By Jay Habegger

We held a meeting of OwnerIQ’s Retailer and Manufacturer Advisory Board in our Chicago office on Wednesday, 10 November. The meeting is part of OwnerIQ’s continuing effort to explore the changing consumer path-to-purchase.

In attendance were:

Jay Buchanan
Electronics Division Director
Nebraska Furniture Mart, Inc.

James A. Feltman
Sr. VP, Chief Marketing Officer
Ferguson – A Wolseley Company

Brian J. Maynard
Director, Brand Marketing
Jenn-Air & KitchenAid

Russ Minick
President
Electrolux Floor Care Products

Mike Ritter
VP Home and Office Store
Hewlett Packard

Also attending as a guest was:

Christine Neff
Formerly Director, Interactive Marketing & Emerging Media
Best Buy

We learned a lot by interacting with these professionals and you’ll see some of these learning reflected in changes to OwnerIQ’s service offerings and in ideas that show up on this blog.

What’s Happened to the Path-to-Purchase?

The group was in uniform agreement that the path-to-purchase has fundamentally changed. According to Russ Minick there is a “disturbingly” different consumer walking the door of the store. Research is being done online before the consumer ever enters the store and the combination of retail sites, manufacturer sites, blogs, comparison shopping engines and consumer reviews has profoundly changed what happens on the sales floor.

Minnick, Neff, Ritter

Mike Ritter of HP was careful to point out that the idea of a funnel or a clear, linear, path-to-purchase is not correct. The online path-to-purchase is a twisty, curvy path with consumers bouncing among the different resources in no consistent pattern. According to Mike, the “Funnel is Dead” and, at best, might be replaced with a matrix of consisting of resources matched with needs.

An advantage of the new online path-to-purchase though is how quickly a manufacturer can have an impact. According to Russ, the right bloggers and resulting customers reviews can turn a product into an on-line top-seller virtually over-night. If the blogs and reviews show up high in organic search then these simple things can drive a tremendous amount of product.

Jay Buchanan says that “consumers are far more willing to believe somebody they have never met, over the manufacturer or the retailer. Jim Feltman cautioned thought that blogs and review content requires manufacturers to have complementary educational content on their website too. According to Jim, “visitors bounce when there is nothing to read.”

Jim Feltman

Buchanan, Maynard, Feltman, Ustaris, Habegger

Brian Maynard thoughtfully pointed out that different product categories are being affected differently. Consumer online behavior in the purchase process for major appliances is different than for CE. In particular, there is less intensive online research and more dependence on the sales floor.

We spent a lot of time talking about how manufacturers and retailers can work in this new environment. A major focus of the conversation was co-operative marketing on-line. Christine Neff explained how the buyers and merchants, not necessarily retailer marketing departments, are key to online co-operative marketing. Neff went on to say how much of a challenge it is to get partners to move their funds from inserts and TV into digital.

The session was extremely useful and provided even more insight into how we can help retailers and manufacturers cope with the changes.