January 19, 2016

Marketing Research Chart: The most popular ways consumers discover new products

SUMMARY: In anticipation of the upcoming MarketingSherpa Summit, we continue to explore the results of the 2015 MarketingSherpa Consumer Purchase Preference Survey. Read on to discover how customers discover new products and how marketers can help in the process as we discuss results with Mark Michaud, Senior Vice President of Strategy, Ariad Communications and Bluespire Marketing.
by Dr. Liva LaMontagne , Editorial Research Manager

As you may already know, at MarketingSherpa we have conducted a consumer preference survey, to help us build content for the upcoming MarketingSherpa Summit.

MarketingSherpa commissioned an online survey that was fielded August 20-24, 2015 with a nationally representative sample of 2,021 U.S. consumers.

We asked consumers, "In which of the following ways, if any, do you learn about new products you would like to purchase? Please select all that apply."

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Daniel Burstein, Director of Editorial Content, MarketingSherpa, sat down with Mark Michaud, Senior Vice President of Strategy, Ariad Communications and Bluespire Marketing, to discuss what these results mean for marketers.

You can watch the video interview with Mark Michaud, and read further analysis of data in this article below.

Understanding how customers use multiple channels

Customers use a wide variety of channels to discover new products they would like to buy, and some of them, like word-of-mouth, are very important to customers, but not directly under marketers' influence.

This presents a challenge to marketers' current thinking and practices. "We don't really organize around the customer and how they behave; we organize around the channels and how we use those channels," Michaud said.

He went on to say that, in order to stay with customers every step of the way and be relevant to them, marketers need to think holistically. "We want to, as marketers, try to understand what their journey looks like — when are they going into the store, when are they going online, why are they doing that, where do they see the value — and try to really create a journey that captures that."

Michaud added that, after discovering what customers value, it's our job as marketers to provide that value. He went on to say, "The challenge is figuring out what are the relationships between all those channel usages and visits, how do we measure it and how do we attribute our success across the multi-channel journey?"

Michaud concluded that mapping and attributing the customer journey is not easy, and very different in different verticals, but marketers have to do that to stay relevant to the customer at the right time.

How to create a consistent customer experience between brick-and-mortar and digital channels

The most popular ways for customers to discover new products were:
  • In-store browsing (59%)

  • Word-of-mouth from friends, family, colleagues (57%)

  • Using a search engine (47%)

  • Articles in print magazines/newspapers (34%)

Clearly, both brick-and-mortar channels and digital channels are in the top three. Since consumers can come to a brand's physical stores from digital interactions, and they can come into a store to browse, and then make a purchase later online, it's important for marketers to create a smooth transition between the offline and online parts of the consumer journey.

Michaud mentioned financial services as an interesting example of creating a consistent brand experience across branches and digital channels. Bank clients go online and see value in online interactions, but they also still go to branches. Creating a consistent brand experience is key for financial institutions.

"We've worked with some banks to create some interesting programs where the customer interacts online, and through that process they're actually creating an asset or an artifact that they then bring to the branch, and that artifact guides the in-branch staff to know how to react," Michaud said, adding, "So in that sense the customer is carrying the consistent touch piece as they pass through the channels, and you're not leaving it up to whether or not the people in the branch have been trained correctly."

The artifact consumers create can be based on a quiz, or creating an action list — anything that enables the consumer to get a step closer to the service that they are interested in. This type of consumer-led artifact creation functions like content marketing, focused on utility — it goes beyond informing and educating, and enables the customer and customer service representative to have the most meaningful interaction later.
"So you can really use your customer as a kind of conduit for the experience as they pass from digital to bricks and mortar," Michaud said.

To sum up, consumers use various channels to discover new products that they would like to buy, and marketers face the challenge to map customers' journeys across digital and offline channels, and provide relevant service every step of the way.

One successful way of connecting the digital and brick-and-mortar experiences financial institutions have used is by starting the customer journey online where customers create a document (e.g., results of a quiz or an action list) that they then bring to the branch, that branch staff can provide the most valuable service.

Related Resources

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