Consumer Insights as Alignment with Customer Needs
We often think of our customer’s relationship to our product category in isolation, removing crucial outside influences that may shape purchasing behavior. Consumer preferences are a bit more complicated.
As retailers, marketers, and brand managers, we often think of our customer’s relationship to our product category in isolation, removing crucial outside influences that may shape purchasing behavior. In our view, consumer preferences are a bit more complicated. Consumers take a variety of paths to purchase, and understanding how they get on and off of these paths is crucial to leveraging consumer insights in the real world. It’s not necessarily about changing consumer preferences and habits; instead, we recommend an approach that focuses on aligning with consumer needs and priorities.
In order to demonstrate consumers’ varying paths, we conducted a study on cosmetic purchases done at grocery, mass, and drug stores. Rather than assuming the path our respondents took (choosing a need, choosing a brand, choosing a store, making a purchase,) we spent a bit more time asking make-up shoppers how and why they made the decisions that led them to purchase. What we found is that shoppers’ differing paths offer marketers differing opportunities to reach them, and the right message in the right place can make a difference.
One of our most surprising discoveries was that some make-up purchases are not really based on make-up factors at all. About 10% of our respondents wound up making their purchase not based on a desire for a particular brand or product feature, but instead because it was conveniently available where they were already shopping. These shoppers had a cosmetics need, but it was only activated in the context of an existing shopping trip. That is to say, if these shoppers are headed to Wal-Mart, their consideration set isn’t “all make-up products in the category” but “the make-up products on the Wal-Mart shelf.” While recognizing the importance of varied retail channels is not a new insight, survey research approaches need to take into account that sometimes purchase decisions have already been constrained by external choices about the shopping trip.
Digging deeper into the priorities of make-up customers, we also discovered that these priorities evolve and change over time. Some consumers are simply looking for the best value on what they need, while others are looking for specific features. In our deep-dive on make-up purchases we found that these value considerations were much larger priorities for our younger consumers, who are likely more constrained in terms of income. In contrast, older consumers have a clearer picture of the product they want, and are willing to shop for the specific features they need. Whether due to the wisdom of age or simply being burned one-too-many times, older consumers have a more specific idea of what they’re looking for going into the shopping trip.
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