When someone starts shopping, that is, when the desire to buy something awakens, it could happen in one of three ways; needs-led, shopping-led, or brand-led. Needs-led shopping occurs when you are running out of something or find yourself having an episodic need. It is more functional as the need comes before the brand and you probably won’t make a brand decision until you get to the store. Good for price brands, but not so good for national brands. Shopping-led purchasing is when you are in a store for another purpose and you discover something that creates an urge or are reminded to buy. This is where a retailer can really differentiate themselves via shopping experience that leads to greater ring. Brand-led shopping is when interest in a brand is the initiator.
Marketers should want their bought, owned, and earned media to do four things:
- create brand led shopping so you are not only in the consideration set, you start in the pole position
- guide people through the pre-shopping process to reinforce your pole position as they move from pre-shopping to shopping
- seal the deal through smart shopper marketing (which now includes mobile) because most shoppers are still considering options at point of purchase
- Reinforce and help shape brand experience
Here is a personal example of how advertising can create brand-led shopping that will illustrate the concept. I don’t NEED a new car. My BMW X5, which I got new in 2003, still has low mileage and works fine. But then I started seeing ads for the Lincoln MKX and MyFord Touch technology and, well, I got the itch. So what did I do next? In yesteryear, I might have bought an auto magazine. Today, I googled Lincoln to go to their website, and then I went to MSN.com to compare Lincoln MKX to Cadillac and, of course, BMW, since I still love my X5. Behavioral Economists will be happy to note that I did NOT bother to check out the other 10 or so brands that MSN told me were comparable. I have yet to test drive, but those are the three showrooms…Lincoln, Caddy, BMW…I plan to go to.
Lincoln’s advertising got me started in my shopping process, and put their brand in the pole position of consideration. It is Lincoln’s game to lose at this point. However, the advertising did not make this a done deal. If I don’t like the driving experience, or if it just doesn’t feel like me as much as one of the others, or if the dealership is rude, I will probably buy something else.
This view of media gives advertising an integrate shopper and consumer purpose. Touchpoints must be used strategically as they are unlikely to be interchangeable. The special contribution of a mass medium like TV is probably to create brand led shopping while digital display, search, and owned media probably influence the pre-shopping stage more. Shopper marketing, including mobile, becomes essential to win the purchase irrespective of how the shopping process got initiated. Social media create a post-purchase community.
Finally, the measurement guy inside me notes that I didn’t use the word “awareness” once in creating a shopper-based view of how advertising works. It really is time for a new set of shopper-based brand metrics.