Nothing about this business is the same as it was just a few years ago, and nothing has changed more than the shopper. Customers today think differently, their expectations are unique, and they are highly engaged in the shopping process.
Fortune Brands Home and Security, a manufacturer of home fixtures and hardware, recently sponsored a survey of shoppers in the cabinet category to better understand the marketplace and how it’s changing. With the help of Inmar Analytics — a behavioral research group — here are a few things that were discovered:
1. Shoppers heavily research cabinets prior to purchase.
Shoppers are researching every aspect of their cabinet project. They are using, on average, 12 sources of information in their decision-making, more than the 11 sources used on average for banking/insurance shoppers. They’ve been to every website that might help them — several times. They’re watching design videos, participating in online DIY forums and cruising the blogosphere. They’re talking with professional contractors and friends. They are also reading product reviews — and reviews about anyone, and everyone, who might be part of the project.
Nearly 1-in-5 shoppers in the cabinet category are taking more than a year to make a decision. At the same time, more than 157o of shoppers decide in less than a month — but these shoppers are still doing their homework.
Providing the content that shoppers are looking for increases their confidence in their purchase decision. To help drive purchases, marketers need to be sure they’re providing dynamic, relevant content.
2. Shoppers have formed an impression before they come to do business.
After all the research, their visit may be intended to finalize an earlier pre-trip decision and make a final choice. But marketers shouldn’t take for granted a potential positive pre-meeting impression. Shoppers forced to endure a bad in-store experience aren’t likely to return.
Shoppers are seeking out professionals. The more experts engage, the greater and more immediate impact they will have on the shoppers’ purchase decisions.
The sales floor is the ultimate “chat window.” It should be leveraged that way with expertise demonstrated first — salesmanship second. Information equals influence. Providing plenty of the former will deliver the latter.
3. Shoppers still see the retail space as the place to be.
For all their time in cyberspace, shoppers place very high value on their time in the store, and research shows multiple sources of in-store influencers. Displays should be up to date, the brochure inventory needs to be solid, and samples have to be plentiful and readily accessible.
Also, as online retailers have focused on creating a personalized and pleasurable shopping experience, consumers have come to expect that same kind of informative and enjoyable interaction offline, as well. Face time with shoppers is an opportunity for marketers to help them in ways that online sellers can’t. The conversation should be about service and product quality. Demonstrating the unique ability to facilitate the project is the best way to get on a shopper’s “favorites” list.
4. Shoppers are sharing more than ever.
And not just selfies. They’re telling everyone about their shopping and project experience, and they’re naming names. Nearly 30% of shoppers in the category are sharing digitally, blogging, commenting, pinning or posting throughout the Internet. Pictures, plans, problems and positives — all of these are being broadcast, and potentially thousands of people are seeing them.
Of course, no one can control what shoppers tell the world when it comes to their interactions with those in the industry. Still, marketers need to be very aware that shoppers are going to share their stories, and what they say will ultimately influence other shoppers. The extent of that influence will, most definitely, reveal itself in time.
Today’s shoppers are a new breed: They are assertive, well-informed and tech savvy. The “to do” list for securing their signatures includes effectively leveraging technology, providing an optimal in-store experience and delivering real value beyond just price. It’s not a long list, but nothing on it is optional.
Contributors: Michael Billings, director of insights and strategy, Fortune Brands a Home and Security Company; Beth Dibert, senior manager market research, MasterBrand Cabinets, Inc.; InMar Analytics.