This article by Ken Roshkoff, AMC Global's CEO, originally appeared in the American Marketing Association's March 2021 issue of Marketing News
Each week since the onset of the pandemic, we've been conducting studies into the intricacies of shopper behavior. Our data shows that one thing is clear: the world of shopping has undergone tremendous change during the past year with immediate, notable shifts since March. Due to the restrictions, closures and health concerns stemming from the virus, people have been forced to turn to online shopping for all essentials. The continued shift to eCommerce was seen also during the holiday shopping season of 2020, when 71% of our ongoing study respondents said they’d be doing all their shopping online only. And online shopping preferences for essential items are predicted to continue into 2021—25% of our study participants predict they will continue to order their groceries online this year.
And it isn’t just procuring practical basics that are driving purchasing behavior. Social isolation is also playing a role in how people are shopping online, and there has been a rise in “retail therapy” (after the initial panic purchasing). As people seek comfort from the online shopping environment, they have different priorities for the online shopping they are doing.
So how do you make sure you are reaching your target audiences the right way in this new shopping world, instigated by the pandemic? First you need to understand the new shopper experience, and then fully optimize it.
The methods to get the shopper insights you need are myriad, from qualitative and quantitative solutions, including shopper segmentation research, virtual qualitative research like online diaries, proper messaging and communication studies, and packaging design research.
- Shopper Segmentation Research - Our research says that the online shopping trend is here to stay. So this means your brand’s online shopping audience has changed too. Those consumers who used to access your products in brick and mortar stores are now looking to access online, and your overall audience is more varied with different priorities than before the pandemic. You must understand what your new shopper segments are and make sure you have the messaging in place to reach them in their preferred shopping arena.
- Qualitative Diaries and Bulletin Boards - Let’s face it, many market researchers and consumer insights professionals are accustomed to doing in-person research to understand more about how to develop products and hone messaging. But this past year has offered the opportunity to pivot to creative research solutions, conducted online, on mobile, and via other virtual methodologies. Diaries and bulletin board research allow you to get feedback directly from your new online shoppers throughout their whole customer journey, so you can then improve it for them and enhance your success in an online environment.
- Messaging and Communication Research - The fundamental way we communicate with one another has also been affected by COVID-19, with nearly all our interactions at some point or another becoming digitalized. Online is where you can reach your customers most effectively, so what should you be saying? Using research approaches that help you determine which messages or claims will maximize reach to your target audience in their online environment is essential.
- Pack Design Research - It is worth considering modification of your product packaging for the online channel, providing a more simplified version of what might be seen in the store, with clear, bright graphics to capture attention. In order to do this successfully, while keeping true to your current brand, pack design research with your consumers can give you the insights you need for this shift.
Now is not the time to be left behind. Data and insights have been solid touchpoints in an otherwise turbulent environment, giving both individuals and companies clarity on a wide variety of issues. Because shopper behavior has undergone such a drastic change, and continues to transform, successful brands will employ the right research methods to understand their audiences now and in the future.
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