Walking a mile in the digital shopper’s shoes

Discussion
Apr 01, 2015

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.

The hard part with digital is that there are a lot of guessing games around how consumers shop. With mobile in particular, there are a lot questions around what consumers are really trying to accomplish — they may not be using mobile to shop in the same way they use a desktop site.

Either way, if you guess wrong, it’s hard to really tell — it’s not like a store where you can see what’s not working. You only see what’s wrong in digital when sales and traffic tank. And even then, after you trace the issue back to a certain page or link or graphic, you may not understand why the issue exists.

Two themes emphasized quite a bit at Internet Retailer’s Digital Design Conference appear valuable whether you are looking just at digital, or looking at the shopping experience holistically.

Theme 1: How they want to buy, not how you want to sell

When thinking about promotions or featured images or product recommendations, it’s less about what you want to promote and more about what customers want to buy, and how they want to buy them.

Scott Kincaid of Usability Sciences showed video of a man looking for handguns at a sporting goods retailer’s website. Right under the product description — prime real estate — was a "popular products" section showing a women’s swimsuit, children’s flip flops, boy’s batting helmet, and a fly fishing rod. While perhaps popular across the website, they had nothing to do with the category being shopped, missing related products like holsters or ammunition or clips. The prime real estate was not only wasted space, it demonstrated to the shopper that the retailer wasn’t interested in helping him make his purchase.

Theme 2: Walk a mile in their shoes

Relatedly, you can be committed to Theme 1 without ever actually walking a mile in your customers’ shoes. One head of digital I know ambushes customers in stores and gives them gift cards to entice them to buy something from their mobile phone. Employees can also be used as guinea pigs to test out the mobile shopping processes and provide feedback.

Things that you think are obvious will rapidly be exposed as a fantasy. During one session at IRDD, we watched a consumer look at absolutely every other piece of content on a page, trying to find the "Locate in Store" button, except for right at the button at the center of the page.

But guess what? It doesn’t matter if it’s obvious to you. It only matters if your customers can find it, and know how to use it

How should retailers be rethinking the path to purchase with digital and mobile, in particular? What obvious and less obvious customer needs does mobile shopping need to address?

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11 Comments on "Walking a mile in the digital shopper’s shoes"


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Chris Petersen, PhD
Guest
7 years 1 month ago

How should retailers be rethinking the path to purchase? By doing exactly what the title of the article says—walk a mile in THEIR shoes!

In my meetings with retail executives and merchants, it is simply amazing how many have never considered or tried an omnichannel consumer path to purchase in their own stores.

Most retail management teams are still making design and merchandising decisions as if the shopper has not previously visited other e-commerce sites. This is such a fundamental flaw that is so easily corrected.

Debbie Hauss
Guest
7 years 1 month ago

When it comes to mobile, ease, relevance and simplicity are key, as Nikki points out. Shoppers don’t want to have to sift through irrelevant noise on their mobile devices before finding what they are looking for. They will be less patient on their mobile devices vs. their PCs, so the fewer clicks the better.

Also, obviously real-time shopper data must be available at every touch point along the journey. If a customer started the experience at home on their PC, then continued it on their smartphone and finally ended up in the store, the store associate needs to have that information in hand as soon as the shopper enters the store in order to deliver the desired personalized experience.

Max Goldberg
Guest
7 years 1 month ago

Great article, Nikki. Retailers need to talk to their customers if they want to find out how those customers use their mobile devices to shop. Customers want mobile to save them time. They want screens that are easy to see and sites that are easy to navigate on small screens. They want to quickly find the items they desire and add them to their carts. They want loyalty information stored on their phones, along with coupons. And they want ease of checkout. Few retailers are doing this, yet this is what consumers want. What’s the problem?

Gib Bassett
Guest
7 years 1 month ago
What comes right to mind is first looking at mobile as a touch point or screen that is used at home, on the go, and in the store—it’s not just about the in store experience. I think you need to abstract the consumer’s shopping journey from particular channels and instead look at their needs in the pre-shop, shopping and post-shopping phase. With digital, it’s possible to deliver against these stages on a one-to-one basis either in a segmented way or individually. And then also understand what’s working/not working relative to the paths that happy customers take, to take corrective actions in terms of content or offers, so you don’t have to wait to see if sales decline to understand the outcomes. In terms of subtleties with regards to mobile, I was in one of the largest malls in the U.S. the other day testing out mobile engagement by retailers. Wi-Fi access was sketchy throughout and there were few to no analog signs directing shoppers how to engage the retailer’s potential in-store program—it was a complete… Read more »
Adrian Weidmann
Guest
7 years 1 month ago

The line that really resonated with me was “things that you think are obvious will rapidly be exposed as a fantasy.” I can’t think of a single research, measurement and analysis engagement that I’ve had where quantifiable evidence has exposed what was thought to be obvious as fantasy. Unless you observe, experience and measure actual shoppers shopping you’ll never know the truth.

It is imperative to “walk a mile in their shoes.” Without that direct experience you simply are susceptible to agency “experts.” This is one reason why exit surveys, focus groups and labs are flawed. People will tell you what you want to hear or what they want you to hear.

Observing real shoppers in a real shopping environment is the only way to determine the real value of any initiative. When you believe your own PR and that of your agency you’re in trouble. It is imperative that you observe and understand why, how, when, where and what shoppers buy. Overlay their expectations and then design and activate a solution that solves THAT equation.

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
7 years 1 month ago

As of today, mobile engagement with retailers (and CPG brands) is hit-or-miss at best. Whether you’re accessing a mobile site in your home or via beacons in-store or however. Consistent access is the first step to making mobile a widely-adopted component of the path to purchase. Mobile can be the first choice for shoppers in the very near future, however until apps and sites are easier to access and navigate, the market will continue to be in flux.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
7 years 1 month ago

Does anyone agree with me when I say retailers have no concrete plan on how to attract and sell to the digital customer? This is in the embryonic stages. It will be settled on a chain by chain basis. One plan will not fit all. The smartest thing would be to walk in the customers shoes. What do they really want? Then give it to them.

Vahe Katros
Guest
Vahe Katros
7 years 1 month ago
How should retailers rethink the path to purchase? This question needs to be broken down by shopper type and mission and category and time. Then once you find the slice you are going after (taking into consideration ROI or LTV-ROI) you need to uncover the hows and whys of the shoppers’ engagement/behaviors, their choices and non-choices. Methods like shop-alongs or intercepts are well known techniques, but conducting the research using qualified people is a little expensive, so it’s usually not done, as this article suggests. But when in comes to insights, it’s been said that they come from the empty space, the non-event, when for example, someone doesn’t buy something after a long period of examinations and photos. Those moments can be very informative, so training some of the staff to conduct intercepts in those moments might be a great use of that research facility retailer occupy called stores. Let’s say that staff person (say it’s in your lab store) uncovers that the sale hinges on color matching, would a swatch help, should you send them… Read more »
Lee Kent
Guest
7 years 1 month ago

This all goes back to journey mapping at its best! Retail needs to set aside old thinking about marketing and selling and actually focus on customer personas and their paths to purchace. There is no one-size-fits-all and there is no “ideal” customer to map to.

It starts by breaking down those personas into the various paths and meeting the customer at every touchpoint as well as every identified exit point to give them what they want and need to continue the journey.

Sometimes the path to purchase is “I know what I want, now I need to find it.” Have you given them what they need at the right touchpoint?

And that’s my 2 cents.

Arie Shpanya
Guest
7 years 1 month ago

As with any channel retailers sell on, the key to making the buyer experience easier is asking for feedback. If a shopper is confused at all, they’re just going to click or tap over to another site. It’s up to retailers to ask shoppers how easy it is to navigate their site. Learning from what’s working and what’s not is necessary to help channels perform as best as they can.

Kai Clarke
Guest
7 years 1 month ago

Customer service and customer communication, all designed around increasing customer satisfaction and delivering to the customer the retail experience which they desire, are what digital and mobile retailing should (and can) focus on.

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