News • 26 11 2018

Customer journeys:
a walk on the wild side

By Nina Cooper, Associate Director Insights & Innovation, Dragon Rouge

As consumers we’re not that logical.
We go with our gut and vote with our feet. We choose because we’re bored, tired, hot, cold, feeling fat, feeling good, feeling broke, feeling guilty or feeling we’ve earned it.

We make different choices depending on the weather, the news, the time of day or who we’re with when we make the choice.

We often don’t actively and consciously choose at all. How do you make a strategy from that?

Tracking consumer journeys through data collection from stores and online or mobile browsing and buying has massively increased the ability of brands to micro monitor how we shop. It unlocks patterns in purchasing, lets brand segment and archetype buyer personalities. It makes it easier to personalise offers to tempt and hook in. But while data can give answers to the ‘who, what, when and where’ questions, it’s less helpful in answering the ‘why?’

Now it would be churlish to diss the value of data – it’s becoming more agile and adaptable than ever before. But to spot opportunities, disrupt or create new patterns of behaviour, develop new products and brands or identify the innovative tweaks that help a product stand out from the rest, we need more. We have to get up close and personal with the lives that create the data. We need to step into their world and dig around in the dusty, overlooked corners. Because that’s where the good stuff lies.

If we can answer the ‘why’ as well as the what, we can unlock possibilities in unexpected places.

Qualitative consumer journeys let brands understand how consumers view the entire process from wishful thinking through browsing, buying and using to disposal of pack or product itself. Each stage can affect attitudes and expectations and drive frequency of purchase or perception of value.

Getting face-to-face can let us explore the fantasy shopping list, as well as the real one, pulling out the aspirations as well as the practicalities and giving a window into the extraordinary dreams that guide ordinary lives or the aggravations that frustrate them.

‘Real world’ journeys let us see what consumers don’t notice – and what people don’t see can be as illuminating as what they do. Giving consumers quests and missions to explore, seek out and report back often highlights the hidden gems that in the pressure of the day-to-day they overlook, but which have the potential to surprise and delight. And that information is highly actionable – in communications, pack design or POS.

Extracting every last, juicy nugget of insight from a real world consumer journey is more than just a one-time trawl round a supermarket fixture or monitored and moderated online browsing. It’s about assembling the right range of creative challenges and games, the right balance of self-reporting and observation. It can mean recruiting ‘moles’ – insiders from a circle of friends and family – to highlight sub conscious habits, rituals or the quirks of behaviour a target consumer may never admit. Or it can involve getting experts – from psychologists to product designers – to take the grand tour with the consumer as guide and to question and challenge auto pilot behaviour and ingrained habits.

And when we’ve mined all the information, there’s the most important step of all, mapping the journey out, clearly and precisely with the byways and meanders, the pain points and the pleasures to identify the opportunities to make life simpler, richer, more exciting and surprising or more predictable, reassuring and in control.

Obviously, for most consumers, there’s no single journey. With some categories, there’ll be a regular commute, but there are always diversions, distractions, hold ups and new adventures. But travelling with them, is always worthwhile.