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Shopper Insights Perspectives — Service Shoppers Need Love Too

Traditionally, Shopper Insights has been primarily focused on consumer packaged goods and technology (aka the tangibles).

But for those looking for services, many of the Shopper Insights principles of path to purchase are also very applicable. Here’s a typical approach for the service shopper…

  • Becoming aware that they need it
  • Researching available services that fit their needs/wants
  • Considering and engaging with a subset of services
  • Purchasing the service
  • Becoming advocates and providing testimonials, post-purchase

And many times, shoppers of these services are using the same decision-making tools that a traditional shopper of consumer goods employs…

  • Researching online (either at home or on their smart phone)
  • Gathering information in-person
  • Checking peer reviews (social media and communities/trusted sources)

So, how can you make sure shoppers in your category get the right information at the right time?

Through a shopper marketing mix of products that are appropriate and messaged well…

  • at prices that are well-communicated and bundled for the shopper
  • with a shopper experience that’s an extension of your brand through displays, informational signage, and overall design (if you have a location)
  • with relevant promotions that align with your brand

Service providers that help shoppers connect all the dots on their path to purchase will be seen as trustworthy and will cultivate a reputation for caring about their shopper’s best interests.

So how do you know which dots to connect?

There’s nothing quite like interacting with shoppers when they are in the moment and making on-the-spot decisions about your service.
That’s where pre-recruited “shopalongs” are extremely valuable. An experienced researcher “shops” with the customer as they interact with your brand and a key competitor(s) for context. While making the experience akin to shopping with a friend, the researcher asks questions and probes on areas of interest.

Alternatively, the researcher might meet the customer at their home in advance of the shopping trip.
This is a good opportunity to understand how they first became aware of the service, their pre-shopping perceptions and preparations, and the extent of information gathering they have completed beforehand.

Much can be learned from simply observing the shopper.
Ethnographies allow the researcher to watch customers interact with service personnel or the service itself (a kiosk, ATM, self-service machine, etc.). It also provides important data on waiting times (how long are they standing in a queue?) as well as time spent at a particular area/location.

Shopper Intercepts provide quantifiable, point-in-time feedback.
The researcher doesn’t participate for the entire shopper experience. Instead, they get involved before, during or after the shopper has interacted with your service. Quantitative data is collected in key areas such as satisfaction with service and availability, signage recall and feelings about location, store design, etc.

Segmentation can also be useful to quantify the motivations, attitudes and behaviors of relevant service shopper subgroups.

So even in the service industry — with intangible products — you still have many research tools in your Shopper Insights arsenal to get to the heart of your customers.


About the Author

At Erickson Research, a Chicago market research consulting firm, I specialize in probing the minds of consumers and professionals -- revealing what truly matters to them...and why. Find me on LinkedIn.