The purchase context impacts how people feel about a brand
The success story of ASOS, who recently announced an impressive 18% jump in half year pre-tax profits, is no surprise to anyone shopping for clothes online (which surely is all of us isn’t it?).
The one stop fashion retailer now stocks over 850 brands and have super-nifty search tools meaning they take the vast choice available on the internet and make it easy to sift through. You can be so specific in your request that your experience feels uniquely tailored (3/4 sleeve, grey tunic top, size 12 under £40 please). But for those 850 brands selling there, are all their sales of equal benefit?
When sites turn the wonderfully huge, but sometimes overwhelming, choice available on the internet and make it work for us, it makes life so easy – something that behavioural economists are always eager to point out is critical to business success.
Retail online can often be an uncontrolled environment.
With 1 in 5 of us shopping while in bed and similar figures for those of us shopping during the morning commute, it makes sense that the sites genuinely working hard to help us out are the ones doing well. So with the growth of sites like ASOS, Ocado, Net-a-porter, Not On The High Street and even John Lewis, brands are making all kinds of sales in different ways and to people who might not have bought them before.
In some ways of course it’s the online equivalent of concessions in department stores, but what’s different is just how entirely uncontrolled this environment is.
The context of the purchase is unique, people define their own competitive set, they may hold a stronger relationship with the url brand than with what they are buying and moreover, the touchpoints with the brand bought can be minimal – in fact they can confidently buy from a brand they have never heard of before because are buying from a website they have a relationship with.
As a result not ALL sales will be equal.
As a result not all sales may be equal – for instance in the fashion world some may be from people who are on target, who will tell their friends and look fabulous dressed head to toe in our brand; but others may be from people who feel the brand is designed for those much younger than them who usually spend much more on this kind of item but who bought it as a throw away purchase that they will wear to do housework and exercise; not entirely great marketing for our brand.
Thinking from behavioural economics points out how brand is just one of the influencers on behaviour.
In fact, if the context is truly a big influence (which you could argue for these sites it may well be) people can go straight to behaviour with no warning signs of attitudes and brand beliefs changing.
And for those of us who seek to understand, explore and even quantify some of this in research, there are some important implications
- We need to understand and then measure the exact behaviour businesses seek to create. For example, Sainsbury’s sought to sell one more item to every customer.
- We need to understand the context of the purchase – what was it chosen instead of/alongside? What was it about that context that sparked that behaviour (and how can it be replicated for other people)?
- What is the relationship with the brand itself and with the site? Does this need to be understood amongst both those within and outside the target?
- What different touchpoints did they experience? How did they get to the purchase? What was the influence of the advertising, store experience, website etc?
- What is the long and short term effect of sales on brand health and vice versa?
Working to understand the impact of different types of sales is more complex than ever before because we have to accept that people may not follow the brand loyalty and purchase journey we have planned out for them – in fact they may not follow a journey at all.