Founder and CEO of market research consultancy, Alter Agents; believer that powerful insights can change businesses.
There’s a lot to be said for being in the right place at the right time. Usually in life, it comes down to luck. In marketing and advertising, though, it should come down to strategic planning that’s informed by good research. Getting your ads in front of your shoppers in the right place at the right time is entirely doable, as long as you’ve done the work to know where to reach them.
And it’s going to get harder to reach your shoppers. With the rollout of new privacy protections from Apple and the impending death of third-party cookies, getting your marketing in the right place will require even more research-based thoughtful planning heading into 2022. The good news is that your customers, and those who buy similar products and services from your competitors, can tell you where to turn.
At Alter Agents, we recently piloted that approach in the relaunch of our Shopper Influence program this year. The nationwide 6,000-person study asked recent purchasers about their shopper journey across six product categories, from packaged coffee to home fitness equipment and self-improvement subscriptions. Part of that journey included asking them about the sources they turned to for information along the way: Which did they use and which mattered the most?
Usage matters for awareness.
Knowing the sources to which shoppers in a category turn is the first step; brands need to meet shoppers where they are just to get a foot in the door. Some of this is intuitive, like advertising a new high-end refrigerator to readers of a cooking magazine because they’re most likely focused on optimizing their kitchens. But today’s market demands more effort to compete effectively, so understanding which unconventional or unexpected places these shoppers get their information from at the start of the purchase process is important too.
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In a post-third-party cookie world, where it’s more difficult to programmatically advertise to shoppers by following them around cyberspace, brands and retailers are just going to have to ask. That way, they can be sure they’re spreading awareness among their target audience instead of blindly going after the masses. Ask questions of people who recently purchased in a category. This methodology allows shoppers to take you through their journey step-by-step. This should not be hypothetical but based on real-world experience. What we found in our research was a shocking number of sources used by even the most impulsive shoppers.
But even sources that aren’t among the most commonly used by a brand’s target audience can be worthwhile for some key shoppers. That’s why we also ask about a source’s influence.
Influence matters for persuasion.
Spreading awareness obviously isn’t enough. We need to persuade. That’s why we asked shoppers to tell us which of the sources that they used for information were the most influential in their purchase process. These sources provided information that shoppers trusted and played heavily in their final decision.
For example, a source that was commonly used, like TV commercials, may not have been very influential. It’s good for general awareness, but it’s not a venue for persuasion, and brands need to treat their content strategy accordingly. A source that’s not commonly used but very influential for those who did use it, demands very tailored content and potentially wider promotion in the brand’s overall effort.
But what happens when shoppers tell us there’s a source that’s commonly used and highly influential? We’ve struck gold.
Usage + Influence = Value
The sources that shoppers say are both commonly used and most influential allow you to determine which are the most valuable. They’re the sources where brands and retailers can get the most shoppers to read their most compelling arguments in favor of a product or service. Any promotion an organization does in this sweet spot should be carefully tested, top-notch material because the stakes here are the highest. And it should also command the most investment in budget and time.
The answer to these questions tells brands exactly where they need to be in a moment where targeting shoppers is going to be more difficult. Source usage, influence and value are all quantifiable, and we’ve found that they’re different for each product category and for specific audiences within those categories. A brand trying to sell home workouts to millennial parents is going to have to play in a different place than a retailer selling apparel to Gen Z. We’ve found that the results can be surprising, and the research is definitely worth doing. The highly competitive landscape demands nothing less.
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Author: Rebecca Brooks, Forbes Councils Member