How we shop and spend, and how Digital OOH fits in

April 21, 2011 by Dave Haynes

The Newspaper Association of America has released a really interesting look at the shopping patterns of Americans and the impact of advertising.

It is based on research purely conducted in the United States, but as with a lot of this kind of research, it provides insights beyond those borders.

The survey was conducted with some 2,500 adults and poked away at how people shop, when they make decisions, where, frequency and the influencers on purchases. It is done for the newspaper industry, so there is a definite tilt to that medium in the research, but it looks at media as a whole and specifically includes place-based media.

What caught my attention is the validation of the notion that consumers can be influenced by media outside the home, and that purchasing decisions are part of a cosnumer’s day to day journey.

“The thin quality of the shopping market and the short-term nature of many shopping decisions argue for frequency in advertising,” says the report, “especially as consumers are demonstrably receptive to this communication. Almost 6 in 10 (57 percent) of these category shoppers recalled ads in the previous two weeks that either brought a sale or item to their attention, reminded that it was available or needed, or encouraged going to the store for other reasons.”

The summary also notes:

“The time frame for the decision to shop often is short, but varies by product and the shopper’s personal situation. Altogether, two-thirds of the decisions to shop were made on the shopping day or the week before. On average, 36 percent of the decisions to shop in these categories were made the same day that shopping activitiescommenced, with a majority while consumers were out shopping for something else.”

So advertising and marketing messages on Digital OOH or marketing-driven in-store networks have a strong opportunity to influence or reaffirm shopping decisions close to the moment when people are whipping out their wallets. Digital OOH network advertising people are starting to really drive the message that this medium offers frequency and recency – the latter being the idea that brand advertising impressions strike people at the moments of maximum influence. In other words, an ad at or near a store is more influential than an ad seen by people parked on their love seats at home.

The report drills down deep into the actual decision to shop …

Products vary in the typical time required for shopping decisions, although most include asignificant proportion of late deciders. Among the 14 product categories we are reviewing, an average of 36 percent of shopping actions commenced on the decision day. Some 21 percent happened rather spontaneously while the consumer was out shopping for something else, while 15 percent were established earlier that day before the actual shopping started.

This same-day average in fact varies a lot by category, ranging from only 14 percent for travel plans up to around 50 percent for jewelry or watches, or for children’s or women’s apparel. On the other end, travel, furniture, large appliances and telephones or service plans are most likely to have more than a 2-week planning funnel.

Familiar life contingencies can trigger a decision to shop earlier in the day before the shopping action, such as reading or hearing an advertisement that brings a sale or product to your attention or perhaps reminds that you need to get something. Having free time or being in a convenient location can make one consider what should be on the shopping list.

Various stimuli can trigger shopping decisions while in the middle of a shopping trip. These could include in-store displays, suggestions from sales help, conversations with companions, remembering something not on your shopping list, calls from home, checking a shopping app on mobile device, or the purchase of something else that requires accessories.

The research found advertising doesn’t create needs, but consumers rely on it in subtle ways. Those surveyed agreed that advertising in the previous two weeks either:

Interestingly, the study found “on-site forms of store advertising showed strongly, with in-store product displays noted by 47 percent of adults and videos shown in malls or stores mentioned by 17 percent, or one–in-six adults.”

Newspapers came out on top (surprise!) but in-mall and in-store video outperformed radio, billboards and yellow page directories. Mobile barely registers with shoppers (though it’s still early, highly fragmented days for mobile shopping  apps).

If you run networks that try to influence consumers in some way – so pretty much anything place-based other than corporate and campus – this report is worth having a look through. It is about newspapers, but there are useful consumer insights to take in.

The report is free (a nice change from many reports) and can be downloaded as a PDF here.


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