Content is king, but context is the power behind the throne

  • Opinion
  • October 19, 2015
  • Colleen Ryan
Content is king, but context is the power behind the throne

We do need structure in order to plan and implement optimised customer experience programmes, but we are seeing a disturbing lack of context in some of these designs. And, context has an enormous influence not only on how people shop but also on their expectations of the experience.

A lot of shopping is occasion driven and people don’t behave the same on every occasion. We are not talking about customer segmentation because the same people can behave quite differently depending on the occasion that prompts the shopping behaviour.

CEx designers can miss this because if you ask people about their shopping behaviour they will describe a ‘typical’ shopping trip, which is quite different from a real shopping experience. People try to be helpful and rational when we ask them questions, whereas most shopping is habitual and/or unconscious and context driven so people’s memory of the event is highly unreliable.

Filming, observing, accompanying are all better ways to understand shopper behaviour. We have observed people buying snacks and drinks and using analysis of behaviour using GoPro and CTV video bore no more than a passing resemblance to what people said when we interviewed them - even when the interview took place immediately after. There were clear patterns in the behaviour however, which tightly correlated to purchase occasions.  Coupled with behavioural data analytics of real purchase behaviour has led to the optimisation of store layout, staff training and promotional activity.

Likewise, the role of the broader context of adjacent stores plays a role in framing expectations of the retail offer. Looking at clothes shopping in a Dress Smart mall showed that sales in adjacent stores impacted on price perceptions. People had a budget and an occasion in mind, but the framing of sales in adjacent shops influenced their intended purchases and their perceptions of value for money, which in turn had an impact on how happy they were about the experience. Reframing the entrance and window displays to counteract adjacent context lifted both sales and the pleasure experienced by customers.

We have found that even major purchases such as cars or floor coverings are influenced by context, but in this case it is prior to a store visit. If expectations about the visit are framed in the expectation that they are entering a sales environment then people prefer to do their research beforehand. The sales environment is daunting causing people to reduce their consideration set before venturing near a store – so the sale can be lost before the experience even begins.

Online shopping can also fall victim to unintentional context. Retail website designers need to understand whether customers see the website as a browsing/information site or do they see it as a buying site. The cues need to be clear.

Our work with a retailer in the rural sector shows just how crucial context can be. They created a site with the objective to inform and provide an extension of the customer relationship with the store, which was criticised and under-utilised by customers. We discovered that the home page had online shopping ‘cues’, so people assessed its performance in that context. Consequently they were disappointed in it as a shopping portal, which had a negative influence how they felt about the interface experience despite it meeting the other objectives. Changing the home page to frame up expectations, but with no other changes to the content, elicited a positive response and a good customer experience.

So while content may be king, context is the power behind the throne. And, like most power brokers, it isn’t always obvious or visible who is pulling the strings.

A few ideas for avoiding the unseen pitfalls include:

  • Use observation or analytics not reported behaviour.
  • People don’t behave in the same way all the time, the context of occasion can create very different customer experience needs.
  • Start the journey mapping path to purchase before people get to the store.
  • Making a major purchase can be more stressful than enjoyable, so frame up the experience around support and information not sales.
  • Be aware of the things not under your control – e.g. adjacent stores- and compensate for any negative framing.
  • Even for on-line shopping framing is important and not always obvious.

​ ​

This is a community discussion forum. Comment is free but please respect our rules:

  1. Don’t be abusive or use sweary type words
  2. Don’t break the law: libel, slander and defamatory comments are forbidden
  3. Don’t resort to name-calling, mean-spiritedness, or slagging off
  4. Don’t pretend to be someone else.

If we find you doing these things, your comments will be edited without recourse and you may be asked to go away and reconsider your actions.
We respect the right to free speech and anonymous comments. Don’t abuse the privilege.


Military-style semi-automatics ban announced

  • News
  • March 21, 2019
  • The Register team
Military-style semi-automatics ban announced

As of 3pm on March 21, a wide range of semi-automatic weapons have been reclassified under section 74A(c) of the Arms Act as requiring an E endorsement on a firearms license. This means they can no longer be sold to those with A-category gun licenses, and their purchase now requires police approval.

Read more

Retailers gather for insights at NZ Retail and The Register's breakfast

  • News
  • March 21, 2019
  • The Register
Retailers gather for insights at NZ Retail and The Register's breakfast

NZ Retail and The Register’s sales and marketing breakfast saw dozens of Kiwi retailers come together to network, sharing tips and tricks and absorbing expert advice.

Read more

Who stole Christmas?

  • News
  • March 21, 2019
  • Kelly Withers
Who stole Christmas?

Results are starting to trickle in from Christmas 2018/2019, and for many retailers, they're a little disappointing. Paydar chief executive and co-founder Kelly Withers explores the data.

Read more

Social scoreboard

Zavy and The Register have worked together to create a scoreboard that compares how the top 25 traditional media advertising spenders in New Zealand have performed on social media over the past 30 days, updated in real time.

Concept to closet
Business coverage of New Zealand Fashion Week.
Town centres
A positive retail environment over the past 12 ...
Amazon Arrival
Keeping up with all things Amazon as it ...
The Retail Yearbook 2017
As we battle our way through the busiest ...
Hospitality enhancing retail
Some think food and integrated hospitality offerings will ...
The future is bright
We spoke with four retailers in their twenties ...
Spotlight on signage
At first glance, the humble in-store sign might ...
Red Awards 2016
The Red Awards for retail interior design celebrate ...
Auckland Unitary Plan
Auckland is changing. The Unitary Plan will decide ...
How to open a store
Sarah Dunn considers what it would take to ...
All things to all people
Kiwi retailers share their omnichannel strategies.
Rising stars
Retail's top young achievers.
Delivering on your promises
The sale isn't over until your item is ...
Retail in heartland New Zealand
Retailers keep the regions pumping, but how strong ...
Women in retail help one another. We spoke ...
The changing face of retail
Shifting demographics are creating big changes in New ...
The retail yearbook
With the help of experts in the retail ...
Retail rogues
We put the spotlight on staff training. Jai ...
Here come the giants
Topshop has arrived in Auckland’s CBD, David Jones ...
Window shopping: A spotlight on social media
Sarah Dunn and Elly Strang look at how ...
From retail to e-tail
Ecommerce has become part of the way mainstream ...
Loyalty in the digital age
How are retailers maintaining loyalty? Sarah Dunn, Elly ...
The Innovators | In partnership with Spark Business
Technology is rapidly changing the retail industry as ...

Chinese businesspeople raise millions for Christchurch victims

  • News
  • March 21, 2019
  • Radio New Zealand
Chinese businesspeople raise millions for Christchurch victims

A group of visiting Chinese businesspeople have raised $2.35 million for victims of the Christchurch mass shooting.

Read more

The Retail NZ Awards: What does it take to be a winning retailer?

Take this time to shine with the upcoming Retail NZ awards, a chance to show the retail industry what makes your business stand out. No ...


Hunting & Fishing New Zealand voluntarily pulls military-style assault weapons from sale

  • News
  • March 20, 2019
  • Sarah Dunn
Hunting & Fishing New Zealand voluntarily pulls military-style assault weapons from sale

In the wake of the attack on Christchurch’s Muslim community on March 15, strong calls for changes to New Zealand’s gun last have been made. Trade Me was the first retailer to act, halting the sale of all semi-automatic weapons on its platform, and it has now been joined by Hunting & Fishing New Zealand.

Read more
Next page
Results for
About us.

The Register provides essential industry news and intelligence, updated daily. And the digital newsletter delivers the latest news to your inbox twice a week — for free!

©2009–2015 Tangible Media. All rights reserved.
Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our Privacy policy.

The Register

Content marketing/advertising? Email or call 022 639 3004

View Media Kit