We are probably all familiar with the Big Bang theory of evolution.
Restated in novice (likely inaccurate terms) - a random collection of unrelated stuff coming together and transforming into something meaningful.
Here follows a recent experience which prompted me to consider a Big Bang model of consumer behaviour.
First, some confessions, relevant for context.
Personally, I am what is called an SMG (social media ghost – now who’s impressed?).
I’ve often joked that my lack of social media activity is so contrary to the “reason for being” of these platforms that I’m surprised my login hasn’t been revoked.
I was “activated” for business reasons. I’m on most platforms now, and feel convincingly part of the crowd – swiping, scrolling and double tapping like the best of them.
Again, personally, I’m also not a big shopper. I’ve coined my own style as “non committal” – so while I like and appreciate many, many lovely things, this doesn’t often translate to a “shopping event”.
These are important insights, as they go directly to the apparent randomness of this customer experience virtual tour…
Out of professional interest, I follow my clients and other businesses on Instagram. Among them is the full house belonging to a large footwear group.
While scrolling Instagram, a pair of sneakers / trainers / street footwear (insert your preferred terminology) caught my eye, and triggered my dormant shopper instincts. I decided to check them out IRL when next at my local shopping centre (no, the pull was not that strong that I would have made a special trip).
[catalyst combo #1 : Instagram + mild consumer interest + aesthetic / visual impact]
On no less than 4 occasions I perused the window display, or scooted around the store, trying to spot the shoes that had lured me in via Instagram. But no luck; they were never in stock. I was deliberately too quick to be offered assistance, and truthfully, I wasn’t committed to the search – it was not a priority.
Enter Achilles tendon injury. After ignoring my situation for 6 months, I was threatened by the doctor with cortisone injections and the possibility of my tendon snapping. Suddenly desperate for alternatives, I considered changing my footwear.
My association of a particular footwear brand to comfort, support and technical features, and the appeal of something more stylish than a moonboot, drew me back to the footwear group previously mentioned.
[catalyst combo #2 : pain + fear + technical need + vanity + branding awareness + style]
There I was, back in the shopping centre, circling a cluster of footwear stores. I finally entered THE store again.
At the same time my husband was updating his leisure footwear, at a next door store. No surprise he knew what he wanted (repeat purchase), bought it with no fuss and made his way across to join me - which increased my time in the store (no more dodging sales assistants).
[catalyst combo #3 : efficient shopping habits (him) + increased dwell time (me) ]
And this is where we meet Ben, sales associate extraordinaire. He brought every skill possible to the interaction – product knowledge, technical expertise, people skills, and endless patience. I no longer needed to be committed to the process, he had enough commitment for both of us. Without being pushy he worked his way through close on 12 different styles and sizes to find me exactly what I needed.
He built a relationship, he built trust. I felt valued and understood; it was all about me.
And importantly – the product I wanted (but never previously knew I did) was in stock!
[catalyst combo #4 : uber skills + patience + trust + being in-stock + personalisation]
And so it came to pass, that Ben sold me a pair of shoes; and I was so set on my favourite new brand, that I sold my husband another pair of shoes.
I was reassured that if I wasn’t absolutely happy with my purchases I could return them; even the socks! Yes, I was upsold to buying socks.
I left the store with a literal spring in my step, and a lifelong trust of the brand.
We even took my UK in-laws back a month later, and they bought 2 more pairs of trainers.
So let’s see – that’s 4 pairs of trainers, from one store, in 2 months, plus the pair from the store next door (same footwear group). Not bad transaction, acquisition and retention stats.
Now the “movie montage” style recap of this shopping experience, to arrive at what motivated me. What drove this chain reaction of wild consumer behaviour?
Professional interest (I started on Instagram)
Aesthetic appeal (I saw something I liked)
Convenience (I was already there, the shoe was is stock)
Need (physical fit, function over form – though I got both)
Emotions (fear, desperation, followed by trust and reassurance)
Service (technical and people skills)
Examining all these linkages, challenges my big picture thinking as to what’s really behind a sale, and how much can we control?
A digital whim, connected to a deep seated brand impression, led to a high touch interaction, which translated to a multiple sale, and long term brand conversion.
The entire experience was woven with fine threads, and the smallest slip up would have seen me slip away again (likely destined for a moonboot).
And so, after dragging you through the shopping centre with me, we arrive at my point – every step and every interaction had to be right.
Retail is rife with trends and innovations; there’s talk of tough times, and equally of soaring successes. True to its core however, Retail remains dynamic and competitive. It demands that we do everything to serve our customer, and do it all well, because there’s a lot of random chance involved.
CX, last mile, advertising, social media, in stock positions, top service, personalisation - you name it - each on its own is not necessarily enough.
Call it serendipity or coincidence – or something more digitally appropriate and engineered - it feels a lot like the Big Bang theory to me…
Big Bang – it’s a thang!
Disclaimer: Names may have been changed to protect the identities of actual persons and stores (or not).