2014 Inmar Forum: Consumer Panel Confirms Increased Use of Technology, Desire for Personalized Engagement Among Shoppers

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Candid commentary from consumers during live conference event points to demand for service and convenience – along with savings opportunities.

A consumer panel discussion during the 2014 Inmar Forum, hosted by Winston-Salem based technology company Inmar, brought out commentary from the panelists confirming the increased use of technology to enhance the shopping experience as well as the desire among shoppers for more personal, relevant engagement from retailers (grocery stores, pharmacies and mass merchandisers) and brands (both food and non-food CPGs).

The tools used by the panelist to assist and speed their shopping, as well as the preferred form and format of the desired engagement, varied as much as the personalities and backgrounds of the eight panelists themselves. The panel members, who ranged in age from 19 to 71, all spoke to their use of the internet to search for product information and availability, price comparisons, coupons and other savings opportunities. However, while smartphones and apps where the preference of some, newspapers, Sunday circulars and direct mail were all acknowledged as having real value and a definite place in the pre-trip planning process.

At the same time, the collective message from this group of cost-conscious, self-described “savvy shoppers” was that outreach from marketers had to align with their demonstrated wants and needs. Random or “hard sell” techniques were not effective in moving them to trial or purchase. If they had an interest, the panelists would voluntarily engage with a retailer or brand – but, with the expectation that the “return engagement” would deliver information and offers of immediate, obvious value.

These behaviors and preferences closely align with findings from a recent shopper behavior survey conducted by Inmar Analytics in which more than 1,000 consumers were asked about how and where they shop. Among this group, 80 percent responded that they looked online for coupons to use in-store, while 76 percent said they used the internet to plan where they would make their purchases.

Survey participants, on average, used 6.43 means for discovering and acquiring coupons -- including both traditional media and digital sources. This same, multi-source search for savings was common practice among the Forum panelists who spoke of using newspapers, retailer and manufacturer websites, apps and coupon blogs when looking for coupons and discount opportunities.

When asked about physical shopping, the panelists provided a consistently brief, and frequently repeated, list of retailers in the grocery, mass and drug chains where they shopped in-store. However, when queried as to their online shopping habits, the lists grew much longer, with some panelists identifying a dozen or more sites where they shopped. One panelist did admit to “showrooming” but it did not appear to be a common practice among the group.

In discussing the depth of their interaction with companies, most of the panel participants said they were willing to share some personal information with both brick and mortar retailers as well as online providers in order to receive promotions. However, many employed a second email address to receive offers and information, keeping that communication separate from what they described as more “personal” email.

Whatever their particular level of engagement, the panelists were consistent in their expectations of quality service, both in-store and online. Ready availability of product information, easily accessible and personally delivered offers, direct and prompt customer service, assurance of product quality and ease of return where all cited as reasons the panelists remained loyal to both retailers and brands.

The panelists also said that they would travel further to those retailers who provided superior customer service, especially when it came to retail pharmacy. Those panelists speaking to their experience in this area voiced that personal attention, close consultation with the pharmacist and the availability of information relative to medication and patient care were the primary decision drivers – having much greater influence than either cost or convenience.

“What we heard from these shoppers is first-person verification of our research findings,” said Inmar Chairman and CEO David Mounts. “Our data show that companies must truly understand their audience and engage with them on a very personal level -- and across all media – in order to win their business and retain their loyalty.” Mounts added that, “Discounts alone do not guarantee purchase. Relevant, timely engagement – both pre-trip and in-store – is required to move shoppers to action.”

Not surprisingly, social media also plays a part in the panelists’ shopping experience, as several in the group expressed a willingness to “like” a product or brand on Facebook in order to received promotions. Twitter posts were also identified as influential, but more so when broadcast as informative enticements rather than direct advertisements.

The 2014 Inmar Forum, themed "Beyond Big Data: Knowing and Serving the Customer," took place March 25 - 27 and brought together industry professionals from 138 leading healthcare and consumer goods companies, including the Kellogg Company, PepsiCo, Novant, Health, Inc., and Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, to explore how retailers and brands can use Big Data to realize real results and drive business growth.

About Inmar
Inmar is a technology company that operates intelligent commerce networks. Our platforms connect offline and online transactions in real time for leading retailers, manufacturers and trading partners across multiple industries, who rely on Inmar to securely manage billions of dollars in transactions. Our Promotions, Supply Chain and Healthcare platforms enable commerce, generate meaningful data and offer growth-minded leaders actionable analytics and execution with real-time visibility. Founded in 1980, Inmar is headquartered in Winston-Salem, North Carolina with locations throughout the United States, Mexico and Canada.

For more information about Inmar’s products and services, please contact 866.440.6917 or visit http://www.inmar.com.

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Sharon Joyner-Payne
Inmar, Inc.
+1 (336) 631-7663
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