June 19, 2019

The Grocery Diaries- AMP Agency Customer Experience Deep-Dive

Buying and preparing food is a huge part of most of our lives and routines. Almost everybody grocery shops – but not everyone shops the same. Strategists Jen Herbert and Greer Pearce recorded grocery diaries for a month and sat down to compare notes on the modern grocery experience.

 

LIFE STAGES SHIFT FOOD ROUTINES

Greer: Jen and I are in different life stages, and one of our big takeaways was not just that our shopping routines are different, but that changes in our lives have acted as triggers for a whole new food routine. Marketers have known for a long time that there are some brief periods in a person’s life when routines are disrupted and shopping patterns are open to change, and we saw that play out clearly in our own lives.

 

When Jen moved in with her partner, Jason, grocery shopping became a team effort. She had to start coordinating weeknight schedules and planning differently. They shop together, so the actual shopping experience became more fun: they make funny faces at each other in the produce section and gamify splitting up the items in their cart at checkout to try and get as close to possible to a perfectly split bill.

 

When I had a baby last year, I also got a new shopping partner – my son, Teddy. Pre-shopping trip, that meant planning more carefully so I could get in and out of the store faster, and new items on our list as he started to eat solid foods. In-store, it meant less time looking at labels or new products, and more time solving the puzzle of how to physically shop with him, a tiny human either taking up most of the cart in his car seat, strapped to my body, or trying to escape from the child seat.  

 

These new routines are markedly different from how both Jen and I shopped as single young professionals, when we made more, smaller trips to the store and only bought food for one.

 

Brand Takeaway: Consumers need different things at different life stages, and there are multiple phases when they’re actively adjusting their routine. Meet them in the moment to offer them solutions specific to their needs.

 

Groceriesdiaries1GroceryDiaries2GroceryDiaries3

 Life stage shapes how people shop. Jen and her partner shop together and gamify their routine to make it more fun. Greer looks for items that will distract her toddler.

 

GROCERY SHOPPING STARTS BEFORE THE GROCERY STORE

Jen: What Greer and I came to appreciate as we traded our grocery stories was just how much effort we both spend on “pre-work” before ever stepping foot in-store.

 

Before a list can be constructed, we both meal plan our future dinners, but our sources for drawing meal inspiration are very different. Greer knows that her family will be home and in need of dinners every night of the week. She sits down and plans each of those seven meals, surrounded by her go-to resources: three favorite cookbooks, the New York Times, and Bon Appetit’s online recipes.

 

Meanwhile, Jason and I start meal planning by assessing when we’ll both be home – these are nights when it feels “worth it” to invest time in a homemade dinner. Then, we’ll scan the fridge to see if anything is in need of repurposing, which will often spark a meal idea. In the warmer months, we’ll also check the weather – if there are sunny days ahead, we’ll grill. If we’re still stuck, I’ll head to my Saved posts on Instagram. (When I see an easy meal idea, I proactively flag it for times like these.) Finally, I’ll do a scan of the house for staples – everything from vitamins to eggs to Kleenex – that we are running low on and should also be added to the list.

 

When we finally arrive in-store, our routines don’t stop. Greer follows the same pattern around her store each time, while I go so far as to “code” my list by the section of the store I’ll find each item in.

 

Brand Takeaway: Going in-store with a clear plan of attack helps the shopping experience run on autopilot, guaranteeing the trip is relatively efficient and even free of in-the-moment decision-making. With that insight, we both agree that well over half of our “grocery experience” actually takes place within our own homes. Consider ways that your brand can build relationships with customers outside of the physical store, when they’re more likely to be in an open, “inspirational” mindset rather than cruising on autopilot.

 

GroceryDiaries4
The grocery experience starts with inspiration and preparation. Jen and Jason make a detailed list before heading to the store.

 

SURPRISES MAKE A SHOPPING TRIP BEAUTIFUL

Jen: With all that prep-work, what’s in our basket is often dictated by what’s on our lists. But Greer and I also found we welcome pleasant surprises and unplanned ways to treat ourselves.

 

Greer sometimes treats herself to a pretty bouquet of flowers if they catch her eye, or spontaneously grabs swordfish if it looks particularly good. She distinctly remembers being excited one spring when her store’s typically uninspiring produce section had fiddlehead ferns.

 

Jason and I typically “allow” ourselves one or two surprises when we do our weekly shopping. This could be, like Greer, a spontaneous bouquet of flowers, a fancy candy bar or pastry, or a new flavor of protein bar or ice cream (usually one with eye-catching packaging!). Another welcome surprise is when large grocery chains begin carrying beloved brands from the Northeast. Just the other day, we happily discovered coffee from our favorite roastery in Maine, which we typically had to purchase on-vacation or online! It’s moments like this that infuse a trip that could feel like a chore with a sense of fun.

 

Brand Takeaway: Basket-building moments center around beauty and reward. While the idea of grocery shopping is quite beautiful – fresh, colorful produce, nurturing loved ones, etc. – grocery shopping in practice is often anything but. Finding small opportunities to encourage customers to treat themselves to something beautiful is a reward for an accomplished store trip.

 

PROXIMITY ISN’T THE ONLY FACTOR

Greer: It seems obvious that where we grocery shop is dictated by where we live, and to some extent this is true. But within a person’s grocery options, several factors might trigger them to buy at one store over another:

 

  • The List: Jen’s list dictates where she’ll shop that week, and she doesn’t decide where to shop until it’s complete. If the recipe’s she’s making calls for hard-to-find produce, or she’s craving the fancy yogurt she likes, she’ll drive a little farther to get to a store where she knows she can find what she needs.
  • Physical size of items: Greer gets all her bulky items like diapers, paper towels, dog food, and toilet paper via Amazon so she can avoid carrying heavy items home from a physical store.
  • Price: Both Jen and Greer have price compared the stores in their area, and make the less expensive store their go-to for staples.
  • In-store experience: Both Jen and Greer sometimes go out of their way to find an experience that offers elements of fun, beauty, and excitement.
  • “Type” of grocery visit: Different grocery occasions call for different stores. Greer does her weekly, well planned trips to one store, but goes to a smaller, closer store for an unplanned mid-week trip.
  • Season: In the summer, both Jen and Greer completely switch up their routines to incorporate farmers markets and CSAs where they can get fresh local produce. This means less trips to the grocery store overall, and meal planning driven by in-season items.

Brand Takeaway: The need for food drives a grocery visit, but many factors go into where and how you shop. While shoppers may have a default routine, they are open to deviating from it – or redefining it when it will make their lives easier or more enjoyable. Brands should consider how to meet the needs of multiple types of grocery occasions.

AMP is on a quest to humanize the total customer experience. This article is a part of AMP’s  Customer Experience Deep Dive Blog Series, where we take a first person approach to understanding the modern shopping experience.

 

June 13, 2019

“Through Their Eyes” Digital Ethnography Series: Gen Z Wrap-Up

The Strategy team at AMP is on a mission to better understand marketers’ most sought-after consumer segments. Each week, individuals from these segments take over @AMP_Agency  Instagram stories to give us a peek into their world as part of our digital ethnography series, “Through Their Eyes.”

 

In May we focused on Gen Z college students and saw the world from the perspective of Courtney from Oregon State University, Cortes from California Polytechnic State University, Alexa from UMass Amherst, and Haidar from the University of Rhode Island.

 

Move over, millennials. Marketers’ latest obsession is with Gen Z, the cohort born between 1995 and the early 2010s. You might already know that they’re pragmatic and frugal, multicultural and accepting, and native to the digital world. But we uncovered a few more insights as we followed four college students preparing for finals and the summer ahead...

 

Everyday, they’re hustling

Everyday Gen Z is hustling, and we mean that quite literally – a decorative sign with that very motto was spotted in the background of one of Alexa’s posts, next to a Post-It reminder that said, "Harvard Business or Bust.” Follow any one of these individuals around for the day and be prepared to be exhausted. Both Courtney and Cortes found time for workouts between multiple classes, work shifts, and study sessions, while Alexa is on the board of five different clubs and Haidar’s roster of classes as a Global Business Major and Arabic Studies and Engineering double minor is enough to make your head spin. Our team wasn’t surprised to see this given what we’ve read about the generation as a hard working and focused bunch – only 38% think work-life balance  is important, compared to 47% of millennials, and 58% say ‘bring it’ to working nights and weekends in exchange for a better salary.

 

Throughtheireyes

No (iced) coffee, no workee

While all that hustle is self-driven, it’s apparently also fueled by caffeine – specifically in the form of iced coffee. We couldn’t help but notice that three of our four participants made a point of creating a post specifically in admiration of their respective iced coffees, ‘gramming it beautifully against a flowering bush, decorating their coffee selfies with a “good day today” gif, and even adding Will Smith’s “Just the Two of Us” as background music for the post (below). It all made sense, when our research showed that 56% of Gen Z has purchased iced coffee in the past month.

 

Icedcoffee1Icedcoffee2icedcoffee3

They find fun in responsibility

We were impressed by Gen Z’s ability to create joy, even during times when duty called. Courtney took her studying outside to a scenic patio. Cortes savored a sparkling coconut water in the sunshine. Alexa got a little sassy with her Stats study guide. And even Haidar, who was busy observing Ramadan during his feature, took a selfie with a friend as they stood in the aisles of a convenience store shoveling down cups of cereal in the early morning hours for Suhur. Despite their exhausting schedules, on-the-go nature, and mountain of responsibilities, Gen Z is clearly able to appreciate and enjoy each moment. In the future, they’ll be looking for workplaces that encourage this outlook as well – 65% of Gen Z look for a “fun” working environment  when assessing whether a company culture is a good fit for them.  

 

Genz1Genz2Genz3

May 20, 2019

Humanizing the Total Customer Experience

There’s a running joke at our agency about the famed industry “ecosystem slide.” You know what I’m talking about - that one presentation slide that attempts to visualize how every single consumer touchpoint plays a unique role, yet connects with every other touchpoint to form a cohesive customer experience. Maybe it’s a Venn diagram. Maybe it’s a table. Or, my personal nightmare, the “Beautiful Mind” approach– a bunch of floating platform icons with a web of lines connecting them all in one tangled ball of confusion. “Look!” we say. “This is your brand ecosystem! See how beautifully and simply it depicts the total customer experience?” “OK, John Nash,” our clients say, before dropping it into a desktop folder to gather digital dust.

 

Brand EcosystemAs marketers, it’s important to consider ecosystems, journeys, and the end-to-end customer experience. But these concepts can be hard to truly grasp when talking about them in the abstract, or out of the context of how an individual person experiences a brand and its products.

 

The reality is that in the digital age, our avenues of information are so diverse, our digital and physical spaces so entwined, that a customer journey is no longer linear or simple. At any given stage in the marketing funnel, a person might bounce around from Instagram, to billboard, to blog post, to text exchange and back in mere minutes. Even when this journey is simplified and beautifully designed to look at in aggregate, there’s a lack of realness to it– and a lack of true comprehension.

 

So how do we start to truly understand what the modern customer experience looks like without making our heads explode? Let’s get out of the abstract.

 

The AMP Strategy team is on a quest to humanize the total customer experience. Over the next several months, we’ll be doing first-person deep dives into the experience of shopping, purchasing, and returning across industries. We’ll map out real paths to purchase, identifying pain points and emotions along the way, to surface real industry insights and areas of opportunity– and share them right here on AMP’s blog.

 

Because at the end of the day consumers are human, and we need to understand them as humans. The true customer experience cannot be captured on a slide.

 

- Greer Pearce, VP of Strategy

 

Meet Our Humans

Greer

Greer Pearce, VP of Strategy

Outdoorswoman, jazz singer, tween culture obsessive

 

Ben

Ben Seldin, Strategy Director

Nike addict, political junkie, wanna-be foodie.

 

Elle

Elle Elderd, Associate Strategist

Savory over sweet, mixer of drinks and vinyls, runs on espresso

 

Jen

Jen Herbert, Senior Strategist

Literary fiction addict, almond croissant enthusiast, frequently-disappointed Chicago Bears fan

 

DJ

DJ Weidner, Strategy Director

Backyard grilling fanatic, year-round iced latte connoisseur, occasional salmon and halibut fisherman

 

james_herrera_new

James Herrera, Director, Experience Strategy

Life-long LA Dodgers fan, believer in the beginner’s mind, finds reading science non-fiction oddly satisfying

March 8, 2019

YouTube's SXSW Creative Agency Challenge 2019- AMP Agency

A core tenant of our business at AMP Agency is that we strive to generate strategy that is creative, and creative that is strategic. But any marketing agency would agree that it can be challenging for the Strategy team to continually build briefs that present a unique POV and inspire the Creative team; on the other hand, it can sometimes be a puzzle for Creative to generate ideas that are both breakthrough in the marketplace and guaranteed to resonate with our audiences.


This winter our Strategy and Creative teams were given the opportunity to push those bounds and work on a project, leveraging audience insights, that has made us into even more creative and thoughtful storytellers. Not only that, it’s revitalized the way our teams collaborate together.

______________

THE BACKGROUND


We were selected to participate in the 2019 iteration of YouTube's South by Southwest (SXSW) Creative Agency Challenge. We were excited to learn the theme was "Signals and Storytelling." This theme pushed us to look beyond audience demographics and think meaningfully about consumers’ interests and intent signals based on how they’re using Google & YouTube--and more importantly how these insights could more strategically inform our creative storytelling.


During the Challenge kick-off at YouTube NYC, we discussed how it’s no longer acceptable to fill the Target Audience section of a creative brief with simple, demographic information. The comical example that Google gave, and that stuck with us, is that by writing a demographic-led brief like, Aged 65+, British, high net worth, dog lover, we would unknowingly be creating content that tailored to both Prince Charles and Ozzy Osbourne!


In addition, this year’s Challenge looked to harness the participating agencies’ efforts towards a greater good. YouTube partnered with the Ad Council, and we were asked to create two pieces of skippable YouTube video content for a select cause-based organization. AMP was assigned to work with She Can STEM. Our goal and our challenge was to use insights-based, creative storytelling to empower parents to encourage an interest in STEM.  More specifically, we wanted to understand and reach the audiences of Bargain Hunter parents and Technophile parents, who we found, through working with Google, showed strong affinity for the cause.


 

 


 

 


Below, our Senior Strategist, Jen Herbert, and Creative Director, James Hough, reflect on their insights, the process, and experience.

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FROM CONSUMER INSIGHTS TO CREATIVE STRATEGY


Jen: When analysing interest and intent signals, what came as the biggest surprise was that bargain hunter parents like watching quirky videos featuring silly experimentation around the house, such as Making Slime and the Cheese Ball Bath Challenge. To resonate, I thus wanted to recognize their lives are full of creative, scrappy, playful discovery, and how through this they established a foundation that could translate to a career in STEM.


For Technophile Parents, I saw that they are often shopping for gaming systems, but also interested in sports, TV shows, movies and news articles. So, to cater our messaging to Technophile Parents, I wanted to acknowledge their lives as multi-dimensional and well-rounded.


______________


THE CREATIVE PROCESS


James: The Creative Team viewed this opportunity as a chance to see how we stacked up against other up-and-coming and established advertising agencies and marketing agencies. We felt empowered to ensure our storytelling was on point. Basic empowerment and “you’re a badass” messaging wouldn’t cut it when we need to tell parents they have a job to do – keeping their daughters interested in STEM through the 11 to 14 year-old drop off point. More simply, “She can STEM.”


Based on the strategic insights in our creative brief, we presented four concepts and eight scripts to the Ad Council after sharing initial thoughts with Google. After the Ad Council chose a direction we storyboarded, found a director (Max Esposito), found locations, cast and shot– all within about a week. I think that the financial and time constraints coupled with the freedom to go out and create without check-in’s made for something special.


While each of our spots are aimed at a different audience, they shared the same goal. In each of the stories we see relatable and tangible ways a parent can encourage their daughter at the right time to keep going. Instead of pushing future-focused images of a marine biology or coding career, we centered the seemingly minor moments of everyday life that could have a big impact on a girl’s interest, like a trip to the aquarium with mom or the gift of a tablet from dad.


Check them out. We really hope you like them:

 

https://youtu.be/-bxOcFJNEjs  

 

https://youtu.be/hWZrvXpace8  


And check out the story on Adweek, Think with Google, MarComm News, and others:

https://www.adweek.com/brand-marketing/youtube-wants-to-teach-marketers-how-to-create-more-targeted-advertising-at-sxsw/ 

 

https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/advertising-channels/video/youtube-audience-behavioral-insights/ 

 

https://marcommnews.com/youtube-and-ad-council-tap-amp-agency-and-others-for-sxsw-challenge/

 

https://lbbonline.com/news/ad-council-spots-show-how-girls-can-be-inspired-to-work-in-stem/

 

February 11, 2019

3 Ways to Ready Your Brand for the Data Drought

Over the past several years, we’ve operated in a golden age of data. Between first-, second- and third-party sources, marketers have leveraged this information about their consumers as a powerful marketing tool.


But the data well is about to start drying up.


Our VP of Strategy, Greer Pearce, and our VP of Media, Kazi Ahmed, talk about the data drought and the three things brands can do right now to ready themselves for it.

 

Check it out on MediaPost: https://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/331299/data-drought-coming-prepare-with-effective-use-of.html

January 6, 2013

Holding Down a Piece of Time: Currency in the Digital Age

In the early 1980s, budding NYC photographers captured the graffiti art spray-painted onto subway cars that traversed the city. They'd wait to set up shots. Pull emergency levers to stop trains, buying time with their cameras and the fresh paint. It didn't matter that these 'photographers'? were just kids or that the graffiti they worked hard to capture would soon be painted over by MTA workers. That's because the kids snapping photos and the artists who 'bombed'? trains were all interested in the same thing: Capturing something meaningful, ephemeral.

The New York Transit Authority in the 1980s

Fast forward to today. Many of us are on Instagram taking photos of the seemingly mundane: what's for dinner, our evenings out, our kids'?¦ and ourselves (a lot of those). While it may seem silly to compare a 'selfie'? we post on Instagram to the photographs of graffiti from the 1980s, I would argue that these two phenomena actually have a lot more in common in terms of human motivation than we think. And looking at how they're connected will sketch a roadmap for the unfolding digital landscape.

To be known and to belong

A photo of artwork we like. Our reflection in a window. The frothy cappuccino you had at lunch. They're not exactly graffiti on subway trains, but they're the fleeting moments of our ordinary lives that connect us to people and practices'in other words, 'culture.'? By snapping a photo, you contribute to the macro-level conversation about a given topic, make your voice heard, and accrue status accordingly.

It makes sense then that Instagram and Facebook serve as a way of building your identity and social status. It's a way of telling the world, 'I recognize this as something important, and therefore, I belong.'? And those are a couple of the underlying utilities of social media'to be known and to belong. It doesn't matter that your post is irrelevant in 24 hours. All that matters is that you caught a piece of life that was meaningful to you in some way, even if it was about to get painted (or posted) over in time.

When teenage photographers pulled the emergency lever on subway cars so they could take more photos of graffiti, they were taking part in the same practice. The modern day obsession with Instagram is motivated by that same impulse: to hold down a moving piece of time and claim it as part of your experience.

What it means for advertising

The implications of this new, rapid-fire digital landscape have been discussed ad nauseam, yet advertising professionals still need a call to action'what are we supposed to take away from this paradigm shift? How has this technology changed the way we express ourselves, and what do we do with that dialogue?

The answer becomes clear when you look at specific situations and examine human behavior over time. When we do this, we begin to see the truth of human experience. We begin to see that the graffiti-capturing teens of the '80s aren't that different from the ordinary folk who post pics on Instagram. Maybe we share too much now. Maybe not. Regardless of how you feel, it's changing our high-level cultural dialogue about everything from brands to what you wear to work each day.

For advertisers, this is a significant shift in engagement with consumers. Brands want to get in on the conversations we're having. The age of big campaigns with long runways is coming to a close. Today, creative content and effective strategy requires a much shorter incubation period than ever before. Quite simply, when our feeds are moving as fast as our brains (and vice versa), content needs to keep up.

Content as currency

In the new digital landscape, brands are judged on their capacity to create authentic content for their followers. A brand's ability to do this well leads to the accrual of social currency. That currency buys engagement. When you do this well, consumers ultimately include you in the conversations they're having. Listen, this isn't as dirty as it sounds. Let's suspend cynicism for a moment and consider this: Engaging with consumers as part of conversations they're creating means we can potentially elevate and diversify human experience to a new level. To put it simply, we'll have the power to open up the world to more human perspectives than ever before. Where this will take us is anyone's guess, but as advertisers, we need to be prepared to take the ride.

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