There has been significant change in our approach to researching customer experience. Due to technology and the internet, goods and services can be bought at the click of a button. From any location at any time, companies find it much tougher to have personal relationships with their customers or simple face-to-face interaction and conversations.
Developments in the online shopping experience, in store retail and the use of loyalty cards means that retailers and consumers both stand to gain more rewards, sometimes at the expense of the relationship between the two.
In today’s service experience, customers readily provide personal details, such as email addresses, phone numbers, date of birth and other important information to businesses in return for offers and exclusive deals, or just to access the service or product.
However, many consumers are over being messaged and bombarded with offers, and poorly targeted mass marketing means that customers are increasingly looking for brands and companies that offer a personalised approach.
Consumers want a tailored service to meet their specific and changeable needs, more than that, they expect it.
Personalisation is a growing trend, a backlash to mass marketing approaches. Trying to target everyone or too many segments, means that you are not focused and customers feel that too. Customers want more personal interaction and brands to work harder to individualise and personalise experiences.
We are in the era of the aggregator.
The consumer benefits from simplification of market offerings, prices and value adds, but there is rising scepticism as to who is behind these offerings and if there aren’t better deals out there. Hotels, for instance, are doing well at getting customers to come direct to them for better deals than the aggregators can offer. The game to be played for service companies is how to demonstrate better value, through direct-to-customer marketing.
When customers are presented with a tailored customer experience, it has been found that customer retention can increase by 5%.
- Personalised information on products
- Relevant services and offers
This is critical in a time where customer retention, loyalty and advocacy are more difficult to attain than ever.
Technology can help us with this increase in demand for personalisation.
Real-time data derived from big data analytics tools allows businesses to gain unique and valuable insights into consumers, enabling them to tailor products, offers and communications.
Social Listening Tools
- Can help in monitoring social media channels to capture mentions of a brand, topic, competitor.
- Skim the surface level rather than providing deeper, more tangible and interpreted insight for action.
- Can send you down rabbit holes.
Big Data Analytics Tools
- Analyse tens of thousands of data points, including social media and third-party consumer data.
- Provide real-time information about consumers individually to enable more informed business decisions.
- Lack good interpretation skills and the power of qualitative analysis and qualitative overlays to really make them work for a company.
But these tools don’t answer the ‘Why?’ question.
Businesses need to move beyond reliance on big data alone to help.
That’s where we come in. Ruby Cha Cha uses bricolage methodologies to help you connect with consumers to improve customer experience. For the new world we live in, it is not enough to rely on what they bought last, or what other people in that age-group and location are buying. It’s simply not accurate or personal enough anymore. We aim to:
- Better understand the consumer in the moment, at the time of their decision making.
- Their motivations and drivers.
- What they really want or need next.
Open consumers are likely to be the first on board when you launch a new product or service because of the novelty and innovation, but also the least likely to be brand loyal, so they may need additional rewards or incentives.
How can you manage the customers beyond the pathway to purchase?
Qualitative insight and bricolage methods can help companies to target consumers with more personalised communications and offers based on their preferences and understanding of what consumers really want, at specific moments of truth on the pathway to purchase.
The ability to deliver a consistently personalised, on-brand customer experience for each customer, including personalised offerings across key channels is table stakes for customers and prospects today.
Pathway to Purchase
The aim of every marketer is to reach consumers at the time which most influences their decision making on the pathway to purchase. This is when the consumer is open to influence and will welcome brand and product information.
Traditional thought is that there is a ‘funnel approach’ when making a purchase decision. We start with a few brands / products we’re aware of and through a series of stages the number of options are systematically reduced. Think of those classic models from any Marketing 101 course such as the AIDA model of: Awareness to Interest to Desire to Action.
This type of purchase journey may well be true for many purchase situations but that’s not to say it’s a linear process of elimination for every need-state, for every category or for every individual.
As researchers, we are looking to understand the traits of different purchase cycles across categories. As a starting point, there are some common elements which can help guide us in shaping these different paths to purchase.
Something worth highlighting is that at the pre-contemplation stage a few touchpoints are continually influencing us, even before we enter active consideration. These include:
- Word of mouth
- Social media
- The internet
- Past purchases
Path to purchase considerations
There’s many criteria to consider when researching and understanding the shape of a path to purchase:
- Is the purchase a product or a service?
- Is it a repertoire or single brand category?
- Is it a habitual or considered purchase?
- How much purchase risk is there?
Take many FMCG purchase journeys, they’re about reinforcing habits and loyalty or they’re looking to encourage switching by disrupting others’ established habits. Through the sheer amount of choice that is available for some FMCG categories, this can result in some very late decision making.
The next time you’re in a supermarket, look at how people are reacting to a whole aisle of cereal options. With so much choice, you’ll see people changing their minds right at the point of purchase. This poses the question: To what extent are brand experiences required in an FMCG purchase journey?
For a more high-involvement category such as home loans, the key cues are not going to rely on the number of brands you’re aware of in an infrequently used category. What’s required is reassurance of a brand or a product’s credentials to help guide the decision in a complex category riddled with complex small print.
When it comes to technology-based purchases we can be so well informed about products by simply Googling reviews while in-store. This amount of available information allows us to circle back on what we once thought was the ‘final’ decision.
From these examples, it’s safe to say there is definitely more than one model of pathway to purchase to understand and here’s three potential models we consider when working on pathway to purchase projects at Ruby Cha Cha.
1. The Classic Linear Model
Let’s start with ‘the classic’ consumer funnel – aka the ‘journey to loyalty’ or the ‘hierarchy of effects’. Underpinned by the AIDA approach, it’s been popularised by the likes of P&G and Unilever with the advent of mass media; radio in the 30’s and TV from 50’s.
Despite its age, it is the foundation of most approaches to brand health and equity measurement with the aim of getting as many loyalists as possible.
Traits of this model include:
- It’s about the reduction of brands.
- It’s linear.
- It assumes consumers already have a need for the category.
- It also assumes people are familiar and knowledgeable about their options to take it through to the next stage.
2. The ‘Bulge’ Model
This funnel has a bulge in it – it’s not based solely on the reduction of brands. Consumer awareness does not have to be the entry point or determinant of success. Decisions are based on the discovery of further options, learning, and initial filtering. The internet is a key enabler for this model and this has been accelerated with social media and mobile devices.
- More assured sales.
- Lower marketing costs.
- Greater brand value.
Some suggest loyalty creates a short cut straight back to the purchase and in some instances, this is true. But in many instances the consumer will go back through the cycle again. The role of loyalty here is to build resistance to competitive offers at the ‘aware’, ‘evaluate’, and ‘consider’ stages.
3. The Circular Model
A limitation of the path or funnel analogy, is that it has a definite start and end point that suggests a focus on acquisition. But a big part of the work marketers do is to focus on retention, as this provides:
Traits of this model include:
- It’s not linear.
- The ‘evaluate’ stage is also an entry point for more options.
- It’s about empowered consumers who can seek out relevant brands (especially through digital or social) rather than being ‘sold to’. This makes it:
- Easier and faster for pre-purchase search.
- Easier and wider WOM advocacy.
- Easier and more cost effective for consumer participation.
Traits of this model include:
- It’s a cycle as to where new prospects / customers can join.
- There are also points at which customers can ‘churn out’ or switch brands.
We want to be able to inform marketers on how to reach customers in the right place, at the right time, and with the right message. As researchers looking to understand more complex paths to purchase, Ruby Cha Cha has several tools at our disposal.
Through a mix of longitudinal research, in-depth interviews, mobile diaries and accompanied shopping outings we can:
- Respondents are recruited based on their proximity to point of purchase within a category, allowing us to uncover how the stages are different.
- Record activity related to the purchase pathway. Through written accounts, video recordings and materials uploaded to an online community for moderator observation and discussion.
- Assign respondents ‘missions’. Which allows behaviours and experiences to be observed and recorded
This allows us to establish the framework for any category and to show how different touchpoints work for purchases and loyalty.