The customer journey and path to purchase has changed from a linear process to a more convoluted route, a change that can be largely attributed to digital technology. Digital and mobile technology means that consumers are ‘always on’ and have the ability to shop and buy, anytime and anywhere. Thus these channels are critical engagement platforms in the customer journey.

  • Research suggests purchase decisions start long before shoppers enter a store. Thus brands need to implement multi-touchpoint shopper strategies.
  • The physical store has to be more than a place to buy goods. Experiences, tours, taste and touch are important to physical retailing. Uniqlo and Adidas are two brands using innovative in-store techniques to engage with shoppers.
  • It is important to align all aspects of the business – strategy, comms and employees – to optimise the customer journey.

I've dug deep into the Warc archive to showcase a selection of case studies and articles that provide guidance on this complex topic.

What we know about shopper strategy and the path-to-purchase

Despite the undoubted changes in purchase behaviours and shopper expectations, the underlying emotional needs influencing shoppers remain generally the same. By understanding the behaviours and emotional drivers of different shopper types, marketers can develop effective points of connection throughout the purchase process that work in-store, online or on mobile, as well as fit with their wider advertising and communications.

The new rules for shopping

Seamless interconnectivity between devices means that purchase decisions - or the moment of truths - often happen outside the store. Thus brands need to think about a multi-touchpoint shopper strategy. Physical stores have the opportunity to engage with in-store shoppers in new innovative ways. Uniqlo, the Japanese-owned clothes store, for example, uses digitised mirrors to show customers how items they’re trying on might look in other colours in the range. The authors of this paper assert the future of retail is ‘high touch’ as well as ‘high tech’.

Total retail: design the shopper experience

This article explores how brands can bring together physical, human and digital elements to create a coherent and engaging customer experience. The role of physical retail is discussed and four main roles within physical retail are identified including immediate, excursive, immersive and tactile. The importance of employees should not be overlooked - they play a vital role in the customer experience.

Trends Snapshot: iBeacon - New ways to connect with shoppers

iBeacon, is a technology that allows every device powered by Apple's latest iOS 7 operating system to transmit and receive unique signals via Bluetooth, across a distance spanning up to 150 feet. This new and innovative technology enables coupons and targeted ads to be delivered to shoppers in-store. Brands such as Coca-Cola and American Eagle Outfitters are experimenting with this new and innovative technology which has the potential to play a key role in the consumer path to purchase. That said, privacy is a big issue – integrity and security should be considered when using iBeacon tech.

How Warby Parker disrupted the eyewear category

Warby Parker, the US eyewear retailer, launched an online business in 2009 which put customer service, distinctive style and good value at the heart of its strategy. According to Neil Blumenthal, Warby Parker's ceo/co-founder, "the problem was that buying glasses was too expensive and not fun". So Warby Parker sent customers dummy frames of their choice to trial at home, hence simplifying the path to purchase. Customer service videos were produced and became a form of marketing. Word of mouth took off and the brand hit first year sales targets in three weeks; sold top 15 styles in four weeks and has opened several physical stores. "This is problem-solving and a form of marketing," said Blumenthal. The online-only brand has since expanded to include physical stores. 

Pantene weather program

Using contextually based mobile advertising and real-time location-based data, Pantene, the hair care brand, embarked on a shopper marketing campaign in partnership with Walgreens, the US pharmacy chain, and The Weather Channel to address a key consumer pain point, ‘bad hair days’. Upon checking the daily forecast on The Weather Channel, mobile phone users were served a personalised "haircast" with suggestions for the most appropriate Pantene product to suit the conditions outside. Shopper marketing was vital - the tie-up with Walgreens (where sales increased by 24%) smoothed the path to purchase, and consumers received relevant discounts and rewards.

Knorr: "What's For Dinner?"

Knorr, the savoury foods brand, targeted mothers with children under 12 in this fully integrated campaign that included TV, radio, direct-to-home, e-mail, social media, mobile, and in particular, digital and in-store marketing. The strategy was to help Mums find new ideas and inspiration for the ‘what’s for dinner?’ dilemma. Knorr created a series of recipe cards and customised meal solutions which were promoted pre-shop (search, email, PR), in-store, and post-shop (encourage sharing recipe ideas and photos on social media). Collaboration with the Food Network and Canal Vie TV channels helped Knorr reinforce its message: that it is an inspiring cooking partner for Mums. Sales increased despite a flat category, campaign awareness reached 22% in 10 months and over 70 million digital media impressions were served.

How Walmart’s mobile-led strategy drives a seamless shopper experience

This event report describes how Walmart, the world's largest retailer, has optimised and integrated its online, in-store and mobile offerings in the US to offer customers a seamless shopping experience. The retailer implemented a three-phase plan: mobilising its digital experience, mobilising its stores by offering in-store mobile tools and accelerating its multi-channel offerings to provide a seamless experience across devices. Its in-store mobile developments included: offering customers a shopping list app for planning their shopping trip; a welcome app when they arrive in store providing special offers and QR and bar code scanners; and innovations at check out such as the trial of a Scan & Go program and the provision of e-receipts.

Digital and the new consumer: Emerging paths to purchase

This Havas Worldwide Prosumer Report looks at consumer attitudes to digital commerce and found that people are increasingly mixing online and offline to make smarter purchases; mobile devices are key to this integration. The ability to touch, feel or try on an item is still important, but reasons for shopping online rather than in-store centre on convenience and better prices.

Warc subscribers can find out more on this challenging topic on our Topic Page dedicated to Shopper Marketing.