with insights from special guest, Heather Anding

We all buy things in different ways. Although there are some generational aspects, we have personal preferences. Some of those preferences are determined by where we live, who we are buying for and what we are buying as well as how we prefer to research. Whether it is an everyday item or a considered purchase, we are forming new habits that intersect with online and offline shopping.

When plotting the customer journey, it is so important to understand different factors based on the customer’s situation. This may evolve to a segmentation layer based entirely on behaviors, that will help determine the right messaging as well as a technology stack that can identify where the customer is in their journey, based on the journey map.

Fun facts: 78% of consumers search for a product before they show up instore to purchase, and 29% buy[1]. Six in ten internet users start shopping in one device but continue and/or finish on a different one. 82% of smartphone users consult their phone while shopping instore.[2]

Let’s look at some shopping situations and attitudes:

               Frequent shopping: I know what I want, I buy it often and I probably know where the best deal is. When buying something often, the research phase is probably less. We skip many steps. We may buy on mobile, online, or instore. Personal preferences include convenience especially when shopping “in-the-moment”. When we think of it, we buy it. If we need it fast, we go to the store or find a service that will deliver it. If we can wait a day or two, we buy online and have it shipped. The purchase window is short!

               Window shopping: I have an event coming up and think I’d like a new outfit, but don’t really know what I want. Research phase is heavy, whether it is online, mobile, or instore. As more department stores close, those retailers need to start considering a different customer experience based on geography that is more focused on digital and eCommerce. It is understood that Web and mobile experiences must be perfect from a user experience perspective. When Window Shopping, the actual purchase can be made in any channel.

               Holiday shopping: Holiday shoppers are looking for the best deals AND for that very special gift. Research phase is heavy and starts sooner than we think. The actual purchase may wait until the deals start to appear, well before Black Friday. While some shoppers still want to stand in lines and rush out for the 4:00 AM deal, they really don’t have to. They are shopping vigorously, in all channels, all times of the day or night. It’s important to know that these customers may not buy from you all that often, if at all, any other time of the year. You need to leverage what you learned about them in prior years, and recognize them each year.

               Considered shopping: We are redoing the family room and a new big TV is in order. Wow, so much has changed since the last time I bought one. I could go to Best Buy and put myself into a salesperson’s hands. But most considered purchases – big money, often infrequent – means research. Research on manufacturer sites, retailers, review sites, communities, and other social networks. Deals and offers are likely important, so comparative shopping is likely.

               Curiosity shopping: I just saw something on TV, or heard about it from a friend. I go straight to Google and do a search. I might also go directly to Amazon if I am a loyal Amazon shopper, or some other shopping services. If I see it and like it, I might buy it right then and there, or save it for later. Research is likely, since more information might be needed, so make sure your search programs are tightly interwoven into how customers consume information.

               Seasonal shopping: There are certain things that I only need at certain times. It might be pool supplies in the summer, or humidifier filters in the winter, depending on where I live. I may buy them from the same place, or I might look for other options. New items may pop up here too, so it’s not always a repurchase. My research might be more price comparison related. Use your data to determine whether these purchases are in fact seasonal and communicate at the right time.

Now let’s consider whether the customers are deal seekers. Not everyone is. It’s easy enough to see in your data whether someone uses coupons, but you should consider how the offer was provided. For example, Macy’s offers rewards discounts, which are applied during check out, online and instore automatically. That doesn’t mean that the customer would have taken the coupon to the store. Kohl’s sometimes offers their scratch offs, but again, that is in the store. Customers that use those types of discounts are very different from active coupon and deal seekers. It’s important to understand this customer behavior because a better deal might be a perfect way to save a sale for a deal seeker. But for someone who does not seek out deals, you may need other incentives, such as fast free shipping options.

Next up is channel impact. Omnichannel has several definitions:

·        Many channels integrated on the backend

·        Cross channel business model, implying customers desire to communicate in many channels at the same time

·        Seamless approach to customer experience (rather than multichannel retailing)

·        A fancier “way” of saying multichannel ☹

No matter how you define it, retail customers are active in many channels and often simultaneously. The customer could be instore and on their phone; doing research on their PC and buying on their tablet; seeing a TV ad and walking instore; or any number of variations. Knowing those behaviors and understanding impact – especially the impact each channel has on each other - is critical to understanding if the customer has abandoned or if they have merely switched to another channel.

We can capture many of the behavioral factors and details that can help not only determine if you have lost the customer, but also how to go about recapturing and re-engaging. Having a strong customer strategy that reflects both attitudes and channel behaviors and is supported by the right data and technology can help you identify when and why the customer has gone astray. And don’t forget to consider how you are enabling the research phase in every channel, so that you can take advantage of those moments.

Many retailers are so focused on sales – the next email, the next campaign, the next product. To do this right, we should approach from the customer’s perspective. I believe the benefits will far outweigh the investments needed to do it right.

Next installment will be for financial services.

See previous installments:

Breakage in the Customer Journey Part 1

Breakage in the Customer Journey Part 2 – Consumer and Automotive


[1] Think with Google; Micro-moments Shopping Guide

[2] Think with Google: How Mobile has redefined the Consumer Decision Journey for Shoppers

AuthorJeannette Kocsis