Marketers and store designers have long worked with the principle of the Customer Journey.

It certainly is a great way to lay out a store and place carefully considered communications along the customer path of travel.

If only customers would be consistent and do the same thing every time they shop, we would have the perfect strategy.

Of course, in the real world, shoppers are a little more complex than they seem – and one of reasons is that each time they shop they have a different mission.

What is a Shopper Mission – as compared to a Shopper Journey?

Probably the simplest explanation is that the journey is rational and physical – and the mission tends to be emotionally or needs driven.

For example when a typical customer enters a supermarket she usually is funnelled through the main entrance into the fresh produce department, from she is led up and down grocery aisles in the centre of the store, past the bakery, deli, dairy and meat counters on the store perimeter – directed through the frozen section, before ending up at the POS registers with a brief look at the impulse lines.

That all sounds perfect for the average visit from the average customer – but beware the law of averages. Let’s look at a typical supermarket shopper mission and test it against the previous journey.

It’s 5pm – Mum is on her way home and has no idea what to feed the hungry hordes. She has exactly 5 minutes to buy something simple to cook for tea – even better something she doesn’t have to cook. By the way, she has no idea of what she is going to buy!

Most supermarkets are laid out so that a 5 minute shop is impossible. Produce in one section, meat in another, dry groceries somewhere else – and heaven forbid she wants to add some bread rolls.

Is it any wonder that a 5 minute wait in the QSR drive through lane is a preferred option for so many customers.

This mission, by the way is totally different from the one at 10am on Saturday morning when she is doing her top-up shopping for the household.

And did I mention that her partner is a coeliac and she has to locate as many gluten free options each time she shops? Another example of a Shopper Mission.

Here’s the challenge.
If you have all the research in the world about Shopper Missions ( and we have worked with clients who have heaps of data), how do you change your store set up to accommodate this ever-changing and complex habit of shoppers?

A strong destination does create a better shopping experience when all the related items are merchandised together in a destination department – such as health & beauty or fresh food. But you can’t divide the whole store into destinations nor can you ever work out which products customers expect to find in the same location.

A very viable strategy is to create so-called solutions in which products have been strategically located together according to some form of Customer Decision Tree – and highlighted through POS material and other marketing collateral. Once again though, one has to question how many solutions can be presented in any one store.

Signage and graphics?
Yes- very effective for specific purposes – but if you are using printed materials they will date, be costly to replace and incur labour costs to change. Information? Retailers say that ‘information equals a sale’. True, but where can the customer find the information she wants – quickly and easily – and take it away with her if she’s in a hurry?

Content Management?
Now we’re talking. Retailers in the future will have to develop more effective ways to create relevant, targeted, personal and variable content for shoppers. This can only be achieved fully through the use of ISD (In Store Digital) tools and techniques that can tracked and measured for effectiveness.

We now have the tools get closer to achieving the ultimate marketer’s dream of 1:1 communication with customers.

There are few limitations technically once an ISD ecosystem has been installed in a store. It’s our imagination and ability to create and manage new forms of content that will make the difference.

Hi to Buy’
I have talked previously about what I call the ‘Hi to Buy’ methodology which we use every effectively to locate ISD devices strategically around the store. The devices are all inter-connected, managed by a robust CMS (Content Management System), preferably by the store within the guidelines set from the central buying and marketing teams.

ISD devices will range from large screens in the entry, right down to tiny 50mm x 75mm E Labels on shelves.

Some devices will be interactive, some will only display information. Their main function is to lead the customer from the greeting at the entry (the ‘Hi’ device) through her Mission Journey as quickly and effectively as possible, to the ‘Find’ and ‘buy’ devices on shelves, displays, bins and fixtures where she will find the items she is looking for, as well as some you suggested along the way to add to her basket!

Chicken or Egg
Where does one start with the process of developing an ISD strategy for your stores?

Build the System first. Build the Content Strategy first.
Our experience is that Content drives the System – because most hardware and software vendors have more than enough gear to solve your business needs, but they cannot tell you how to develop content for your customers.

You must know something of your Customer Journey – and most retailers do – and you need to understand the various Shopper Missions that customers make to your store (many retailers don’t).

And most of all, you need to develop a very good knowledge of the Content that your shoppers need to make more informed decisions, find products they are looking for, obtain more details, ask for advice, compare products – and ultimately make a purchase.

It’s been said many times – content is king – an in era where In Store Digital is a reality, its even more relevant.

Give us a call – maybe we can start you out on a new journey to Content Management in your stores.