An aggregate analysis of all the reported shopping journeys helped identify the degree of influence each channel has during different stages of decision making. The process of mapping respondents’ self-reported shopping stages indicated that a single channel may reappear during the journey multiple times. Some channels may also be used simultaneously during one shopping stage. For cosmetics shopping, in particular, Table 1 presents the channels and information sources that have been identified as most influential at each stage.
Segmenting customer journeys
This aggregate analysis masks a myriad of shopping journeys, however, some extensive and high in channel-hopping and others shorter and low in information search. The subsequent analysis attempted to segment cosmetics shopping journeys based on journey type. All the journeys were mapped to detect patterns, and behavioural themes have emerged, leading to the identification of the following typology:
These journey segments coincide with some of the decision-making types proposed by Solomon23 in the offline setting, yet provide additional utility as the three journey types identified here have been inductively mapped as patterns in the multi-channel, multi-platform and multi-device environment. Each journey type is discussed in turn below and illustrated visually with a journey map.
During impulsive journeys, customers tend to spend less time searching for information. Instead, they refer to their previous experience, their friends and product trial as information sources to make swift purchasing decisions.
The intention to purchase can easily be affected by the customer’s mood or exposure to a new, attractive product display. Impulsive customers can feel overwhelmed when exposed to large amounts of data, which can push them to make an impulsive or emotionally driven decision. As the quote below illustrates, for some respondents cosmetics purchase is an on-the-spot decision taken in a physical store at a cosmetics counter (Figure 3).
… I love products with cute packaging. When I want to buy, I don’t really search for information online. I will just ask my friends and buy it at the cosmetics counter … I don’t have second thoughts on the purchase. I rarely shop online ….
An aspirational or reference group, such as friends, bloggers or celebrities, as well as traditional and digital media can trigger balanced journeys. Crucially, however, such journeys then exhibit an extended search for information and evaluation, which makes them distinct from impulsive journeys. Here customers initiate their intention to purchase through emotions and support their decision through cognitive evaluation. They often check information they find against a number of different sources across channels and platforms to arrive at a purchase decision. There is evidence of webrooming and showrooming during that process, as the quote below illustrates (Figure 4).
… I like watching bloggers and YouTubers. The products that they use look interesting but the information is just a brief product review. I Google for more in-depth reviews from blogs online. I also sometimes use the online store for references of colour swatches or product ratings. After I see the swatch and there is a store nearby, I would want to go in the store to try it out for myself. If not, I feel a bit more risk and take more time considering if I should buy the product. I will often ask my friends for advice ….
Considered journeys have an extended pre-shopping stage, where respondents do not think of themselves as shopping, but gather information from a number of sources, including news, product reviews, blogs and friends, which is then stored in their personal database. This information is then used to evaluate choices when a need or want arises. The Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT) is most influential during these types of journey as it has an extended effect on the ultimate purchase decision by influencing the permission set customers have in their minds. The following quote illustrates the process of storing and retrieving information prior to purchase (Figure 5).
… Normally when I have free time, I will read forums on web boards and watch some YouTube videos, but I might not want to buy at that time. Whenever I want to buy products, I remember what I have read or watched and search for just specific information to make a decision ….
Role of ZMOT, webrooming and showrooming
One of the major findings of the study is the extensive evidence of what Lecinski5 termed the ZMOT and what Molenaar25 termed the Orientation Stage. This is a stage of shopping not explicitly identified in extant academic consumer decision-making models, yet one that in practice gives users first exposure to products and reviews and influences their opinions through media. Respondents reported that this happens before they think of themselves as shopping and is often seen as inspiration or ongoing horizon scanning for new trends and products.
In addition, two multichannel behaviours have been evidenced during customer journeys.
Showrooming has been reported to take place during product evaluation, where physical product attributes are important. In cosmetics, in particular, attributes such as colour and consistency of a lipstick are often evaluated in-store, as there is a limited return policy on health and beauty products once opened. The physical examination therefore reduces perceived risk of purchase, even if the product is eventually bought online.
Webrooming has been reported to take place once the initial product selection is identified. The web is then used as an online showroom where ease of price and product feature comparison can help to narrow down the consideration set further. The final purchase in this case is then completed in-store, where the final decision takes place.
All these behaviours have been reported by cosmetics purchasers in our study. There is evidently an urgent need to re-examine decision-making models in the light of new multichannel and multi-platform, and multi-device realities. More inductive studies are called for to help build theory through examining practice.