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Inspiration can strike anywhere – this is why you need to be where your shoppers are

The latest global consumer survey by Wunderman Thompson Commerce looks at what really gets the shoppers ticking.

Consumer behaviour is always changing – even more so in the age of digital commerce. The internet, new marketplaces and price comparison sites have allowed customers to take a more proactive approach in their purchasing decisions. As a result, there has been a change in where shoppers sit at the start of the traditional marketing funnel.

Ten years ago, McKinsey’s description of the consumer decision journey argued that experience was a crucial factor in the evaluation process involved in shopping journeys. Today, however, the model needs updating.

It is now possible to inspire a potential customer anywhere. The advent of always-on technology such as smartphones and social media means that consumers are able to interact with brands wherever they are. This has led brands and retailers to talk about a new phase in the shopping journey: inspiration.

Inspiration means that shoppers no longer always start at the same point. Previously, marketers viewed that shoppers always start at ‘discovery’, but inspiration comes before that point. It comes from all different angles – from the apps we use to message our friends to our social media feed, to using search engines to browse our favourite sites.

Given the impact that inspiration has on shopping decisions, it’s important that retailers understand what inspires their customers. While this was traditionally through search engines, our Future Shopper survey found that search is no longer king. This piece will look at two other ways that shoppers are likely to find this inspiration.

From search to social: a new era of influence

Traditionally, online shoppers began their journey using a search engine – using broad search terms to pinpoint the exact product they want. Now, consumers are beginning to turn to different ways of searching – marketplaces in particular. In fact, 56% of people are most likely to use Amazon for product search, 7% higher than search engines.

Social media has recently become a significant player in how consumers are influenced too. In fact, for young people, search is no longer the most popular choice for inspiration by some distance. While 37% of shoppers aged 16 to 24 said they found inspiration on search, 49% said they most often find inspiration for purchase on social media. This contrasts with just 12% of over 55s and 20% of 45 to 54-year-olds.

Social media is, unsurprisingly, a young person’s game. Therefore, brands that want to be front of mind for younger people making shopping decisions must have some form of social media presence. We are now seeing the coming of age of social commerce, and the emergence of native shopping interactions being added to social media sites mean that shopping decisions are now being made even further down the traditional marketing funnel.

The power of brands, in-store and out

To inspire customers, retailers cannot only focus on search and social. Although brand websites are traditionally depicted as being behind online marketplaces when it comes to revenue, we found that a third of digital shoppers use brand websites for product and inspiration. That was marginally higher than social media.

Furthermore, over a quarter of shoppers said they still like to go into stores to find inspiration – a trend that is consistent among all age groups.

This is particularly interesting as it shows that there is still a large amount of brand loyalty when it comes to purchasing inspiration. Rather than consumers basing their entire purchasing decision on what they see on a search engine, there are a significant proportion of shoppers who are turning to their favourite brands before they are sure they want to even make a purchase. And critical to this is a strong presence both online and in-store.

Inspiration is not one-dimensional, and shoppers are now inspired by a number of different channels. For retailers, that means ensuring there is a strong presence on each and every one of them. In failing to do so, they are missing out on a huge opportunity to inspire their future customers.

About the Future Shopper 2019 survey

Research was conducted by Censuswide: 15,188 consumers, who shop online at least once a month were surveyed, across 8 international markets, led by UK and US. Download the report here.

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