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Influencing Shopper Decisions with Devora Rogers

Our guest this week is Devora Rogers, the co-author of Influencing Shopper Decisions, this month’s Bigeye Book Club selection. Devora discusses how retail and brand marketers can use agile neuroscience and two new metrics – usage and influence – to provide fresh insights into shoppers’ needs, priorities, and context. IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners can claim a 20 percent discount on Influencing Shopper Decisions at KoganPage.com by using the promo code BIGEYE20 at checkout.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: Coming up in this episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS:

Devora Rogers: Shoppers want to be informed and the process of understanding how shoppers do that is through usage and influence – and information is now a kind of value.

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising produced weekly by Bigeye: a strategy-led, full-service creative agency, growing brands for clients globally. Hello. I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, Chief Strategy Officer. Thank you for joining us. Today’s podcast marks the fifth episode of the Bigeye Book Club in partnership with our friends at Kogan Page Publishing. Our featured Book Club selection for May is Influencing Shopper Decisions: Unleash The Power Of Your Brand To Win Customers by Rebecca Brooks and Devora Rogers. The book makes a case for approaching shopping behavior research in an entirely new way: focusing on shopper needs, priorities, and context. I’m delighted that we’re joined today by co-author Devora Rogers, who is Chief Strategy Officer with the consumer insights research agency, Alter Agents. Devora works with global brands across multiple industries, including Snapchat, Activision, Nespresso, and Google. Her TEDx talk, The Science Of Shopping And Future Of Retail has been viewed over a quarter of a million times. To discuss some of the key ideas in Influencing Shopper Decisions, Devora is joining us today from her office in Los Angeles. Devora, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Devora Rogers: Thank you. Thank you so much for having me.

Adrian Tennant: What prompted you and your co-author Rebecca Brooks to write Influencing Shopper Decisions?

Devora Rogers: I mean everything. This has been our area of focus for over a decade. And we got to a place where it was like, the book was bubbling out of us. And a publisher saw me speak in New York right before, the whole world changed with COVID and, she was like, “You need to have already written a book. You need to have already written five books. You have a viewpoint here.” And once we started writing it, it was clear that everything prompted us to write it because so much of our focus has been on what drives people to behave the way they do. And how does that impact their decisions.

Adrian Tennant: So, what did the writing process look like for you and Rebecca?

Devora Rogers: Yeah. So this was a lot of fun for me. I mean, I’m a writer, right? So I’m a researcher during the day, but I’m a writer kind of always – for life, right? That’s just who I am. I’ve been scribbling in journals since I was 10 and realized that that was a thing. Rebecca’s a very good writer, but she didn’t necessarily view herself that way. And so we each approach this kind of differently. And what we decided to do was trade off on chapters. And so the chapters that I felt like I really had a handle on, I would write. And those that were very close to her, she would write. It was a nine month process and one would take a chapter a month and then the other one would take the next sometimes, maybe two or three weeks, but every two or three weeks, we would switch off. She would go get a hotel room where she could be safe from her children and stay up all night writing. And I was afraid of like taking myself too seriously and so I would just invite children over to my house and have chaos and write.

Adrian Tennant: Two very different writing styles from the sounds of things. 

Devora Rogers: We both had something similar, which is that we would like to write the first pass and then hand it off to somebody and let them review it. And so the other person could come in and say, “Oh, we think we missed this.” Or, “Oh, you petered out here, let me help you here.” So it was a really great, natural process.

Adrian Tennant: The first chapter of Influencing Shopper Decisions illustrates the impact of digital technologies and how they’ve transformed how many people approach shopping. You also introduce a new framework based on two immutable truths. So Devora, can you explain what led you to determine that usage and influence are key metrics for tracking and revealing today’s shopper journey?

Devora Rogers: Usage and influence became our North Stars, our key metrics, because we began to see that there were so many things that shoppers were doing. They were becoming prolific researchers and literally going everywhere all the time, sometimes for weeks or months on end. And in that process, they’re encountering such a large amount of information, that we felt like it was important that brands know where people were going for information. That’s the usage. And then what of those sources – and our list is about 45 sources plus – actually drive influence, actually cause people to purchase? And you have to separate them, you know, it’s “Did you do it? Did you use it?” And “Was it helpful?” and that today, as a marketer, with brand as a driver of shopper interest and purchase decreasing, what we see is that in place of that is really information. Shoppers want to be informed. And the process of understanding how shoppers do that is through usage and influence. And information is now a kind of value. It’s not enough for a product to be good. It’s not enough for it to be a decent price. When you used to ask shoppers, what made them make the decision that they did, it used to almost always be brand and value, you know, kind of what you paid for the price of the item and was that worth it? And today, both of those are increasingly being replaced by “Did I have the information that made me confident to make a decision?” And so usage and influence capture that shift to what Daniel Pink calls information parity.

Adrian Tennant: The third chapter of your book is The Age Of Shopper Promiscuity, in which you discuss how your research reveals a fundamental change in the way that people shop today, compared to a decade and a half ago. So Devora, what is shopper promiscuity?

Devora Rogers: It almost sounds naughty, right? And in fact, we had originally proposed to our very British publisher that we call the book Shopper Promiscuity and they were very concerned about that as, as a potential name for a book. But what it is is openness. Promiscuity, you know, often we think about it in terms of relationships and sex. But what it has to do with is an openness to things. So a promiscuous reader is somebody that reads everything, they’ll read anything and everything. And that is how it applies to shoppers. Shoppers will consider all kinds of things and they’re not held down by brand. They’re not held down by what they purchased a week ago. They’re willing and able to buy anything that works for them. And today, they have so many choices. Innovation has grown so rapidly. We cite numbers in the book about the rate of innovations and the number of new SKUs that have come out in the past five to 10 years. So they have more choices. There’s more innovation. There’s more accessibility. So yeah, in the same way, if you walked out of your house every day and there were 10 stunning looking people standing outside, waving at you saying, “Hello, would you love me?” it might be hard to stay loyal to your partner! And it’s sort of the same kind of thing. Every time we go and buy, we have so many choices that are all amazing. And so it has brought shoppers to a place where they are open to anything and everything, and it makes it a much more challenging environment for brands to operate in.

Adrian Tennant: In 2021, your research agency, Alter Agents, undertook a study with over 6,000 recent purchasers examining shopping behaviors in six different categories, designed to reveal how shoppers are making decisions. One of the findings that you share in your book is that shoppers are using more sources of information than ever before when making a purchase decision. So Devora, how is source usage important in understanding the shopper’s path to purchase?

Devora Rogers: It’s incredibly important to understand source usage because the new currency is information. And if information is the currency – and we all are becoming researchers, which over a decade of research has shown us – shoppers are all becoming researchers. You might not do it on everything that you buy, but you’ll do it on a lot more things than our parents were able to do simply because the information wasn’t there and the internet wasn’t there and the mobile phone wasn’t there. So today, information is how people make decisions and they have a lot of information at their fingertips, but for brands it’s really tricky because nobody has infinite marketing budgets. Even the biggest media spender in the world has limits and they have to know where to put their efforts. And so what source usage tells us is where do people go for information? And when do they go for each of those types of information? Are they going online first and then eventually going to the store? Are they going to the store first and then going online? Are they never going to the store or are they listening to a podcast? Are they reading reviews? Are they using TikTok? There’s just so many different places brands could be. And there’s so many places that shoppers are researching. Sometimes when I talk to brands about this, they think, “Oh, this is like marketing mix modeling”. No, it’s about where you’re going to tell your stories and how you’re going to do that in each of these radically different environments. And which of those are going to reach the most people and be most likely to influence them so that they don’t end up going with a competitor who just happens to have more information in a place that that person was looking.

Adrian Tennant: Another new metric you introduce us to in the sixth chapter of Influencing Shopper Decisions is net influence. Could you explain its origins and how it works alongside source usage?

Devora Rogers: Sure. So net influence was the brainchild of John Ross who had been my boss and was my partner when we were developing this work with Rebecca originally. He had been the CMO at The Home Depot, a prolific retail marketer. Today, he’s the CEO of IGA, a large grocery store alliance. And he had had one of the largest media budgets in the world. And he had all kinds of consultants constantly coming and looking at his data and he had data analysts. And so, in theory, he should have had every single possible choice available to him to reach and influence shoppers. And when he came to us, he said, “You know, I still don’t understand why people do what they do. We need a way to unpack that.” And so we began looking at source usage and realize it’s not enough to just say, “What do people do?” because you could have heard a recommendation for a book on a podcast. Or you could have been on Amazon and seen a recommended algorithmic suggestion. But which of those actually made a difference for you? And as a brand where to really put your efforts, what do you value? And if you have different categories that you work in, how does that change? And so net influence gave us a way to make sense of what people were doing by really revealing, did this actually drive your purchase decision? How influential was it? And net influence was the metric that we landed on and in many ways, I mean, make a case for this in the book, we think it ought to replace that concept of ROI: return on investment, which looks at what did you spend. Oh, you spent all this money on all these things. Well, here’s what you got for that. But what about the things that were never on your list? How do you measure ROI for that? If you’ve never invested in podcasts, how do you know you don’t have a return on investment because it’s not even on your list? And so net influence allows us to see where influence is taking place. And what’s cool is that even if a brand isn’t investing in a particular source, maybe social media in the past, or maybe today it’s certain types of events or certain types of direct response advertising. Net influence allows us to say it appears that your competitors are investing in these things and it kind of lays bare where influence is taking place, regardless of whether that brand was invested in it or not.

Adrian Tennant: Chapter nine of your book is Unlocking Hidden Shopper Insights Through Agile Neuroscience. In it, you describe your own traumatic experiences with traditional electroencephalography or EEG headsets as a child, but this is not the type of consumer neuroscience equipment you’re talking about. Could you explain what you mean by agile neuroscience?

Devora Rogers: So this is one of my favorite topics. I was 10 years old and I had epilepsy. I had a form of epilepsy called petite mal, which isn’t the worst as epilepsy goes, but it was having an impact on my life and so they would put EEGs on me and lay me down in dark room with bright lights shining. And I swear at 10 years old, I said, “I’m never going to do this to anyone.” Rebecca, my co-writer and partner said, “There’s no way at 10, you said that you weren’t going to do this to anyone.” And I said, “No, I did. I really did.” Now, of course, I didn’t know I was going to become a marketer and a researcher and that, as one of those things, I might be able to use neuroscience to answer questions, but I did. And early on when we began looking at different ways to understand shopper decision-making – quant, qual, neuro – I was clear that I didn’t think that it was appropriate to put EEGs on shoppers and call that good research. It’s also not realistic to put people through MRIs. In most cases, brands just cannot afford that at scale and also it doesn’t really replicate the experience because you’re not usually an MRI when you make decisions. And so we looked for a long time at different ways of incorporating neuroscience. For a while, we looked at facial coding, we then looked at galvanic skin response, which is essentially sweat conductance. And, we finally landed on a solution that came out of the Claremont Graduate University and Dr. Paul Zak and a number of his collaborators had developed a product we really liked called Immersion. And Immersion has about 20 years of testing and experience behind it. But what they did is they evaluated what were the best, most scalable and consistent, and also predictive measures that emerge from the body and the brain that could be captured. And they did that through blood draws initially, they did it through heart rate, they did it through all kinds of techniques. And ultimately, what they landed on is something called variable heart rate, which is the distance between the beats. And that, that can actually be picked up by fairly inexpensive sensors. They’re called Scosche devices, or today, the thing that many people have – about 40% in this country – which are Apple or smartwatches, and they produce very consistent and predictive measures of future intent. so future buying behaviors. And so agile neuroscience is a term that we’re really fond of because it speaks to how this works. It’s flexible. It’s scalable. You can recruit people easily for it. You don’t have to be in a lab. You can be in a lab if you want to be. But today, a lot of the agile neuroscience that we’re doing happens with users at home in front of their computer and they are wearing a Scosche device or a smartwatch, and we expose them to different experiences, or we bring them into a store and have them walk around. But in either case, it’s a very easy way to capture what’s happening inside people’s brains that’s far more scalable and cheaper than traditional neuroscience.

Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after these messages.

Adrian Tennant: Each month, in partnership with our friends at Kogan Page, the Bigeye Book Club features interviews with authors who are experts in specific areas of marketing and consumer research. Our featured book for May is Influencing Shopper Decisions: Unleash the Power of Your Brand to Win Customers by Rebecca Brooks and Devora Rogers. IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners can save 20 percent on a print or electronic version of the book with exclusive promo code BIGEYE20. This code is valid for all products and pre-orders and applies to Kogan Page’s free e-book offer. To order your copy of Influencing Shopper Decisions, go to KoganPage.com – that’s K O G A N P A G E dot com.

Adrian Tennant: Last October, Bigeye published a market research report, entitled Retail Disrupted: What Shoppers Want From Brands Today. We surveyed consumers across America to find out how their shopping behaviors had changed as a result of the pandemic. In a special Bigeye video event, we’re joined by four experts who reflect on the study’s findings and explore the implications for retailers and brand marketers in 2022.

Doug Stephens: It’s logical to assume that as we see this metaverse construct, as we as individuals spend more and more time in these virtual worlds, that the adoption of things like virtual apparel might start to make more and more sense.

Ingrid Milman-Cordy: I think being channel agnostic and just making sure that you are you know meeting your consumer, where they are is important. to not think about channels as competitive to each other, thinking about them as complementary.

Andy Sheldon: When you’re watching something as a live stream, that’s linear, there’s no choice, but to watch what’s going on at that moment on the shopping teller.

Syama Meagher: I see NFTs as an invitation for consumers to join brands on a digital journey and for brands to invite consumers to spend their cryptocurrencies and their time into building a relationship with the brand. 

Adrian Tennant: For a lively discussion about the future of retail and marketing watch Bigeye’s Envision 2022. For details, go to bigeyeagency.com/insights.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Devorah Rogers, the co-author of this month’s Bigeye Book Club selection, Influencing Shopper Decisions: Unleash The Power Of Your Brand To Win Customers. The tenth chapter explores the evolution of shopper values. You include a quotation from anthropologist, Michael Donovan, illustrating how successful retailers provide cues, symbols, and spaces designed to engage our – quote – “cultural imagination.” He goes on to define shopping as a central creative activity of American life, a kind of popular Performance Art. So Devora, in what kinds of ways do shoppers’ values influence their purchase decisions?

Devora Rogers: Of all the questions we’ve talked about up until now, I think that in some ways, this is the one that is my next book. I have a lot of thoughts on this and I don’t know that I, or anyone really, has all the language to speak to what we mean by shoppers’ values. Right? So we use terms like “storytelling” or terms like “corporate social responsibility”, “values”, “sustainability”, and none of those fully encapsulate how shoppers are thinking about things that matter to them. So their values have a huge part in their purchase decisions. And we looked at it from a lot of different perspectives. We looked at it from fair labor practices, ethical, sustainable manufacturing, whether,the brand is authentic and does what they say they do, whether they give their employees healthcare, in the United States, that’s not a given. And so we looked at this from a lot of different perspectives and of course, any generation, any group of shoppers, any number of people, values mean different things. But generally, if we were to limit it to like, just help our minds wrap around it, it would be you know, in what ways do good brand behavior influence shoppers’ decisions? And what we see is that a pretty sizable portion of the consumer audience – maybe a little bit less as they get older, so Boomers are maybe a little bit less likely to have values play as central of a role – but pretty much for everyone else, it’s really this good brand behavior is playing a role and has shoppers able to look for brands that align with things that matter to them. Whether that’s that you are authentic and that you do what you say you’re going to do, or whether that’s that you are speaking to me in a way that feels aligned with things I care about. I mean, I could go on and on, but the quick answer to the question is shopper values influence their decisions quite a bit. And we think that this is going to continue to evolve and that brands have to be really thoughtful about how to understand what matters to shoppers at any given point in their servicing of those consumers.

Adrian Tennant: Okay. In practical terms, how should brand marketers adapt to meet shoppers’ evolving values?

Devora Rogers: I think the critical piece is more transparency and more information. That’s at the top of the list: share what you know, be honest, tell the truth, and give people as much information as possible. You know, people will ask me, “Do people really research nail polish?” Oh, yes, they do. Oh, yes, they watch hours of videos on nail polish. So no brand should think that they are exempt from this, however big or small. And, at the highest level, most critically, it’s providing as much information as possible. And then I think being in the places where people are going for information is really important. So understanding that, and that varies for every category. There’s categories where YouTube plays an insane role in terms of the amount of content people are watching before buying. In others, it’s Snapchat, in others, it’s not social media at all, but a promoted item from a retailer on their website. So, I think information, and then understanding where they’re going is really the most critical step for brand marketers.

Adrian Tennant: Devora, thinking about all of the data you collected to inform the book content, was there one data point or insight that really surprised you or stood out? And if so, what was it?

Devora Rogers: One key piece that we saw is that we identified a new cohort of shoppers that we had not anticipated, not been looking for. In hindsight, we should have, but it wasn’t clear to us that this was like a whole new group of shoppers. And that is the remote worker. And so what we found is that remote workers present a sort of hyper shopper. We have seen for years that shoppers do more and more research, that’s been growing steadily and they’ve become savvier and pickier as their research has increased. But over the last couple of years, with a portion of the working population able to work from home – you know, primarily white collar workers – that has meant that they don’t have somebody looking over their back, they can kind of manage their own time, and they use that time between calls to sometimes research and then come back to something and they have, you know, the privilege of being able to spend time looking for vacuums, or blow dryers, or whatever it might be, or a new type of milkthat doesn’t hurt their stomach. And so I think one thing that really surprises is the uncovering of that cohort and how different they are. And then also the fact that among that group, they are the most likely to say that they found something during their discovery and research process that caused them to stray from the original brand they had intended to buy. So these are like the ultimate promiscuous shoppers, these remote workers, and I think that brands who have a large percentage of their buyers who arepotentially these white collar remote workers, they’re going to have to do even more to keep them engaged and to give them the content that they need to feel comfortable, because you can bet that they’re doing huge amounts of research.

Adrian Tennant: Well, the trend towards remote working of course, was accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The 11th chapter of your book is The COVID Inflection Point. What do you believe are some of the most significant lasting impacts of COVID on shoppers’ behaviors?

Devora Rogers: Yeah. Great question. I mean, the obvious thing is, is that going into stores in person, or buying online, those are obvious things that shifted. And some of those has those have, come back a little bit to pre-pandemic levels. But, that’s kind of obvious, but I think a less obvious findingis, in our book, we talk about the share of shoppers that say a particular issue is important to them cut by whether they were impacted by COVID. Did they have a job loss? Did they get sick or did they experience a death in their family due to COVID 19? And COVID-impacted shoppers are significantly more likely than non-impacted shoppers to say that treating employees well is important to them. That brands should make a positive difference in the world, by 18 percentage points. That equality, gender, sexual orientation, race, equal justice is important to them, by just really significant margins. And so I think that one thing that we may want to keep our eye on is not just where people buy or, you know, moving more to digital, but how COVID is impacting shoppers’ values, which we spent some time talking about. Because our research indicates it’s having quite a big impact. Now that will decline, in the coming years a bit. But I think that for people that were truly impacted by COVID in meaningful ways, there may be a quite long-lasting impact on how they make decisions and what kinds of brands they trust and what values they expect from the brands that they buy.

Adrian Tennant: Well, the book’s only been out for a couple of weeks, but what kinds of reactions have you had to Influencing Shopper Decisions from brand marketers and other consumer research professionals?

Devora Rogers: Sure. Well, there’s a whole chapter that we didn’t talk about in this podcast, but it’s basically on brand narcissism and it’s where my partner Rebecca lays down her Jerry Maguire letter and says brand tracking is broken for the world we live in. And that certainly has been an area of intense conversation among brands, and marketers, and, you know, really asking themselves what does it mean to be a narcissistic brand and what would be the alternative to that? And why does it matter? And what do shoppers actually need? And that’s really the answer, right, is find out what shopper needs are and deliver against that. And automatically, you will become less narcissistic. So I think that that is one that’s been very interesting to people and certainly the promiscuous shopping is of great interest. Like a lot of questions have come around you know, what’s the role of brand in this day and age, and we see it declining and that the way that brands can provide value is by informing people. It’s a very different, framework if you’re somebody that’s been in marketing and advertising for 30 years where it was all about awareness and my brand and my logo and my matching luggage, all my different sites. It’s a very different orientation. So those have been areas that we’ve gotten a lot of interest from and we also get a lot right now about these values. I think a lot of brands are asking themselves, like, what does it mean to be a good brand partner? What does that encompass? So we’re getting a lot of questions about that..

Adrian Tennant: Devora, if IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners would like to learn more about you and your work at Alter Agents, or Influencing Shopper Decisions, where can they find you?

Devora Rogers: Yes. Influencing Shopper Decisions is available everywhere books are sold! And that is true, and kind of amazing to me, having published books on my own before versus this time through a publisher. And we are at AlterAgents.com and you can find more about the type of research we do, the types of clients we work with, and that kind of thing.

Adrian Tennant: And if you’d like to obtain a copy of Devora’s book, Influencing Shopper Decisions, as an IN CLEAR FOCUS listener, you’ll receive a 20% discount when you purchase online at KoganPage.com. Just enter the promo code BIGEYE20 at the checkout. Devora, thank you very much indeed for being our guest this week on IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Devora Rogers: It was my pleasure, thank you for having me.

Adrian Tennant: Thanks to my guest this week, Devora Rogers, the co-author of this month’s Bigeye Book Club selection: Influencing Shopper Decisions. As always, you’ll find a transcript with links to the resources we discussed today on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at Bigeyeagency.com under “Insights”, just select “Podcast”. If you enjoyed this episode, please consider following us wherever you listen to podcasts and contributing a rating or a review. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.

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