The explosion of interaction and commerce touch points has transformed shopping from a linear, transactional process into a topsy-turvy journey. Consumers have completely taken over. They shop at their discretion, hopping between store, search, mobile and social networks according to both need and whim. They have more power over the journey than ever before and they demand full control of their shopping experiences. They dictate when, where and how they engage with brands, and now they have raised the bar even further, requiring customized, omnichannel journeys that are tailored to their wants, needs and preferences.
Because every consumer is unique and every journey different, it has become extremely difficult for retailers to truly understand their customers and the experiences they seek. This disconnect leaves many retailers struggling to refine and reinvent their experiences so they remain relevant in consumers’ lives.
I had the opportunity to speak with Ken Hughes, CEO of Glacier Consulting, who shared some interesting perspectives on how retailers must rethink the way they collect and leverage shopper insights to refine their experience strategies. This has become especially critical as brick-and-mortar comes under siege and more retailers fight to keep their doors open.
Customer relationship management (CRM) systems enable retailers to paint a detailed picture of each customer: how frequently they buy, what products they buy, the offers they redeem and so much more. But how does this insight benefit retailers as they strive to create more immersive and memorable in-store experiences?
For Hughes, it means reassessing how your organization gathers, analyzes and leverages consumer insights so you can create deeper and more authentic experiences. Rather than focusing on purchasing behaviors, he suggests, retailers need to get deeper into consumers’ minds to understand how they venture through the browsing and buying experience, and to discover their mission for each visit. Here are some of the core best practices he has identified:
- Focus on actual behaviors, not what consumers say they want: “Looking back on some of the best studies I’ve ever done with brands, the golden nugget has often come from behavioral insight as opposed to asking shoppers questions,” Hughes said. “Asking [consumers] what they want is interesting at times, and extrapolating what they might want based on social and cultural change is very valid, but ultimately, what shoppers do online and in-store governs what you’re making in terms of profit.”
- Invest in high-impact technology: Although there are numerous tools designed to help retailers track and understand digital shopping behaviors, few have reaped the benefits of in-store tracking and analytical tools, which can complement traditional CRM technologies. “Biometric tools such as galvanic skin response, stress and excitement measurement tools and eye tracking tools have proven useful because they provide great detail,” Hughes said. “We can see exactly where the shopper’s looking, we can see exactly how a shopper is feeling if they shop, and we can set up static cameras and watch how they shop.” This data is more contextual and aligns to actual shopper behaviors, which is extremely valuable as retailers assess the merchandising, structure, design and even the technology in their stores.
- Cluster shoppers based on their missions: Consumers have different needs, expectations and buying triggers based on their mission at a particular moment in time. Hughes calls these shopper missions, and he differentiates them from typical shopper segments as follows: “What you need to do is understand your shopper based on the mission that they’re trying to achieve at that time, on that day when they come in to your store,” he explained. “You don’t need to understand every single unique mission through every single shopper, but you need to cluster them so you end up with five, six or 10 different types of missions being sought in your store.”
- Set a strategy and improve over time: Once consumers are clustered based on specific stores and missions, set strategies for engaging and selling to them based on these missions. As you gather more data based on in-store behaviors and purchase rates, identify areas where you’ll need to improve or tweak your strategy for maximum performance.
Shifting your focus from merchandise sales to shopper missions is a big step and takes both time and support from your team. This shift, however, is critical for retailers that want to reinvent their shopping experiences and remain relevant in the current climate. After all, once you uncover new insights and behaviors from these shopper missions, you’ll be able to better plan and prioritize projects that deliver value to your customers.
Hughes shared a lot of great insights and best practices on this transition and other trends impacting retailers today. You can get more tips from him by reading our new E-book and listening to my interview of him for his episode of the Retail Experience Project podcast series.
Dave Bruno is Marketing Director of Aptos. He is a 25-year retail technology veteran, having spent his entire career helping retailers leverage technology to maximum competitive advantage. He is an active blogger, prolific content developer, sought-after speaker and webinar host, and frequent podcaster. Bruno is currently Marketing Director for Aptos, as well as a member of the RetailWire Brain Trust, an avid supporter of RetailROI and a member of the Demand Gen Report Advisory Board.