I’d like to hope that we’re past the point of thinking that shopper marketing equals in-store marketing: that most people in the industry accept that the process of shopping starts before the store. But definitions and points of view stubbornly refuse to change. I could include many links to articles and sites that define shopper marketing as equal to in-store marketing but I don’t want to give these sites the oxygen of a link – Just Google “What is shopper marketing” and you’ll see what I mean! In this post I’d like to share an example of how shopping behavior can clearly be influenced outside of the store: in this case a customer service team delivering shopper marketing excellence (and one doing the opposite!)
Customer Service can be a winning part of the purchase journey
I’m contemplating buying a new music system for my home. I love my music and it has been suggested (frequently, by my business partner, Toby Desforges) that I can be a bit of a nerd! So as you can imagine the path to purchase for me in this particular category is long. I’m thinking about a multi-room system, but I’ve got some pretty good gear already, so I don’t want to ditch it all. How does my path to purchase look?
I started with word of mouth. I remember a friend of mine mentioning that he was delighted with Sonos – so I headed to their website. The equipment looked good, but I wasn’t not sure how it would work with my existing speakers and the new turntable I’ve just bought, or which speakers to choose in other rooms. So I drop a note to Sonos, and asked them. Here is the reply I got:
“Thank you for contacting Sonos Customer Care. I see that you are interested in using your existing speakers with your Sonos system. If your speakers are connected to a receiver/amplifier you would use a Sonos CONNECT to incorporate those existing speakers with your Sonos system.
As far as using a turntable if the turntable is wired to your existing receiver/amplifier you would then just switch inputs to your turntable to play into your Sonos CONNECT. If not you would use the line-in feature on CONNECT, CONNECT:AMP or PLAY:5.
In determining which size speakers to use in your rooms that will be more up to you based on the size of the room you are trying to fill music. Personally, I like the sound of 2-PLAY:1’s that have been stereo paired in a large room or a single PLAY:5. If you purchase your Sonos products from Sonos directly you do have a 45-day money back guarantee so you can test which set of speakers work best in your environment.”
Pretty good eh? We exchanged a number of emails, and different customer service reps always came back with detailed responses which were easy to understand.
Customer Service Can Kill the Shopper Experience
Then I spoke to another friend, who suggested I check out Denon and Harman Kardon, two other reputable brands who offer similar multi-room systems. I didn’t try Denon because my last system was Denon, and it kept breaking, but HK are pretty good, so I thought I’d check them out. Online, it wasn’t clear whether the system was available in Thailand, where I live, so I dropped an email to the customer service team. Here is their reply:
“Regarding your question please note that you need to contact APAC Support in order to help you further with the matter.
Please send an e-mail to them to: Support.APAC@harman.com in order to check the availability of the AdaptWireless system.”
Spot the difference? The customer service team here apparently doesn’t have time to contact their Asia Pacific team, so leave that to me. How hard would it have been for them to check this, and get back to me with the answer? Not impressed, but undeterred, I wrote to the email address and repeated my request. This is what I received:
“Thanks for your reply.
I am copying our Singapore Distributor who will be able to assist in your sales enquiry on adapt system. “
I’m still waiting for a note from the Singapore distributor.
So when I do finally go to stores, I will certainly check out the Sonos, but I will give the HK system a wide berth. It might be the best system in the world for all I know, but customer service post-purchase will be important to me, and, frankly, the customer service has just turned me off. So from a consideration set of potentially three companies, I’m down to one, and I haven’t yet listened to a single system, nor visited a store! Surely all of this is helping a shopper make a buying decision? Isn’t all of this an opportunity to positively influence shopping behavior? Isn’t this shopper marketing?
Shopper Oriented Customer Service Drives Profits
And the impact of this? Sonos has already won my heart, so winning me in-store will be easy, which means they won’t need to resort to expensive discounts and deals. I’m prepared to seek the brand out too, so that means that they may not need to invest so much in distribution. And the sale will probably be quicker, meaning I’ll tie up less time with their sales person, again a potential cost saving. And lastly, because of the advice, I’m more likely to get the system which is right for me, creating a positive experience, and leading to more great word of mouth, which is where this particular path to purchase started.
If you’re in shopper marketing and not at least considering all of the potential channels where you can engage with shoppers, then you may be missing an opportunity. To be clear I’m not suggesting that shopper marketing should take over every possible communication channel, but by understanding which shoppers you are targeting, and where you might be able to influence them, there is a possibility of influencing shoppers before they get to the store. You can learn more about how to connect with shoppers in a multi-channel world by grabbing a copy of “The Shopper Marketing Revolution.”