Synthesizing Across Platforms, Channels and Partners

Last month, I attended the Shopper Insights in Action Conference at Navy Pier in Chicago. This year’s theme around synthesis to achieve more holistic activation struck a particular cord with me. To accomplish this synergizing of ecosystems including digital and bricks and mortar, presenters agreed you must have the right insights, which means more than tracking purchase behavior and asking questions via surveys. You must understand your shopper at a deeper level—specifically, their psychological motivations and subconscious mental models that drive their behavior. Here are three consistent themes that stood out to me:

Getting to human truths that go beyond what people say. This was music to my ears since that’s at the core of what Brandtrust® believes and practices. It was nice to see many companies embracing the need to understand emotions and deeper drivers of behavior, in other words what’s going on subconsciously and your shopper’s psyche. There was a lot of reference to the great work of Daniel Kahneman, the father of behavioral economics, explaining how people make decisions. We should all be learning more about how System 1 thinking is at play with our shoppers since that’s where most decision-making occurs. System 1 relies on heuristics, mental models and their associated emotions that become our intuition, which subconsciously streamlines how the brain processes information and makes decisions. Our learning plans, research approaches and research partners need to incorporate this latest body of behavioral economics thinking to keep us ahead of the game.

Here are a few thoughts expressed by some of the presenters to help get us to a more emotionally resonant place of engagement with our shoppers:

  • Understand where beliefs come from and what causes someone to act.
  • Understand psychological motivations underneath behavior.
  • Understand how people balance their goals, especially when they conflict in the shopping moment.
  • Understand what the category and your brand do at an emotional level.
  • Understand how to make it a more intuitive experience in store.

The world of big data. Whether you think it’s already here or it’s coming, it’s a big topic of conversation these days. And working in a business world with lots of data is not new to those of us who have grown up with category management. Having access to data to mine for behavioral clues and insights and to create measurement tools and scorecards is an important part of managing your business. But data alone is not sufficient as many of the presenters pointed out. Data without understanding the bigger system or context your consumer/shopper/customer is operating in is not as powerful and can lead you astray. Connecting the dots between data points and why those data points exist is critical. Only then can you really tell the story from your most important stakeholder’s point of view, your customer.

Sir Terry Leahy, former CEO of Tesco, talked about this in his keynote address. And the proof is in the pudding. Under his leadership, Tesco moved from third place behind Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer to the top spot in the UK and third place in the world. As he revealed in his book “Management in 10 Words”, data is priceless. But other vital attributes must also be present to achieve success: find the truth and follow the customer. Tesco is an amazing example of both the use of data, partnering and subsequently acquiring dunnhumby, coupled with understanding the local needs of the communities it serves and customers, who helped redesign Tesco stores. My favorite takeaway from his talk was, “You are there to learn from your customers, not judge them.”

Convergence of online and offline. Digital and mobile were also hot topics with many of us asking what’s the right strategy and level of investment as touch points morph across digital and bricks and mortar? What’s the future for retail? We must understand the emotional why’s and mindsets underneath digital behavior as well as bricks and mortar behavior to be able to identify which needs are better served in each environment. As one presenter put it, this will help guide the right strategy and investment. And budgets are not getting bigger either! The big message here is that you need a deep understanding of your target’s entire journey, not individual touch points in isolation. What do they need to satisfy and accomplish at the touch points that matter most to them regardless of where they sit, online or offline? Your customer expects their experience with your product or service, no matter where, to be seamless and in service of their needs and desires. Identifying the most emotionally resonant touch points is paramount. Only in this way can you architect a customer experience at the brand, category or retail level, online and offline that delights and surprises your customer and rewards you with competitive advantage.

I found the opening keynote from Paul Roth, President of Retail Sales and Service for AT&T Mobility very inspiring. His talk was all about the evolution of the AT&T experience starting from a deep understanding of the desired customer experience including online and in store. The question is not, is it retail or the web but rather what channel or touch point does the customer prefer based on the specific activity they need to accomplish during their journey? And the customer expects their experience across all key touch points to be tightly integrated. Each touch point’s pure purpose is to serve the need and activity of the customer in that moment. And Paul said it best from the customer’s perspective, “I just want you to know me.” If you have not visited AT&T’s flagship store at 600 N. Michigan Ave. in Chicago, to see how they have transformed and tailored their retail experience to meet and exceed their customer’s expectations, it’s worth checking out. It’s a truly emotionally engaging retail experience.

What did you think of the conference? Share your thoughts in the comments here or via Twitter. Hopefully we’ll see you at the next one!


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