BrainTrust Query: Three Purchase States
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of an article from Views, the blog of TNS Retail and Shopper. Click here for a copy of the full essay.
In what I refer to as my purchase states hypothesis, the trillions of unique events in an in-store shopping experience, for practical purposes, can be boiled down to three simple buckets.
The Routine/Autopilot State: The first and by far the largest shopping state is when you buy something over and over again and it becomes an habitual process. The shopper shifts from consciously thinking about the purchase to an autopilot state that efficiently makes the purchase without a thought. It is this behavior that Neale Martin refers to as "the 95 percent of behavior that marketers ignore."
The Surprise/Delight State: You find the new $35,000 car you want is available for $29,000. The one huge problem in surprising/delighting shoppers: almost invariably, the retailer instinctively turns to price as the tool of choice.
The Frustration State: You need shoe laces, a piece of luggage that is "just right" or maybe a particular type of sauce that you can’t find in the store. Simply finding something that you might buy every two years may be a chore unless you are in the habit of seeing it regularly.
Why is this is important? Although category management is essential to managing stores, it falls well short of addressing item purchases. Shoppers do not purchase categories, they purchase individual items. By focusing on these three purchase states related to items, I have recognized the diversity that may occur from purchase to purchase on a single trip.
These three states also illuminate some of the issues in the continuing evolution of retailing across online, mobile and bricks-and-mortar. Although online can deliver some surprise/delight, the emotional, immediate experience in the "real" world would seem to give the advantage to the physical store. But, in terms of search, it’s hard to see how the bricks-and-mortar store will be able to compete without a huge inventory and shopper electronic search capabilities — smartphones, for example.
This leaves the routine/autopilot purchase as a real battleground between bricks and clicks. Automating routine purchases is a potential winner for the online store. However, bear in mind that surprise/delight may seriously alleviate the drudgery or blandness of the routine in the bricks store. The real challenge for the bricks store is to minimize frustration by moving as much purchasing into autopilot as possible and spicing the mix with a limited amount of surprise and delight. Spice is good, but only in limited amounts!
Discussion Questions: What do you think of the author’s purchase states hypothesis? What are the advantages as well as perhaps some possible shortcomings of analyzing item purchases in this manner?