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The Consumer Journey - A New Model to Help Marketers Connect with Consumers at the Right Time and Place

The Consumer Journey

Download The Consumer Journey Whitepaper: How a woman’s quest for the perfect bottle of shampoo reveals new opportunities for marketers”

Over the years, we’ve spent a lot of time tracking how shoppers journey from the research phase through to post-purchase. But there’s been less focus on uncovering why consumers behave the way they do during the shopper journey. So, we decided to work with IPSOS OTX to dig a little deeper. We wanted to chart the decisions that drive consumers’ behavior as they travel along the purchase path and then uncover the emotional and functional triggers driving these decisions. What we found: Brands can use digital channels to respond to these triggers and actually shift decisions at key moments in the journey.

We decided to focus on hair care within the CPG category (rich emotional territory!), but the model can be applied to various verticals, including retail, auto and telco.

One small trip to the store, lots of baggage

We all know that week in, week out, people tend to buy the same things at the grocery store (in fact 66% of all grocery purchases are habitual*). So, given how entrenched our habits are, it is not surprising that making a change in hair care products is an emotionally-loaded decision. The decision to change hair care products is driven heavily by the opinions and influences of friends, family and social networks. And, women use multiple devices and channels to tap into these sources for inspiration, aspiration and information.

According to our study, women experience a slow and steady build-up of dissatisfaction before making a change in their hair care. Once women decide to change products, they find themselves on a quest for definitive and trustworthy advice. On a fundamental level, they want to feel confident that they’re going to pick the right product and they’re looking for information to validate their choice. After all, a lot of our self-esteem is tied up in whether we’re having a good or bad hair day (sorry, women’s lib movement!). Ultimately, most women are hoping to gather as much information and inspiration as they can before they get to the store. Otherwise they’re forced to confront The Shelf – which overwhelms consumers with too much choice.

After uncovering the need-states and influencers that drive the hair care purchase decision, we developed a model to illustrate the comprehensive ecosystem surrounding this decision-making journey. The journey map is comprised of four need-states: aspirational, emotional, informational and functional. At each phase in the decision-making journey, different people, devices or channels can influence the outcome. The bigger the circle, the more influence it has at each stage. The further out from the center of the grid, the more specific the influencer is to the need-state. Let’s take a closer look at the first phase in the journey.

At the pre-trigger phase, our shampoo-seeker isn’t even aware that she wants to make a change. But everyday life brings her into contact with hints that her hair is not perfect; health and beauty sites or magazines, celebrities and TV ads play a part, but so does seeing friends on social networks or in person. Moms emerge as the biggest influencers at this stage. Her pointed observation that our color is looking a little brassy, sets off a wave of dissatisfaction (even though we try really hard to convince ourselves that she is WRONG! What does she know about highlights ANYWAY!).

And so, issues with her hair – often prompted by comparisons to “better” hair she’s seen – start to slowly build up. The elicited emotions are almost all negative –consumers frequently mentioned “struggle,” “angry,” “clueless” and “envy.”

From inspiration to validation

As we move through each phase in the purchase path—from the trigger try something new all the way to the validation phase when we use the product—the influencers, and the functional and emotional need-states, shift. If marketers aren’t addressing these shifts with the right tone across the appropriate media channels and devices, they’re likely missing out on a critical opportunity to connect emotionally with their customer and provide her with key information that may actually shift her purchase choice.,

So how do marketers reach women with the right message at the right time? And how can we fill in the gaps to make her experience is more positive? Here are our recommendations.

  1. Influence consumers at critical points in the decision-making journey
    • Make sure you have a presence within the device and media channel that she is turning to for inspiration and information
    • Deliver messages that respond to her emotional or functional need at each stage in the journey
  2. Drive change in habitual categories
    • If the decision phase is driven by emotional needs … inspire her and show her the possibilities
    • If the decision phase is driven by functional needs … provide information and help drive confidence
  3. Influence the decision before she gets to the shelf
    • The earlier in the journey you can drive a decision, the lower the risk of generating confusion via information overload
    • Focus on affirming the right choice and reducing the risk of making the wrong choice by using coupons and samples at the appropriate phase

  4. Here’s to a whole month’s worth of perfect hair days!

    *The New Shoppers Journey, Microsoft Advertising & Carat, 2010

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