Our studies at Savitz Research Solutions show that consumers have become adept at blending digital and traditional channels throughout the shopping process to maximize value. This phenomenon is creating all kinds of new challenges and opportunities for marketers. We find this is true in all categories from CPG and personal care to automobiles and consumer electronics.
Further, consumers vary dramatically in terms of how they approach shopping and buying in any given category. We find that some consumers (regardless of demographics) use more of a traditional process, i.e., rely on in-store information such as the salesperson and packaging. Others of the same demographic may do extensive online research in category specific sites whereas others do online research but mostly for price shopping. Customers are incredibly individualistic in terms of how they go about any given category. Each optimizes the experience individually. Online touch points are usually many and varied, presenting an incredibly challenging media placement decision.
We do see growth of online purchaser segments at manufacturer websites, retailer websites and category specialty sites. One would expect more sales to shift to these online venues given current trends. Several of the leading brands such as P&G have opened their own online stores while general marketplaces like Amazon and Walmart.com continue to grow. The question is…who will win out and what will be the eventual structure of online marketplaces?
In all cases, it appears the shopping process is non-linear. It’s probably more accurate to think of the shopping process to be a 24/7 phenomenon where consumers are constantly learning and refining their needs and choices. This is why perhaps shopper segmentations – segmenting shoppers on the basis of which touch points they use to purchase in different categories – should emerge as the foundational element of marketing plans and strategy.
A President of a major packaged goods company recently commented that their shopper segmentation in effect had uncovered wholly new channels (of how consumers move from shopping to purchase) around which their new marketing and merchandising strategies would be executed.