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Q&A: Tracking the Shopper Journey

Charlie Menchaca
Managing Editor
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Theresa Lyons

Theresa Lyons has been with The Mars Agency for 26 years and currently leads a team of 12 diverse strategists as SVP of strategic planning.

Lyon’s team is dedicated to developing a deep understanding of the “why” behind shopper behavior to deliver insights and strategies that build brands and drive growth. She has been a key contributor to the development and deployment of Marilyn, the agency’s proprietary commerce marketing intelligence platform.

Path to Purchase IQ recently chatted with Lyons about her work. She will present virtually on Sept. 13 at the Shopper Insights and Measurement Forum. Her session is titled “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Store: Tracking the New Shopper Journey.”

P2PIQ: How much harder is it to track the shopper journey now than it was before the pandemic?

Lyons: Since the pandemic began, we have seen all kinds of changes in shopping behavior: Fewer but bigger trips, brand switching, e-commerce growth, curbside and delivery progress, new business-to-consumer offerings. We have said for years that the shopping journey is no longer linear, but all of this has added another layer of complexity. Some of these behaviors are still relatively small in terms of adoption, but we are not out of the pandemic yet so I wouldn’t anticipate them going away. We feel it’s time to expand how we look at the shopping journey in order to take these new behaviors into consideration.

P2PIQ: At the Shopper Insights & Measurement Forum, you’ll be talking about a relatively new but fast-growing aspect of the path to purchase: buying online for curbside or in-store pickup. How large a segment of the consumer base does this represent?

Lyons: We have seen data that indicates online grocery delivery and pickup represents $5.3 billion dollars in sales, which is down from its peak of a year ago and still represents just a fraction of overall grocery sales. But we have also seen data indicating shoppers who have adopted these methods intend to stick with them post-pandemic. Shoppers originally looked to these formats to provide safety when it was needed most, but they ultimately are incredibly convenient, too. As we move past the pandemic and lives become hectic again, these formats can become increasingly invaluable.

P2PIQ: Are data and analytics tools and processes keeping pace with these changes in shopping behavior?  

Lyons: I think it’s on everyone’s agenda to ensure they’re planning for and measuring the entire omnichannel landscape, but it can be overwhelming. Adding new channels and data points to an already complex and constantly changing environment is a lot to accomplish. That’s why we have built flexibility and agility into our proprietary technology tools – so we can adjust quickly to the environment.

P2PIQ: How does The Mars Agency help its clients stay informed about these kinds of trends? How do you help them activate the information through their commerce marketing activity?

Lyons: We drive shopper conversion by creating integrated omnichannel experiences and plans that connect the physical to the digital, the message to the medium, and the marketing to the merchandising. We do this through the experts in our field-based commerce hubs and our media planning and buying teams, along with Marilyn, our technology platform, which is fueled by proprietary research and a wealth of other industry information. All of this lets us stay highly connected to what’s happening in the marketplace and ensures our clients benefit from that knowledge in the work we deliver to them.

P2PIQ: And how do you help them measure the impact of their activity?  

Lyons: We leverage Marilyn to help structure programs and data in ways that then let us easily measure performance and incremental impact. We don’t just focus on post-program attribution, but also on all the ways to optimize the plan and its activation. Our goal is to drive effectiveness and efficiency throughout the entire planning process.

P2PIQ: What can you tell us about these BOPIS/curbside shoppers? Are there any defining characteristics? What are their key motivations?  

Lyons: We just completed a survey of 11,000 consumers that delves into these topics, so we’ll be able to present up-to-date insights at the Forum. The survey data lets us put a lens on these shoppers to get beyond simple demographics and drill down into purchase triggers such as meal planning, immediate fresh-food needs — maybe even the simple desire to shop. So stay tuned.

P2PIQ: What more can you tell us about the presentation? What are some of the nine “Moments of Impact” in the new shopper journey?

Lyons: Some parts of this journey are standard, like the planning or shopping stages, but we’re finding nuances between how shoppers plan or shop for an online versus in-store trip. For example, planning for an online trip involves less coupon collecting and list making, but more price comparing. In addition, there is a “Picking and Subbing” stage that is unique to these trips and can make a big difference: If shoppers are offered poor substitutions or ordered items are missed, it can diminish the size of the basket and leave the shopper frustrated.