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Mission types: understanding shoppers beyond stereotypes

Technology & Data

Mission types: understanding shoppers beyond stereotypes


Lee Naylor reminds us that understanding our customer goes far beyond stereotypes based on data and market research, but must understand and satisfy the mission – the ‘why’ – behind their purchasing experience and decisions.

Lee Naylor - The Leading EdgeIn an election that has focussed on gender differences, there is probably one issue that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump can actually agree on if they are anything like Australians: shopping!

AMP’s report on shopping has shown that men actually like to shop, just like women, and would reward retailers who created the right experiences. Should we be surprised at this? Have we been traditional stereotypes? The reality is more complicated than looking at people’s shopping attitudes and behaviours.

The key issue is not around what men and women are doing or the way they feel about shopping, it’s around their underlying motivations. The winning retailers understand the initial motivations to shop and spend could be different from each other, and that there may be further differences between genders, but more importantly, that we as individuals have multiple ways in which we shop.

Define your customer’s shopping mission

If we understand why people are shopping, we can develop the appropriate experiences AMP is advocating. Technology is an area that can be utilised in the shopping experience as a way to engage the male shopper, but if the technology doesn’t tap into the ‘why’ and ‘what’ males are shopping for – the mission – it will be a missed opportunity.

We have seen in our research on shopper journeys that different types of shopping missions are demographically skewed, but people don’t just have one mission type. Retailers and shopping environments that cater for multiple shopping personas will be the ones that do well, and the ones that can tap into motivations will be the ones that win.

The actual retail mission is the meat in the sandwich of the customer journey. Customer motivations that start the journey can be varied and can lead them along different paths. The end user or consumption experience that occurs following the retail experience will actually inform, and in some cases drive, future motivation, retail mission, and solution.

This is why we are working with many manufacturers to link the consumption moment with shopper missions.

Related: Rob Morrison says we should consider the four great motivators: fear, guilt, ego, and greed when innovating products and services


Plan for change

Customer missions will bend and flex. I’ll use a personal example to illustrate: buying a cup of coffee.

I’ve just moved offices and the hunt for that perfect cup of Joe to start the day has been my key motivation for a number of weeks now. But as I’ve tried a number of the coffee shops in the area, my motivation has changed based upon my experience, who I’m with and my increasing knowledge of the area.

My mission has changed from being ‘the morning coffee’, to finding the place that does coffee and where I can chat to one of my employees comfortably.

I’m the same person, it’s just that my shopper mission has changed and that has influenced how and where I go and fulfil this experience.

By understanding this link, the retailer can hone their experience to the missions of their customer base, understanding that the same person may require something different. This is both an opportunity and a danger, because the retailer may want to maximise their share of my mission, but may simultaneously try to appeal to everyone, and as a result appeal to no one.

The coffee shop that allows me to fulfil all these missions in a clear and distinct way or decides to focus on at least one of them will be the retailer that wins in the long term.


Analyse beyond the numbers

There can be a real danger in using panel data or payment data from households. This data provides in-depth information on the behaviour of those households in terms of what they are purchasing, with a vast array of data points. Reports on this data talk about household switching/loyalty and use this data to put forward decision hierarchies.

The issue here is that we are treating that household as starting with the same motivation and shopper mission. So you bought the 400g tin this week and the 800g tin last week – this doesn’t necessarily mean that for you size is unimportant and interchangeable. It may mean that you knew you were cooking for more people this week and size was actually really important!

So, we probably shouldn’t be surprised that the shopping data didn’t support stereotypes.

Shoppers are more complicated than that – they’re multifaceted and highly driven by motivations, which can change easily. It’s time for retailers to stop catering for stereotypes, and engage with mission types.



Lee Naylor is managing director at The Leading Edge, an Enero Group company


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Lee Naylor

Managing director, TLE Sydney. Lee Naylor joined The Leading Edge in December 2010 as global head of disciplines. Previous roles include two years at The Nielsen Company as executive director, Consumer Research Australia, and 11 years as a research director at Research International.

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