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Should I get the matte taupe eye shadow or the shimmery plum eye shadow? Decisions like these make life so difficult'?¦ Well, perhaps they don't make life difficult, but they certainly interest a lot of people. And who would've guessed? Hauls are the latest phenomenon in marketing ' in fact, so revolutionizing that our own CEO Gary Colen recently chatted with The Boston Globe about hauls and their influence (and no, I'm not being sarcastic ' you can read the article here). So what exactly is a haul and what makes them influential? Hauls are videos created by fashionistas in which they discuss their recent fashion and beauty purchases, and ongoing shopping bargains, to enthusiastic viewers in search of shopping advice. Such self-made videos have been sweeping YouTube for more than a year and some have been garnering views of nearly 48,000 per video. That's right, 48,000 views. Want more numbers? You got it: more than 200,000 hauls have been uploaded to YouTube this year, and posts are expected to rise as the holiday season ramps up. Needless to say, retailers are seeing the potential in hauls and persuading vloggers (or 'haulers'?) to pitch their products through seeding, gift cards and other goodies. The amount of money each hauler makes depends on the number of views their videos have. More views = more money. Some haulers disclose their earnings in sponsored posts, while others discreetly accept. And now for the fun FTC part: FTC guidelines that took effect in December 2008 state that haulers must disclose if they received free products. However, many of them are unaware of this; so when working with haulers, make sure to inform (or remind) them about open disclosure. Haulers also earn money through YouTube's Partners Program, which gives them a share of profits from ads that run prior to, and appear alongside, their videos. MakeupByMel, for instance, earns $12,000 a year through the program. Regardless of the kinks that haulers are encountering, they are quickly making headway in the world of marketing. Some have appeared on morning shows ' and one set of hauler sisters even have their own reality show. This frenzy makes me wonder, though, how long will this movement last? Or is it just another passing fad? Anyways, back to the important stuff'?¦ matte taupe or shimmery purple?
At the newly launched AMP Insights Lab, our team of doctors, scientists and doctor-scientists* have been diligently working behind the scenes to uncover the latest trends in technology and consumer behavior. Recently, they've been working on a proprietary quantitative/qualitative study titled Behind the Buy, which explores the path to purchase within the digital space, across 500 consumers. The full study will be available in the coming weeks so check back on AMPAgency.com and our blog to learn more. For this event, Allison Marsh (VP, Consumer Insights) and Jason Rivera (Director, Consumer Insights) took us through some topline findings of the study. Today's average U.S. consumer will take in 12 hours of information, (not counting personal conversations) every day. 12 hours! Think about that for a second. It seems like the only time we're not consuming media is during bathroom breaks and while we're sleeping. No, wait, scratch that. And after watching Inception this summer, I bet we're probably on borrowed time there, too. Our study explores five key product categories (fashion, consumer electronics, food and beverage, health and beauty and baby). What we've noticed is that a large number of consumers are doing research across the board, even for seemingly low-impact categories (food and beverage: 36%; health and beauty: 31%). This dynamic has made us think carefully about consumer influences and data resources while reevaluating the flow of the traditional purchase cycle. CONSUMER INFLUENCES There are many influences that weigh-in on purchase decisions, the importance of which, are usually category-specific. There are some interesting qualitative data-points that are worth noting. For example, In food and beverage, 'taste'? is more of a priority than 'natural / organic'?. Sorry, organic-Spam, maybe try again in a few years. It also depends on where consumers are in the purchase cycle. In the fashion category, 'trends'? may inform consumers' decisions but 'cost'? and 'fit'? will ultimately close the sale (each influence outweighs 'trends'? by nearly a 2:1 margin). It's no huge surprise that to learn that these influences are refined through many different sources of information (blogs, expert reviews, in-store representatives, brand websites, competitor websites, magazines, consumer reviews, and opinions of friends and family, among others). What our research has confirmed is the thought that there's no single source of information and the majority of consumers are overwhelmingly taking into account several information sources before making the purchase. The good news for brands is that there are many detours on the path to purchase and each one represents an opportunity to influence consumers' decisions along the way. THE NEW PATH TO PURCHASE Traditionally we've thought of the path to consumer evangelism as the following: Awareness -> Consideration -> Purchase -> Loyalty -> Evangelism. But today, the first couple of steps have become much more complex as more information and data has empowered consumer decision-making. At the Consideration phase, consumers are identifying a 'need state'? (ex. 'I need a new digital camera'?). Once that need state has been identified, that consumer then engages in 'passive consideration'? where many brands are considered. As that consumer does research, they may refine their need state further (ex. 'well, I don't need something that is going to take 25MP photos, I just want something small to take candid family photos'?). Once their need state is refined and more research is uncovered, the consumer enters the 'active awareness'? phase, where very few brands are considered. Once the consumer identifies the best match from the various aforementioned influences, the purchase is ultimately made. According to McKinsey's The Consumer Decision Journey, after the purchase is made, the consumer follows a 'loyalty loop'? based on expectations from the previous purchasing cycle. Therefore, additional brands are still considered during the next purchase cycle with brand loyalty tied to how positive/negative the previous experience was. Somewhere, a Product Manager for Cheeseburger-in-a-Can weeps. EMERGING CONSUMER ENGAGEMENTS Our team shares a few interesting examples of emerging consumer engagements. Our first example was 'haul videos'? (or the male, tech-equivalent called 'unboxing'?, way manlier). You may remember our take on haul videos from a piece we did with FOX25 last month. Current TV also has a great take on this fad as well. Yes, people are actually doing this. Author's Note: I bought an iPhone case last month and sifted through a handful of unboxing videos before realizing that the sounds of overgrown teenagers breathing heavily while they futilely fumble with vacuum-sealed packaging is a hell that I wish upon no man (or woman). Another interesting consumer engagement is the cartoonishly-named Stickybits. Stickybits is a platform that joins barcodes with social media behavior allowing users to attach messages through both new and existing barcodes. Just imagine being at the grocery store and scanning a new flavor of Pretzel Crisps to find out what other consumers had to say about it. Or better yet, scanning the barcode to find a BOGO offer for use at checkout. Or BOTH! The mass adoption isn't quite there yet, but these are all very-possible applications of this new technology. Not futurey-enough for you? Let's take a look at what the wunderkinds at MIT are up to'?¦nothing big, just a hugely-ambitious, environment-aware, interactive, projection-based user interface. The technology is called Sixth Sense and it aims to seamlessly integrate the digital and physical world. Crazy stuff. Oh and it's open source too, FTW. Finally, is there anything more entertaining than old videos from yesteryear that tried to predict the future? Always a good source of unintentional comedy. Our team showed a video from the 60's that dreamed up wacky consumer engagements with retailers and peer-to-peer communication. Actually, it's not as far off base as you may think. Check out what Don Draper and friends thought the future would be like. Thanks to all who attended our event earlier this week. Stay tuned for our upcoming study Behind the Buy, slated to be released at the end of the month. * Job titles have not been verified.