informed promo-driven customer


Know Your Customers: Informed vs. Promo-Driven Shoppers

By Julia Michaelis

You’re a marketer, but it never really stops there.

You’re an analyst, a designer, a finance manager and more. 

But what you may not know is that you’re also a behavioral scientist – and your subjects are your shoppers. We’re pretty sure you aren’t studying MRIs, but you are influencing thought and cultivating sets of behaviors toward your brand over time. You may feel sometimes like you’re at the whim of your shoppers, but every single email, ad and experience you create forces and reinforces practice.

Think about Newton’s Third Law. Every single action we take has an equal and opposite reaction. That can be scary. Even if your email sits in your shopper’s inbox unopened and unclicked – it’s an action that has a lot to say. 

And once you push your shoppers into developing bad habits, it’s almost impossible to get them back.

Informed Shoppers and Promo-Driven Shoppers 

In the new era of retail, each shopper falls into one of two categories for each brand: promo-driven or informed. Promo-driven shoppers are reactive and motivated by incentives or sales. They typically purchase products at a lower value or only purchase products once, contributing to the one-and-done buyer problem and low retention rates. These shoppers can sometimes appear as informed, but only complete purchases when they receive a coupon so you have to re-entice them to make each purchase. They are driven purely by incentive and have little interest in your brand. Informed shoppers are proactive. They engage with your brand through different channels and identify with your brand values. They continue to make purchases over time and encourage their network to do the same. 

But there’s a catch. A shopper can be promo-driven for one brand and informed for another.

Beth is a Promo-Driven Shopper and an Informed Shopper

Take Beth, for example. We know Beth is an active shopper living in Chicago. She likes to share great finds with her family and friends. She looks for specific fabrics, sizing and styles and her preferences and purchase cycle are relatively predictable as seasons change. Beth is willing to spend for what she loves. However, Beth is a savvy shopper. She has a different opinion about each retailer she interacts with, which changes how much she’s willing to spend at each different store. 

Three Actions and Reactions of Promo-Driven Shoppers

Let’s get into your shoppers’ heads. Here are three marketer actions that slowly build promo-driven behaviors over-time, and the reactions that you’re getting from shoppers.

Sending Batch & Blast Emails

“Oh my gosh, if I see another email from them… Why am I getting these every day? I’m tired of it. They have nothing I want anyway. I’ll just unsubscribe.”

With every email we send, there’s usually some level of return that artificially feels like success – so why not send more? The return may feel worth the risk of an unsubscribe, but there’s more behind each of those numbers. Unsubscribes don’t only indicate that shoppers won’t purchase from you again. They are ultimately triggered by an emotional response of frustration that shoppers have built up toward your brand over-time. It leads them to believe that you don’t care about their time, experiences or dollars and that you’re likely to follow the same pattern in the future and continue to make too much noise in their inboxes.

Heavy and Frequent Discounting

“These clothes aren’t worth the full price. I like this top, but I’ll just wait until it goes on sale. It always does eventually…”

When you over-indulge your shoppers, they’ll know to wait to take advantage of the next markdown. By offering frequent sitewide markdowns, your shoppers will begin to believe that your products aren’t worth their full value, or even not worth a light markdown the more they’re able to stack offers. This kills your bottom line and leads shoppers to believe that the overall value of your brand is low, not just your products. With heavy discounting, you’re training your shoppers not to buy and devaluing your brand.

Generic, Disparate Offers Across Channels

“Their look is so unpolished and inconsistent. I’m confused. Their product quality must not be so great, so maybe I’ll get new jeans elsewhere.”

Your brand is what makes your company special. You love your colors and style and work hard to make sure that your outreach and messaging contributes to your brand’s story and organizational goals. The last thing you want to do is waste that effort on dissonant marketing outreach. When shoppers see generic, disparate offers and advertisements as they scroll across channels, they begin to believe that your company is uncoordinated and outdated, eroding brand trust. With marketing outreach that is siloed between different tools, you run the risk of inconsistency across channels and contradict your messaging. With that level of inconsistency with products, offers, style and messaging, you’ll undermine your brand and waste your marketing investments.

Three Actions and Reactions of Informed Shoppers

The good news is that by flexing our behavioral science skills, we can build new strategies for informed shoppers. Here are actions you can take to make your shoppers good actors for your brand.

Build a Rewards Program

“OK I need to get my sister to buy this new activewear for rewards points. Joanna and Katie would love these too. Let me snap a few pictures of me in my new leggings.

What’s everyone’s favorite topic? Themselves! So one of your biggest opportunities for success is knowing how to leverage shoppers’ natural networks with personalized offers through insider programs, recommendation codes, and more. When you grant your shoppers incentives, they feel more and more like their voice matters to your brand. The more built-in the shoppers are, the more loyal they become. This leads to them selling your products for you holistically. Just yesterday, I shared three discount codes and sent a digital collage stitched together on Instagram of all my favorite items from that retailer (gifs and all). I was excited to tell them what I loved and show off pictures of my new buys. Everyone’s an influencer these days, so buy-in matters.

Personalize Across Channels

“I love this style. Every time I see their stuff, I feel the story and want to look like this every day. I need more inspiration. I’m going to follow them on Instagram now”

Personalization is everything. But email personalization alone isn’t enough to captivate your shoppers in the new era of retail. Take a minute and think of all of the touchpoints you have with your shoppers – paid media, your eCommerce site, email. Then think about all of the tools it takes to activate those touchpoints. With 1:1 personalization across channels, you’re signaling to your shoppers that you care about your story and their story, wherever they’re clicking and browsing. That cohesion is critical to building trust with your shoppers. Creating a fluid, customer-centric experience makes new and existing customers excited and looking for more ways to engage.

AI-Driven Recommendations and Workflows

“These elevated basics are incredible, and just in time for spring. I didn’t expect these kinds of clothes to be here, either! I’m going to pin them on my Spring Refresh board”

Spring cleaning isn’t just for your house. Shoppers refresh their closets as the year progresses, and they tend to follow a similar purchase cycle. With the right retail marketing technology in place, you can seize that perfect moment and introduce shoppers to the products they’ll love, but haven’t met yet  – all without having to lift a finger. We aren’t just talking about the basics. Sophisticated, self-learning technology combines behavioral data, customer data and product data in real time to mix personalized visuals, product elements and intelligence-driven timing to meet your shoppers where they are, and when they are with changes that become more personalized as your technology learns more with each shopper interaction. 

You Decide Who Your Shoppers Will Be

With the right strategies in place, you can transform your shoppers from one-time buyers to lifelong customers simply by knowing them. Making the right investments in 1:1 personalization and technology signals to your shoppers that you care about their experiences, thereby leading them to become engaged and proactive consumers of your products. With eCommerce booming and brands competing for space and attention, you can’t afford not to. Don’t erode your margins and hurt your bottom line by training bad actors. 

So who are your shoppers? Ultimately, it’s up to you.

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Julia Michaelis

Julia is Content Marketing Manager at Bluecore. Julia has been telling stories about personalization and interoperability in data and technology for three years in education, and is excited to do the same in retail. Julia lives in Brooklyn with her terrier Lee and loves shopping, paddleboarding, and reading (in that order).

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