Natasha Hritzuk - MSFT
Posted on 09/25/13

As we wrap up the 10th Anniversary of Advertising Week in New York, I’m excited to provide an update on our Consumer Decision Journey research. For this installment of our ongoing journey work, we focused on understanding consumer decision-making along the retail path to purchase, and also uncovered new marketer opportunities to provide seamless and personalized retail experiences to their consumers.

We explored two different retail pathways: considered (electronics) and habitual (household and personal care purchases), and partnered with Ipsos Media CT and Ipsos OTX to uncover the influencers along the consumer decision journey, as well as the mindsets and motivations driving consumers’ retail decisions. We surveyed 6,000 consumers across five markets, including Brazil, Canada, China, the UK and the US. Our study revealed five key stages that consumers go through along the path to purchase—from “Open to Possibility” to “Experiencing” - with digital influencers playing critical roles in each stage.

I always love it when we find compelling connections among varying consumer insights studies and here, we found that two of our future consumer trends, Enhancing the Real and Value Me, identified in a recent study we conducted with IPG, came to life through the lens of our Consumer Journey Retail work. And while our future trends work is all about future predictions for consumer behavior, the convergence of these two themes with our retail study suggests that tomorrow may be here before we think.

The first big theme from our journey work maps back to our Enhancing the Real trend and manifests in the journey as the blurring of the digital with the physical retail environment. While many retailers still separate brick and mortar from online retail channels, consumers see the two as connected, and they expect to feel that connection throughout their decision journey. They want connected experiences and more sophisticated means of moving from online channels into the store and back again. We expect this desire will only intensify over time.

The second theme maps back to the Value Me trend and is the increasing need for personalization. The way we shop today is vastly different from the days of our grandparents. My family in Calgary (where I grew up) went to the local merchant stores and were known: sales associates would call them by name, provide personalized assistance and follow up with thank-you notes. Today, only the most high-end apparel shopping services offer anything close to a personalized experience, and even then, any pre-shopping that occurs online isn’t carried through to the retail environment (my jeans addiction aside, shouldn’t that Rag and Bonesales associate know which pairs I bought two weeks prior to my next fix?).

Consumers want marketers to value them (and their data)—and they’re prepared to share their data in exchange for more relevance, personalization and overall value. In fact, 59% of global consumers are much more willing to buy a product or service from a brand that offers a reward in exchange for their digital data.[1]The good news is we now have more tools at our disposal than ever before to improve upon and deeply personalize retail experiences in and out of the store, and to take advantage of these emerging trends.

Below are just some of the opportunities for marketers to get ahead of these trends today in order to provide connected and personalized experiences for consumers on and offline:

Embrace “Show-Rooming:Make it easy for consumers to see value beyond price with side-by-side comparisons of product features, reviews and expert opinions that enable them to compare and eliminate for what fits their needs.

Let consumers invite you in:Drive enrichment within digital environments through sight, sound and motion, as well as natural user-interfaces across every screen.

Mind the gaps:Don’t lose the consumer in the hand-off from digital to the physical world. Capture consumer habits and preferences online that offer a clear value to consumers. Then, leverage permissioned data to deliver personal experiences at each step of the journey.

Curate in-store experiences:Pull brand expression into the store with more interactive experiences. Set up areas where consumers can test and experience products outside of the packaging. Encourage them to interact through in-store touch screens that amplify the product features and benefits, include access to reviews, expert ratings and in-store recommendations at every point in the process, across every screen.

Make Pricing Fluid: Transform rewards cards, coupons and gift cards into integrated branded currency. Pricing should be fluid and promotions should be contextually relevant and personal so consumers can combine, keep track and use them at the time and place that makes sense for them.

To learn how we’re using these insights to build new experiences across Microsoft platforms, please take a look at my colleague Steven Webster’s blog post here. You can also learn more by reading The Consumer Journey Retail white paper on our website. And stay tuned for additional insights from our Digital Trends research, which is launching in the US at Ad Tech 2013.

As always, thanks for reading!


[1] Digital Trends, Microsoft and IPG, 2013

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