchase advocacy,reshaping two aspects of the path to purchase and addingtwo steps (Figure 2).Trusted SourceA trusted source for information is a new, key area offocus that influences shoppers before they choose thepoint of purchase. Trusted source activity impacts bothin-store and online purchases: 49% of shoppers haveresearched a product online before making purchasesat a store, and the most common pre-purchase activitybefore making an online purchase is reading productreviews (Figure 3). Additionally, the concept of shoppersturning to a trusted source as part of shopping journeyapplies to shopping trips as much as to specific productsearches—as evident in shoppers’ growing pre-tripengagement.With more research happening before and duringpurchase, retailers and brands must consider:ƒƒ Are we a trusted source? How do we become one … aswell as participate in conversations where shoppersare?ƒƒ How can we ensure that our brands and products endup on the list?ƒƒ What is the right balance of information, tools, andengagement to remain relevant and drive sales?Understanding the source of influence is even moreimportant for routine purchases where shoppers mayrarely take the next step (i.e., once a brand or productdecision has been made there is no reason to revisit thosedecisions). So being in the right place at the right timethrough monitoring social media and being present in allappropriate trusted source venues is even more critical.Source: Kantar Retail analysisFigure 3: Illustrative Trusted Source Resources3rd Party/Socialƒƒ Google/Searchƒƒ Blogsƒƒ Communitiesƒƒ Facebookƒƒ Twitterƒƒ Pinterestƒƒ Other SocialManufacturerƒƒ Vendor.comƒƒ Brand sitesRetailerƒƒ Retailer.comƒƒ Amazon.comThe concept of shoppers turningto a trusted source as part ofshopping journey applies toshopping trips as much as tospecific product searches—asevident in shoppers’ growingpre-trip engagement online.
  4. 4. - 4 -© 2013 Kantar RetailPost-Purchase AdvocacyUser and shopper advocacy can be the best of publicrelations or the worst, and the impact is magnified manytimes over when shoppers can use social media to shareboth positive and negative experiences. When everythinggoes according to schedule, advocacy can deliver areally compelling upside. But even positive advocacycan create unexpected demand that has a downsideand creates operational fallout—everything from outof stocks to forecasting and replenishment glitches.Of course, the flip slide also is a real possibility—disgruntled and dissatisfied shoppers can quicklyturn the omni-channel shopper cloud into a black cloudhovering over affected brands, products, and experiences.In either situation, the new power of advocacy requiresplanning, quick response, and agility across channels.In an omni-channel world, users have the potential tocontrol the brand—or at least highjack brand messaging.An environment where control was possible gives way toone where managing and understanding influence is thenorm.Mary Brett WhitfieldSenior Vice PresidentMary Brett Whitfield, Senior Vice President, leads shopper insights research and content development for Kantar Retail.Mary Brett has extensive experience helping retailers and suppliers leverage shopper insights and other primary researchdata for performance improvement. She has worked at retail companies in market research, strategic planning, and salesdevelopment roles and has a strong background in industry and company analysis, competitive positioning work, apparelretailing, and online retailing.ABOUT THE AUTHORSFor additional information regarding this article, please contact Has Changed What It Means What To DoShoppers add “choose trustedsource” to shopping routines.Shopper marketing needs to start sig-nificantly before shoppers are in frontof a shelf or are ready to click “add tocart.”ƒƒ Be present wherever andwhenever shoppers areƒƒ Ensure visibility at everypotential point of influenceThrough social media andsocial networking, shoppershave the ability to share andshape opinions through advo-cacy.The retailer and brand mindset mustshift from an environment whereretailers and brands wield control toone where they are but one of myriadinfluencers.ƒƒ Adopt a test and learn cultureƒƒ Be willing to fail quicklyMeeting Shopper Needs along a New Path in an Omni-Channel WorldTo succeed in an environment where the Path to Purchase has morphed as digital shoppers become omni-channel, shopper insights are critical.Source: Kantar Retail analysisThe New Path to PurchaseAnne ZybowskiVice PresidentAnne Zybowski, Vice President, Retail Insights, leads all of Kantar Retail’s digital retailing research and insights. In additionto her focus on e-commerce and how digital is impacting the path-to-purchase and the bricks-and-mortar store, she is alsoinvolved in our apparel line of trade. Anne recently worked as the lead analyst on Target, Walmart, and Sears/Kmart. She isa presenter and trainer for Kantar Retail seminars, and has recently been featured in National Retail Federation and PLMAprograms among other industry events. Before joining Kantar Retail, Anne was a Vice President at Stern Stewart & Co.working as the lead project manager and consultant for a variety of retailers including JCPenney, Whole Foods Market, andAhold. Other industry experience includes pharmaceutical, automotive, CPG, and Information Technology.