If we are to understand where retail is headed in the future we need to examine underlying motives for consumer engaging in omnichannel shopping. While right now it is born of convenience and as a result of physical retail being on pause, it's not going to be like this forever. In this post I look at the findings of research into high involvement fashion consumers - those who love to shop for fashion and what an omnichannel journey means for them to understand how we can transform retail for the better.
What does an omnichannel customer journey even look like?
Mapping an omnichannel customer journey is simply a means of taking a snapshot of a brand's retail channels. It maps out how consumers proceed through the major decision-making stages of their shopping journey and looks at the channels, devices employed and the emotional customer experiences captured along the way.
The image below represents findings of my own research and proposes a model for fashion customer decision-making journeys. In research we normally examine channels in isolation of one another, but that doesn't reflect the customer reality hence why the model encapsulates many touchpoint.
The Omnichannel customer decision-making journey framework for fashion
You can read the full published peer-review research paper in full here or download a pre-print copy here
© Dr Sam Lynch
Research Key Takeaways
Did you know that high involvement fashion consumers are particularly sensitive to regret and dissonance? That's why FOMO is really a thing when it comes to Risk Shopper Behaviour. An omnichannel decision-making journey is the one that predicated on risk and that consumers employ specific strategies to avoid such risks. Essentially, when high involvement consumers experience FOMO (fear of missing out) decision behaviour they subsequently traverse an array of retail channels to look at other similar products as a risk reduction strategy and to reach a point of saturation (just to be sure the item have found is definitely the right one for them). So it's the final hurdle in the decision journey, at the pre-purchase stage at least.
Customer Journeys are an Emotional Rollercoaster
Emotion plays a huge role in how we look and feel and the same goes for when it comes to fashion So, it is only a natural expectation that these emotions also play a role within the retail purchase journey for clothing. The benefit of mapping and examining a customer decision journey is that retailers are able to unravel and understand the emotions experienced by customers over the course of their decision Looking at a customer journey our findings reveal that these fashion consumers experience an emotional rollercoaster of positive and negative feelings throughout their omnichannel experience. So it maps the highs and the lows. What this reveals are weak stages of a customer decision-making journey as priority areas for retailer improvement. As a marketer by trade that's pretty handy - especially if you are having to prioritise or recalibrate your marketing budget and resources across an array of channels right now. When looking at a fashion customer journey the findings reveal a need for retailers to prioritise the delivery and returns stages as they represent major stress points for consumers. While this may not be a surprise - what is surprising is the lack of action taken by retailers in this area, allowing the Amazons of the world to swoop in on customer spend for a whole array of product because it eradicates this major stress point for consumers. Bring on the retailers with drive-through collection is what I say.
Risk Reduction Activities
High involvement fashion consumers are savvy, they implement a diverse array of strategies as a way or reducing their risk when making fashion purchases. Some of these strategies are listed below but you can read more about these in my article:
Over-ordering product - costly and inefficient for the retailer
Reducing pre-purchase dissonance by social opinion validation
Wishlists and baskets to collate, curate and consider potential items for purchase
Delayed decision commitment - the point of purchase is no longer the point of commitment
Opinion leadership - show and share stage
Any fashion retailer is only as good as the weakest point in its customer journey and retailers who map their customer journey will be able to look at customers emotional experiences over the course of the journey in order to close the gap between actual and desired brand experience. The framework also identifies which channels and devices are used during each stage journey to help pinpoint which stage your customer may be at - imagine how helpful this could be to online customer service teams having this in-depth insight about your brand. Retailers do need prioritise the delivery and returns stages though- as I mentioned, they still represent major stress points for consumers.
So what about physical retail? Well, the decision journey study highlighted one key issue in-store tech should not just be a tick box exercise or novelty. I call for purposeful customer tech. Fashion consumers love collate, curate and consider potential items for purchase. Usage of wishlists and baskets online have become an even bigger tool during lockdown as customers curate potential items for future purchase, yet these tools are no where to be seen in store, no reminders when you walk in, no helpful signposting alerting customers that they're preferred items are available right now. Retailers need to take a long hard look at better leveraging technology in store - it could be such a powerful tool to make physical retail better again.
But all of this information is not solely for the big boys and girls of retail, the big brand stores we all know. The decision-making journey is a method by which to move a fashion retail brand further towards an omnichannel strategy and while it can be applied to large scale retailers this is an incredibly useful and cost-effective tool for fashion retail SMEs by which to examine their current retail marketing strategy.