For those of us in retail, the advent of shopper data is one of the most valuable developments of the digital age. Thanks to cookies, IP addresses, subscriptions and social media, we now know more about consumer behavior and patterns than any other time in history.
Although most retail platforms haven’t developed fully personalized shopping experiences for the individual, we can group shoppers according to basic personalities. This type of personalization recognizes shopper wants, needs and patterns of behavior. If you’ve ever taken a personality test and discovered that different types of people exhibit similar behaviors and motivations, you can see the merits of this particular type of profiling.
Knowing what shoppers want and need allows us to deliver it with greater precision, which leads to more sales and greater satisfaction. Likewise, as we note the impacts of COVID-19 on shopper behavior, these patterns are equally revealing. Generally speaking, there are five types of shoppers. Whether you are trying to gain traction with a particular shopper type, or you need to reach all of them, the first step to creating a winning marketing strategy is getting to know the five shopper personalities.
The Necessity Shopper
There are many circumstances that motivate the necessity shopper. Anything from a broken pipe to a DIY painting project can prompt their shopping experience. Whatever the reason, these shoppers are on a mission to get what they came for, either in-store or online. They are pragmatic, not overly frivolous and usually pressed for time. The necessity shopper is less of a personality and more of a circumstantial effect. Still, they have very specific needs and responses that are important to understand.
Because of the circumstantial nature of this type of shopper, it’s safe to assume that they were the least affected by COVID-19, with one exception. The convenience of Amazon.com, with its next-day delivery and large assortment of home improvement items, likely swayed many a necessity shopper to sign up for Amazon Prime and stay there.
The necessity shopper is looking for a seamless user experience. They are open to customer service to get them in and out, whether that’s an associate in-store or a robust ecommerce search tool. The necessity shopper did not come to browse. However, they do want easy ways to validate product quality, particularly if they are in the midst of a repair or a project.
Strategies to Appeal to Necessity Shoppers
To appeal to the necessity shopper, it’s important to prioritize. The necessity shopper wants to know the product does what they need and performs as promised. If you are a product manufacturer, this means steering away from overly technical, wordy or otherwise complex product descriptions. This applies to packaging, ecommerce product pages and other creative content. Your messaging and content should instill confidence in your product’s performance and security in your brand positioning. Positive reviews can help, either on your website or through an online retailer where reviews can help improve your product ranking.
The Inspired Shopper
Some people call this shopper the impulse buyer. Unlike the necessity shopper, the inspired shopper is operating at a more leisurely pace with no set agenda. They are open-minded, open to suggestion and having fun with their shopping. Inspired shoppers are more responsive to visual assets than technical information.
Of all the shopper types, the inspired shopper is likely the one who suffered most from COVID-19, the one who returned the most product and also the one emerging from the pandemic with the most enthusiasm for in-person shopping.
The inspired shopper is looking for a shopping experience that is visually stimulating and full of variety. Inspired shoppers appreciate category assortment. But, equally important to these shopping enthusiasts is product depth, delivered in the form of media. Inspired shoppers are more inclined towards browsing than decision-making, so they often need compelling information or visuals to give them a reason to buy.
Strategies to Reach Inspired Shoppers
The best way to reach the inspired shopper is through compelling content like product photography, vignettes, videos or graphics. These are the shoppers most likely to discover products beyond ecommerce, either through social media, digital magazines or influencer content. Inspired shoppers are also the most likely to upgrade during their purchase and potentially change their minds after the fact. You can optimize shopper satisfaction by clearly articulating your product’s value in addition to its virtues.
Many of us have brands to whom we are dedicated. A quick peek into your browsing history and inbox will reveal what brands or retailers have your loyalty. Unlike the inspired shopper, the loyalist is less open to suggestion, less open to options and less likely to browse. They need a drill. They like RYOBI. They buy a RYOBI drill.
Of all the types, these shoppers are the most likely to have become more entrenched in their loyalties because of COVID-19. Thus, they will require the most aggressive strategies to reach.
Whether or not they realize it, loyalists need to know that their buying decision is the best one. As human beings, we all are prone to doubt and hesitation. For this reason, loyalists value trust, brand heritage and product compatibility. In the ecommerce world, loyalists can resemble necessity shoppers in their need to get to their brand efficiently. In order to consider new ideas, they need lots of reinforcement and repetition.
Strategies to Retain or Reach Loyalists
If you are speaking to one of your brand loyalists, your job is fairly simple: Don’t fix what isn’t broken. Equally important is to remind them of their value to the brand and your dedication to exceeding their expectations. Loyalty programs are a great tool to retain and reward loyalists.
If you are a challenger brand looking to convert loyalists, you have to be aggressive. That can include overt comparison language in your product content. It may also include paying for product sponsorship so that your product appears in searches for specific brands. Ratings and reviews are another subtle conversion tactic. If a loyalist sees that another brand has better ratings, it will open the door to suggestion.
The opposite of the inspired shopper is the reluctant, resistant skeptic. These shoppers are most likely to bristle at marketing and least likely to subscribe to anything but the most trusted resources. Skeptics most resemble the necessity shopper. They are less likely to browse and more likely to get in, go online and get out. Skeptics have a tight hold on their wallet and their shopping cart.
During the lockdowns of 2020 and the ongoing perils of COVID-19, the skeptic may not have changed their shopping habits much. We know that home improvement retailers saw an increase in products purchased online and shipped to stores, which is typical of this type of shopper. However, we know that they, like most of the world, are eager to touch and feel products again before buying them.
When it comes to winning over the skeptic, facts matter. Skeptics respond to clear, direct language and calls to action over hyperbolic claims or promotional language. Naturally, skeptics want to be in control of their purchase. These are the shoppers most likely to conduct extensive research online and head to the store to purchase. They are also most likely to opt to have online purchases shipped to the store. This allows them to change their mind if the reality doesn’t live up to their expectations.
Strategies to Convert Skeptics
There are three primary levers to pull when targeting the skeptic. These are trust, value and control. To build trust with skeptics, it helps to have a great warranty, straightforward guarantee and excellent customer service. Skeptics are the least likely to read ecommerce reviews. If and when they do, they head straight for the most critical. Consider pulling a positive review, one that mentions your customer service, warranty or guarantee, and include it in your online product description.
When speaking to value, you can reach the skeptic by using data points. These shoppers are more likely to light up when they read that a product has been tested, third-party-certified or otherwise proven to be exponentially more effective than the competition. If your product costs more, the skeptic needs to know the reason why, and what the benefit is to them.
Give the skeptic control by providing them with a money-back guarantee, flexible return policy and plenty of direct product information.
With some similarity to the inspired shopper, the researcher is a content consumer. They are the most likely to curate their own compelling narrative of your product through a variety of sources. They are also the most likely to seek out product recommendations, whether through third-party sources or personal connections. The researcher is looking for the best product for their needs. They are open-minded, curious and patient with their shopping. Because of this, they are like the inspired shopper in that they are amenable to upselling and add-ons. But, like the necessity shopper, the researcher is typically prompted by need more than want.
We know that the pandemic caused many shoppers to turn to the internet for their browsing and research, which leads us to believe that the researcher was chief among them, perhaps becoming even more savvy and sophisticated at researching online.
While the researcher is a content consumer and patient shopper, they are ultimately looking for conclusive evidence that your product is the best for their needs. They care as much about application as efficacy. Likewise, researchers typically look for more than one source to verify a product choice, supplementing ecommerce with websites, blogs and other resources. As they pour through content, they are looking to understand not only the product itself, but also what it’s like to experience the product.
Strategies to Satisfy Researchers
Without knowing it as such, the researcher is looking for an omnichannel marketing strategy. They look for evidence of suitability backed by a variety of sources, making it worth your while to seek out trusted industry partners. This could be a digital publication such as houzz.com or thespruce.com. It could also be an influencer who has used your product and issued their seal of approval.
Along with evidence, researchers are quick to consume product details and specifications. They appreciate detailed Q&A responses along with having access to technical manuals, installation manuals and demonstration videos. Unlike the skeptic who needs to be convinced of a product’s value, the researcher must be sold on its value to them.
Find the Right Balance for Your Brand
Once you get to know each of these shopper personalities, you should start to observe their patterns in your interactions with consumers. You may even hear some of these needs coming from merchants. Once you see that each of these shopper types represents huge volumes of shoppers, you can begin to appreciate the huge gains that can come from aligning your brand to their needs. Equally critical are the losses that can come from alienating one of these types. The good news is that all of these strategies are complementary. The key is finding the right balance for your brand and prioritizing your strategies so that you’re appealing to the shopper mix that’s right for your product.