The ‘shopper journey’ doesn’t mean what you think it does
Through a special arrangement, what follows is a summary of an article from Retail Paradox, RSR Research’s weekly analysis on emerging issues facing retailers, presented here for discussion.
A couple weeks ago I was on a briefing call with a vendor who started talking about shopper journey design and how to incent consumers to take desired next steps in the “journey process.”
That conversation gave me a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach because I realized that, one, a lot of people are now using the term “shopper journey” and yet we clearly don’t all mean the same thing. And two, I’m worried about the direction that one of these definitions is taking.
Shopper journeys should be about discovery, not design. You should be learning about how your customers shop, not deciding what is the best way for them to shop and then forcing them to conform.
That’s not to say that you should be completely hands-off. Far from it! But there’s a huge difference between supporting and forcing something. And let’s be realistic: many shopper journeys are pretty simple and straightforward, like the one where the consumer makes a grocery list. Retailers can go far in taking opportunities to influence that journey.
Yet as more channels and touchpoints proliferate, consumers have many more choices for how they can choose to engage with a retailer. Ultimately, that’s a more expensive selling process because every touchpoint adds more cost to the retailer’s operations. But retail has no captive audience. It’s just too easy for a consumer to switch to someone else if the retailer makes it hard to engage with them in the way they want to engage.
In that sense, journey design is very dangerous. It implies that the retailer is in control. And I thought we already figured out that you’re not — the consumer is. So quit trying to force them into the behaviors you want to see, and instead focus on how to help them achieve whatever it is they’re trying to achieve.
Once retailers internalize exactly how much “helping them” is different from “selling stuff” — once they see that “selling stuff” is an outcome, not a strategy — we’ll see real changes driven by omni-channel.
How effectively do you see retailers guiding consumers through shopping journeys? How should influencing shoppers along their journey be rethought to adapt to multiple channels and touchpoints?