How Mobile Is Unlocking the Shopper’s Path to Purchase

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by Lisa Cramer

Right now 72% of your consumers frequently shop across channels (2016 Reality of Retail Study).

More than ever you need to understand your consumers’ path to purchase and start anticipating their behavior rather than just trying to stay relevant. But, the truth is you’re drowning in data and struggling to pinpoint actionable insights.

So, what can you do? Use a tool that is with your consumers every step of their journey: mobile.

Perhaps one of the most overlooked, but extremely valuable tactics for any retailer or manufacturer selling within these stores trying to get a better understanding of their shoppers and lead their brand to growth is mobile path to purchase research.

Unlike it’s research predecessors—i.e. traditional focus groups, individual interviews, observations—some of the benefits of mobile research are:

  • Easy to setup
  • Quick turn around (on average you can complete in 2-4 weeks)
  • Affordable
  • Highly actionable (you’ll get actionable next steps not more data to analyze)
  • Un-biased
  • Gathers insights in-the-moment, as shoppers are making decisions in their path to purchase

Thanks to advances in technology, costs have actually dropped precipitously. Now mobile research is by far one of the easiest and cheapest ways to really understanding shopper behavior and their path to purchase in and out-of-store so you can better engage them at the appropriate time and place. And, it is a a great way to identify gaps in your customer experience and marketing strategies.

For example, for one client we were able to use the insights to turn a failing product, on the verge of getting kicked out of Lowe’s, into a Lowe’s category leader. For another client we discovered that the brand’s understanding of their products’ ranking against competitions was actually far below consumer perceptions—consumers actually felt the products and brand were as good if not better as their top competitors, which led to a complete change in their advertising and marketing. And, for one client we were able to use the insights gained to create an in-store experience that completely disrupted how consumers shopped their category, giving them the ability to break away from the competition with double-digit sales growth and into big-box retail.

So now that you have an idea of what mobile research can do for your brand, how do you go about evaluating and selecting a mobile research provider? Outside of determining the basics around sample size, incidence, etc., here are 5 questions you must ask to ensure you’ll be getting the insights you need:

  1. Does the research solution use mobile to gather insights as participants are actually moving through their path to purchase?
  2. Here you’re looking for the solution to be more than a mobile-friendly online survey, the idea is that you want to be collecting feedback from participants in the moment of truth—so as they’re interacting with the brand, considering the product, looking at alternatives or making a decision. Relying on participants to recall what happened post-experience, is not as accurate as mobile in-the-moment journaling, and it will ultimately mean a loss of critical insights.

  3. Does the provider use a blended mobile solution that supplements mobile research with online focus groups or some other method of gathering further insights?
  4. Here’s the thing, using mobile is the best way to get quick insights as it relates to the path to purchase—before, during and after a purchase. But, it mainly allows for quick, short answers, photos, videos and critical in-the-moment insights. For a more in-depth understanding of the consumer’s experience and behavior, you’ll need to allow for further explanation—so that you can dig deeper and uncover consumer motivations, perceptions and behaviors. No one research method will give you all the insights you need, so make sure that you find a hybrid solution that mixes mobile research methods with another form of in-depth, un-biased research method. In this way, you can drill down further after the initial mobile portion and ask open-ended questions and gather more context to participant answers for a full view of the customers’ behavior. Keep in mind this blended solution should not extend your lead time; it should still only take 2-4 weeks for completion.

  5. Does the research provider actually have experience creating retail customer experience solutions from their insights?
  6. This question is one of the best ways to tell whether or not you will be getting more data versus actionable insights. If the research provider isn’t grounded in retail customer experience design and implementation, they likely won’t have the know-how or experience to formulate the right questions needed to give you the shopper insights you need to drive engagement and conversion and improve your sales numbers. This is especially true when it comes to brick-and-mortar touch points, which are often even more critical to understand given their hold on over 91% of all retail sales in the U.S and limited analytics. Without the right experience behind your project, often the final deliverable will be pumped with generic insights around your category or industry rather than insights specific to your particular brand and customer experience. Analyses will often lead to more and more analyses, and you’ll be stuck struggling to turn data into action yet again.

  7. Does the mobile research platform cater to diverse recording preferences so participants can easily submit their responses without issue, i.e. video, text, pictures and audio?
  8. Each participant is different; you want to make sure you are eliminating any hindrances that might inhibit them from easily submitting responses, by giving them a range of options. Limiting participants to one method of responding will only limit their ability to give you a full view of what they were really experiencing, thinking and seeing. And, audio, pictures and video responses are often chock full of invaluable insight.

  9. Will the research solution gather any insights about what competitors are doing and how consumers perceive your brand versus these competitors?

A critical component of understanding your shoppers’ path to purchase and measuring your customer experience is knowing how you compare to your top competitors. How are they marketing to consumers? How are consumers interacting with their brand versus yours? And, what are consumer perceptions of your brand versus the competition, and why? These are additional kinds of insights you must push for when evaluating a mobile research solution so you can really understand where the opportunity is in capturing and engaging your consumer base and ultimately drive your brand forward.

Today brands that shine go beyond hoarding data mounds; they find insights they can use to create truly valuable customer experiences and results. Mobile path to purchase research is helping many retailers and manufacturers close that gap. What could it do for your brand?

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