Understanding Changing Consumer Behavior to Win The Middle Funnel Shopper
Mindy Kaling knows where Coke just tastes better. In a new ad, she teases that place but doesn't actually mention it by name. McDonald's created the ad knowing that people will simply Google it and find out the answer. The king of fast food is leveraging a relatively new yet increasingly common shopper behavior where consumers find information they want when and where they want vs. responding to ads which are having a harder and harder time reaching them in the first place. The McDonald's 'ads' are supported by blog content which not surprisingly is the top search result completing a digital loop that helps shoppers understand why Coke tastes better at its restaurants.
This is a very smart use of multiple kinds of digital media which capitalize on how people are actually using digital vs. leveraging old intrusive interruption media tactics. Every brand has prevailing digital paths to purchase which are constantly in flux as active mid-funnel shoppers change the way they discover, grow preference for and ultimately buy goods and services. The challenge becomes that many brands are still taking a mass media approach and focusing on broad based reach and push messaging vs. adapting to the new shopper journey.
Most branded digital efforts focus on the top (reach/awareness) and bottom (conversion) of the purchase funnel. Many opportunities to help active shoppers along the path.
Like most brands, McDonald's and all other fast feeders are at the precipice of a new way of shopping. Prime traffic locations will likely become less important in the overall purchase hierarchy as delivery services make Big Macs available on demand without having to leave a sofa, desk chair, park bench etc. Food delivery is growing rapidly through all kinds of services from the restaurants themselves to a host of new players with food Ecommerce accounting for 13% of total deliveries and growing exponentially. Suddenly, a fast food restaurant's location is irrelevant to me but the ease of ordering from my preferred delivery facilitator is paramount. Brand preference now has a whole new meaning as I might want to get Cinnabon which is at Crabtree Valley Mall surrounded by a fortress like parking lot that wouldn't have even entered my consideration set for a quick meal that ostensibly would come through a drive through window. In fact, I could have a Big Mac AND a Cinnabon and the hassle factor for me would be zero. Done, and I have 20+ minutes of free time to add to my run which I'll need after that lunch!
This is a tremendous opportunity for restaurants of all types to grow revenues far beyond their current trade area. It's also a threat as that advantageous locations in the same trade area are no longer as impactful as they once were. There will be a high value for operators to understand how shoppers are connecting along the path to purchase and evaluate their digital footprint at the key digital connectivity points along the way. What middle funnel content exists that helps shoppers make ultimate purchase decisions. How much brand warmth do consumers have for a fast food provider and how relevant is it in their overall decision making? In many ways, this decision tree mirrors most shopping categories from consumer packaged goods to travel to cars. As physical shopping presence becomes less prevalent, marketers will need deep understanding of the journey for their category and how they stack up against their competitors, both current and emerging. Mapping and constantly evaluating the digital path will be critical for maintaining brand relevance.
Learning about the impact of shopper behavior change is one of our primary learning objectives in order to deliver higher rates of digital marketing efficiency. Cinnabon's current primary marketing channel is foot traffic at the locations where it currently has stores (A good fan spreading the wonderful aroma of fresh baked Cinnabon's is easily more effective than most digital media). However, the brand can benefit by understanding the opportunities and threats presented by growing consumer access to Cinnabon delivery options. Shoppers will be able to effortlessly choose Cinnabon, Krispy Kreme, Dunkin' Donuts or host of other options from various competitors ranging from mom and pop bakeries to grocery stores to other fast food chains with highly capable delivery platforms such as Dominos. What an awesome opportunity for the brand to connect with a host of new shoppers as technology opens new channels to connect both physically and digitally. Prevailing Path uses real shopper insights combined with technology to evaluate the Path to Purchase, something we did years ago with the Walmart Elevenmoms.
Here's one shopper's path:
There are multiple touchpoints that Cinnabon can connect and influence the shopper's path along with emerging nodes surrounding the ultimate winners in the delivery space that will become retailers in their own right. Our mission is to identify and grow the most effective and efficient digital pathways into a competitive advantage for our partners.
We've begun to construct a platform to help marketers evaluate digital shopping journeys and assess how well their brands are positioned to help them along the way. Like the example above, understanding the current primary pathways that consumers are using along digital paths is our starting point. Instead of traditional targeting where we seek target consumers on specific channels, we assume an agnostic approach to find which channels consumers are actually using to connect and more importantly, the attributes of consumers organically connecting with content in order to avoid digitally spamming ones disinterested in our media.
The sneaker industry is a good example of a category that has embraced the potential of what is possible using a solid understanding of how shoppers are interacting with digital channels. Adidas for example has built a billion dollar franchise shoe, the NMD using only influencers and their content combined with advocacy like the image above from Solecollector.com. A simple search for the NMD reveals much industry influencer content as the top level results. Digital path to purchase marketing works to fill the mid-funnel content layer that has an outsize impact on lower funnel outcomes. Similarly, we've found when working in the premium sneaker category, that most engagement was happening primarily on Instagram, You Tube and taste-making properties like High Snobiety. Many influential sneakerheads didn't use Twitter at all, nor do they even have Twitter accounts. Spending time there would be less efficient than simply engaging where conversations were already happening, especially among taste makers in the community. Most brands have some sort of Twitter strategy which is fine but it's likely that the channel has little impact on purchasing behavior for most goods and services and even less on the path to purchase and would be better focused on customer service and awareness building. However, most current marketing efforts rely heavily on Twitter in terms of reach and impression numbers.
Its time for marketers to stop guessing and dictating where shoppers connect along the path to purchase. Learn who is connecting where and create great resources for them. They'll thank you with their loyalty. #FollowThePath #RetailRelevancy