Saturday, February 17, 2007

Should the pre-shopping phenomenon affect retail marketing plans?

Over at RetailWire Alan McClain did a nice writeup of a presentation by Deloitte & Touche's Pat Conroy did at the NRF this year. The most interesting piece of the whole thing:

A key finding of the survey was that 66 percent of store visits this holiday season were not influenced by advertising and marketing. Mr. Conroy said this is consistent with previous studies and shows that, to win shoppers, retailers need to deliver consistent shopping experiences and fulfill brand promises. In other words, previous shopping experiences are more important than advertising messages.
Apparently, in an effort to save time and make shopping more efficient, more people are engaging in so-called pre-shopping techniques, like searching for a product or store information online before actually visiting the store. In fact, 61% if those surveyed by Deloitte did this kind of thing, which obviously means that push-based advertising and marketing takes a back seat to research (to some extent) in these cases.

The point that McClain raises at the end of this is whether retailers would be willing to take some portion of their traditional advertising budget and spend it more on cultivating customer relationships and improving the in-store experience. Obviously most retailers are hesitant to make "cuts" in t heir marketing budgets, but I think in this case most would need to be convinced that it would be more of a reordering of marketing priorities, and re-purposing of funds, maybe even by adding some portion of the new customer service and CRM initiatives into the marketing budget.

We've heard lots of stories before about shopping being an experience, a destination or a pastime. But the research presented by Deloitte suggests that some times, a shopping trip is more like a job or a task, where some analytical research at the beginning of the process can yield better results (in terms of total time and money spent), without much of an emotional appeal during the pre-shopping process (which, since it limits the amount of "actual" shopping time, also reduces the emotional component of the shopping trip itself).

I'm still of the opinion that most shopping trips can be broken down into one of these two categories (e.g. either "pastime" or "task"), however it also seems likely that elements of one can seep into the other. For example, shopping for a high-def TV, something that can only really be considered a non-essential luxury item, is going to have some emotional toll. Shoppers will visit one or more stores not just to look at different screens and check prices, but also to pick the brains of store employees, check out any necessary accessories, etc. Considering how big of a purchase it is, though, those same people will go home and do research on line, looking at customer reviews and competitor pricing before making a purchase decision. In this case, the "shopping" portion of the purchase process is still largely experience-driven. The "buying" portion, however, is more analytical in nature, and is thus more prone to the effects of pre-shopping (and maybe even post-shopping) research.

Tags: retail media, in-store experience, shopping, retail marketing

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