Do Your Shoppers Face a Purchasing Dilemma? How to Give the Right Customer Choice Every Time

I’ve just come back from a week’s course in Spain organised by the European Monroe Institute. The course was on consciousness, a thing all good marketers need to develop, especially when it comes to their customers’ choices.

The reason I am referring to this course, besides the fact that it was led by the brilliant consciousness expert Arkaitz, is because we spoke about a subject that is very relevant for shopper marketing. I did in fact already touch on something similar in last week’s post. I’m speaking about decision making and the difference between Polarity, Duality, Dilemmas and Trilemmas. For clarification, these terms refer to:

Polaritythe state of having or expressing two directly opposite tendencies, opinions, etc

Dualitythe state or quality of being two or in two parts; dichotomy, the division into two parts, kinds, etc

Dilemmaa situation requiring a choice between (equally undesirable) alternatives.

Trilemmaa situation, analogous to a dilemma, in which there are three (almost equally undesirable) alternatives.

Last week I spoke about the Trilemma as it relates to project work; in this post I want to review the different situations in which we oblige our shoppers to make customer choices and how we can make it a lot easier for them.

 

Customer Decision-making

Mark ZHow many decisions do you make in an average day? Tens, hundreds, thous ands, even more? It has been estimated that an adult makes in excess of 30,000 decisions each and every day. (>>Tweet this<<) From what to have for breakfast, to what to wear and the route we take to work, we are constantly making decisions. However, have you noticed that when you need to make a decision, having more choices is not always better? More choice can in fact make decision-making all the more difficult.

In a recent article about Mark Zuckerberg, it was mentioned that he, as did Steve Jobs, wears the same clothes every day. A sort of uniform that enables him to make one less decision that he considers to be less relevant and unimportant to the success of his business. In the post he reveals that he wears the same clothes over and over again, because he wants to limit the time he spends making “frivolous” decisions, so he can concentrate on real work. As he says:

“I really want to clear my life so that I have to make as few decisions as possible about anything except how to best serve this community. I feel like I’m not doing my job if I spend any of my energy on things that are silly or frivolous about my life, so that way I can dedicate all of my energy towards just building the best products and services.”

Retail Decision-making

It has been proven that shoppers can end up leaving a retail outlet or online e-shop without making a purchase, when faced with too much choice. (>>Tweet this<<) This so-called “choice overload” was first mentioned in the book  The Paradox of Choice, by Swarthmore College professor Barry Schwartz.

Schwartz co-authored a study that supported his theory in the context of Web search  and other research has documented choice overload in contexts as wide ranging as gourmet chocolates  and retirement plans.

Choice overload is also one of the major reasons, besides price, for the success of hard discounters. They take away those “frivolous” but hard decisions we usually have to make whilst out shopping, by offering just one or at most two br ands or sizes of each article. We then have to make the choice between buying one of the two on offer, or purchasing neither (a trilemma). If you have the time, you might then go elsewhere to buy what you were looking for, but if the choice is of lesser importance or we are lacking the time, we will accept the limited choice and buy one of the two on offer (a dilemma).

Therefore choice is not always a good thing. So what can you as a marketer do to help the customer make the “right” decision in favour of your br and?

 

Know your Customers

The 4 Ws of customer underst anding

If you’re a regular here, you will know that everything you do should start with the customer and from the customer’s perspective. Underst anding their needs and desires, both stated and unstated, will enable you to better meet them. A satisfied customer is unlikely to spend time in choice and will automatically go for your product or service. You can read more about getting a deeper underst anding of your customer in another post entitled “How Well do you Know your Customers? Can you Answer these 12 Questions?” here. 

Portfolio Management

Many retailers and some consumer packaged goods companies have noticed that consumers today are suffering from “choice overload”.

Unilever LogoBoth P&G and Unilever have done some radical pruning of their br ands over the years. They have understood that most of their business comes from just a small number of all its products. P&G has around 300 br ands today, a third less than just a decade ago. Unilever has been even more ruthless. Since introducing its “ Path to Growth” initiative almost fifteen years ago, the number of its br ands has been culled from 1,600 down to just 400.

Retail organisations too are no longer willing to offer increased space for ever-exp anding br and portfolios. They often use the “one in, one out” rule and need strong evidence to add a new line from manufacturers. This has been especially true in recent years with the increase in the number of supermarket chains offering smaller, urban outlets, such as Tesco’s Metro and Walmart’s Express. You can read more about current retail trends here.

Walmart LogoWhat both retailers and manufacturers have realised is that Pareto’s Principle is highly relevant to the success of their businesses. The “Pareto Principle” or 80-20 rule, helps a lot in reducing the number of trilemma (or worse) type decisions that shoppers are faced with.

It therefore makes a lot of sense to regularly review your own portfolio and cut the “long tail” of slowest movers. Unless you have recently launched it or have a solid recovery plan in the pipeline, it is better to delete them.

 

Product Display

Another very good reason for reducing the numbers of br ands and variants in portfolios has to do with innovation. Today’s consumers thrive on novelty and constantly dem and new products and services. They quickly become bored or are satisfied for far less time than in the past.

In response to this, many companies have increased their level of innovation and new launches. However, neither retailers nor consumers want an ever increasing choice of products to sell or purchase. Therefore it makes good sense to have a “one in, one out” policy as mentioned above.

Identifying the best products and variants to put on shelf at each retail outlet or at a minimum by region, will enable customers to make those all important choices more quickly and easily. You will make the sale and the retailer will not be faced with stock that sits on their shelves, not moving; a definite win-win-win. (>>Tweet this<<)

Coming back to the issue of polarity, duality, dilemmas and trilemmas, I hope you can see that the situation in which a customer finds him/herself at the point of sale, whether they are facing a dilemma, trilemma or worse, will have a huge impact on whether or not they purchase.

Do you have something to add to this article and the customer choices we offer when they are faced with making a purchase decision? Please add a comment below. And if you enjoyed the post, then please share it with your friends and colleagues, so they too can be inspired.

If you would like support in reviewing your br and portfolio to identify the 20% of br ands and variants that may need to be deleted, contact me here and let’s discuss your situation. I know I can help.

C³Centricity used images from Microsoft, Unilever and Walmart in this post.

Sourcing & Services Matter: Why Price Alone Won’t get your Customers to Stay

Price wars are a st andard challenge of marketers, whether working on the retail or manufacturing side. They have become more frequent in the last couple of years following the recession. Consumers are today even more price sensitive and are searching for great value and even greater deals. However as most retailers are now claiming lower prices, it becomes less of a differentiator. I therefore read with interest that Walmart is moving from its emphasis on low prices to one on sourcing.

Walmart gives serviceIn 2007 Walmart replaced its “Always Low Prices, Always” slogan by “Save Money Live Better”, so this new push with the message “ Made in the US” is worth noting. This latest announcement is made in conjunction with its promise of an additional $10 million in grants to non-profits focused on “on-shoring” manufacturing efforts.

 

Target gives serviceTarget announced last October its plans to introduce the “ Target Sustainable Product St andard” which was developed to “establish a common language, definition, and process for qualifying what makes a product more sustainable.” Target will ask vendors to complete an assessment that is designed to determine a sustainability score for their products. Products will be assigned a score of between zero and 100 “based on the sustainability of ingredients, ingredient transparency, and overall environmental impact”.

 

Both these initiatives show a move to a more caring retail environment. A study run by the Boston Consulting Group at the end of last year, found that more than half of companies with sales greater than $1 billion are actively planning or considering to bring production back from China to the U.S. This rise from a mere 37% just six months earlier shows a significant shift in American sensitivity.

 

Jumping across the “pond” to the UK, something similar is happening in terms of shifting attention from price to value, or should I say values?

 

Tesco gives serviceTesco recently introduced their “ Price Promise”, a pledge to match the price of a basket of both own-label and br anded products at Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons, or to offer customers a voucher at the till for the difference. Sainsbury’s has appealed to the Advertising St andards Authority, arguing that this claim was misleading customers. However, their wrath was, in part at least, sparked by the fact that this new Tesco pledge came in response to their own highly successful “ Br and Match” scheme, although the latter only compares br anded products.

 

Sainsbury's gives serviceSainsbury’s has now retaliated with the launch of a new campaign with the title “ Same price, Different values”, a possible dig at the fact that although Tesco won the ASA appeal, Sainsbury’s might appeal as they claim that their own-label products cannot be compared since many are locally produced. To support this position, the National Farmers’ Union has now taken a stance, backing Sainsbury’s. In light of last year’s  horse-meat sc andal, the values of retailers and the sourcing of food has become even more crucial, and Sainsbury’s sees this latest row as an opportunity to emphasise the difference between itself and Tesco.

 

If pricing has become (still is?) the entry stakes for retailers today, what else can they do to differentiate themselves and propose a viable alternative that appeals to today’s shoppers? Here are a few I came up with, based upon some of the more interesting initiatives and current trends in societal sensitivities:

  • Individualism: I live alone, as do a large minority of people in the developed world ( 47% in Sweden according to Euromonitor) How about offering smaller packs and individual servings? I would happily pay more for the convenience and the guilt avoidance. (I throw out vast quantities of food that is past its sell-buy date)
  • Localism: the horsemeat and other food sc andals have made people wary of buying from countries where they are unsure of their controls, hygiene or ethics. Identified sourcing and traceability brings trust and reassurance.
  • Fair trade guarantees fairness  and serviceFairness: This helps eliminate the guilt attached to buying (too) cheap products. We now know that products from the East are in general cheaper than products from the West. However, we still want reassurance that workers are being treated fairly. Fair Trade associations and the end to child-labour are causes most shoppers would be will to pay (a little) more for.
  • Sustainability: Recent weather changes have finally convinced everyone of the need to look after and protect our planet from further degradation. Therefore sustainability has become something to fight for. Whether this is reducing the use of palm oil to protect Indonesian rainforests or finding alternatives to bottled water which both wastes resources and pollutes the l and, people are dem anding more of manufacturers.
  • Packaging: Packs are no longer just for protection and shelf-impact, they provide information on ingredients, sourcing and links to apps that provide more about the company who made it or give access to reviews from other buyers.
  • Lowe's offers virtual room designerServices: Some retailers are offering schools for cooking, home repairs, creative pursuits or decorating (see Loew’s virtual room designer as a great example of this). No longer is it sufficient to sell products, people are getting help with making the best use of them and thus getting more value from their purchase.

 

These are just a few of the ways that retailers are building their relationships with their shoppers. They may come for price, but that is an unsustainable competitive advantage in today’s world. Retailers that maintain the loyalty of their customers will be offering more in terms of support and services to keep them coming back.  

If you would like to update your own retail environment and services, why not contact us for an informal chat? We can provide shopper journey mapping, in-store eye-tracking, at shelf facial imaging and many more forward-thinking tools.

C3Centricity used images from Dreamstime and named company websites.

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