Mike Anthony @ engage consultants

Mike Anthony on Shopper Marketing

Pinch Points On The Path To Purchase, Shopper Segmentation & Apple’s Leaky Headphones

with 2 comments


I referred to “pinch points” in this blog a couple of weeks ago, and this week experienced them for real. I tried to buy some headphones. Good ones – hundreds of dollars’ worth. For those of you who don’t know me, I love music with a passion, and I travel a lot, and so my headphones are dear and important to me (Whilst I am a fan of Apple and of the iPhone and iPod, their leaky earbuds are a sonic abomination – If anyone has Jonny Ives’ email address please let me know so I can ask him why the design of iBuds is so bad!)

As a shopper, anyone in the audio industry would have me in a segment named something along the lines of “Passionate Aficionado” –  probably small but potentially highly profitable, and certainly a priority segment for the more upmarket brand owners.

My path to purchase started online, and then I went to a good department store, which had a fabulous range –  hundreds of pairs,  lots of which looked perfect. Arguably there were way too many pairs, as it was almost impossible to explore the whole range. But I didn’t buy. Why? Because I couldn’t try them. Perhaps a less discerning shopper (in a different shopper segment) might have picked up a cheap pair based on price, brand name or appearance. But a Passionate Aficionado wants to look, try them on to see how they feel (three hours on a flight with bad fitting buds is not fun), and of course – listen.

Full marks to Phillips – the only manufacturer that had (rather half-heartedly) placed some demo headphones to listen to). Unfortunately the product didn’t deliver for me. But to the countless other premium brands in stock, an opportunity to make a sale was lost. Beyond lost sales to Passionates, how many trade up opportunities were missed because shoppers were not able to try and experience a markedly better performing product?

Every path to purchase has blockages. Understanding them is key. Across many electrical goods categories, experiencing the brand is a must for the shopper. Would you buy a TV without seeing its picture?  A little while ago Samsung, who had convinced me pre-store to give their phones a try, failed to take me down that last mile because their store was full of dummy phones.  I wanted to try the operating system. Last year Panasonic failed to sell me a video camera because after spending a long time researching the product on line, then trying it in the store, it was out of stock (the sales guy failed to mention that before I started playing).

Understanding shopper segments is key – different shoppers want different things from the path to purchase. But understanding the purchase journey for your most important shoppers helps identify the pinchpoints that are preventing them progressing to the ultimate destination – purchase. 


Written by Mike Anthony

March 15, 2012 at 11:39 am

Posted in Path To Purchase

Tagged with ,

2 Responses

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  1. what about word of mouth? No, you couldn’t try the headphones but if you relate to other “passionate aficionados” maybe they have recommendations and that’s what drives you to seek a particular product. When I saw your picture I immediately thought about an endorsement that one of my favorite singers/song writers, Ruben Blades. He said in one of his podcasts that seinheisser made excellent quality products and that they only use their microphones – I haven’t seen a Seinheisser display here in the states like you have in your pic but it sure connected with me. I agree with what you blogged I am saying you can add “recommendations” and “word of mouth” as two more pinch points

    Elias Rivera

    March 28, 2012 at 7:49 pm

    • Hi Elias,

      Thanks very much for your comment. You are right (as it happened, on the basis of posting this blog I have received a number of recommendations from other “passionates”. I’m not sure whether they are enough to get me to buy without trying, but I guess the point is that if companies understand who their target is, what they need to help them buy, and where the “pinch points” are, then there is an opportunity to consider what are all of the potential ways that any barriers can be overcome. As you say, some form of endorsement at that point might well have been enough to sway me.

      One of the challenges is providing “everything, everywhere”. Sampling and trial does have logistical and cost implications. My business partner blogged about how sales staff could be used far more effectively – in this case perhaps a member of staff, working on a referral basis, could have directed me to a store where I could have tried out the headphones (or perhaps a website that would help me do this?).

      The problem is however that many brand owners (and retailers) do not take the time to understand and segment their target shoppers – and understand how they buy. Without this understanding, everything is merely guesswork!

      Thanks again for the comment!


      Mike Anthony

      March 29, 2012 at 7:54 am

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