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Understanding Consumer Mission

Three ways to ensure you reach your audience

The customer journey is increasingly ‘elastic’. It is no longer confined to the physical store and it is increasingly made up of engagement before, during and after the physical experience.

Brands must engage with consumers through a broad range of touchpoints along their increasingly complex journey: the physical store represents one of them.

As more consumers transact online, the physical store will increasingly be used to recruit customers and then drive them to e-commerce or social platforms for transactions. I expect we will also see a larger proportion of transactions online taking place within the physical store.

Contrary to popular opinion, I strongly believe that the Internet will not kill physical stores, it will liberate them. They will indeed find a new purpose and it will be the most important component of the customer journey. It will be where the brand comes to life, where the rituals are played out and where people who share interests and passions will gather.

The physical store has the potential to become the place where customers can develop an emotional connection to the brand and rather than just buying what it sells, they will also buy into what the brand believes.

The design of a store is no longer driven just by architecture and interior design. Firstly, it is critical to understand customers, their behaviour, their journeys and their missions. That's why I use the mantra ‘People and Places, not Buildings and Spaces’.

Broadly speaking there are three core shopper missions namely find, discover and inspire.


For the find mission, the shopper has a clear idea of what they want to buy and they have pre-planned their purchase, whether online or in a physical store. For this mission, the customer requires very little service or information as they have knowledge or previous experience with the product or service they wish to buy. However, they do require a clear, simple and convenient experience so they can find the product with easy navigation, good communications and in the case of a physical store, clear sight lines.

On a find mission, the customer has a good understanding of the price and needs to know that they are not paying too much, however, in some instances, they are prepared to pay a premium for convenience. In short, they seek price reassurance. The customer also seeks brand authenticity, so more often than not the find mission will be for well-known brands with high levels of consumer trust.

The find mission often happens during regular visits to a store either online or offline. In future, I believe ‘find shopping’ will increasingly take place via voice platforms such as Amazon’s Alexa. For brands, this may represent an existential threat as the voice platform becomes the gatekeeper to the consumer, having the potential to own the consumer. This is becoming further pronounced as ‘find shopping’ moves to a subscription model whereby the consumer does not physically spend time shopping for the product. Hence the find mission in the future could be mostly unconscious shopping. This can be described as ‘zero click’ shopping, where shopping is a utility.


For the discover mission, the shopper plans to shop in a specific category. During this mission they like to browse the category, explore the options and try out products. Here the shopper responds well to trialling, advice and customer service. Knowledgeable staff is a critical factor in a discovery mission as shoppers really want to engage with informative stuff. Shoppers also respond well to brand stories or information about the product or service.


The third and most critical mission is inspire. Here the consumer does not necessarily have plans to shop for a specific item but is seeking ideas and inspiration, and so the inspire mission is the least price sensitive. In the inspire mission customers are most open-minded, and it often involves deeper human interactions and personalized experiences. To engage the customer on an inspire mission it is critical to present new ideas, new ways of experiencing a product and most critically, surprises. Participatory experiences, learning and conviviality will encourage and inspire customers to dwell and engage with products and services that capture their imagination. Transient and ephemeral experiences, such as pop-ups and event-driven retail, capture the attention.

Examples of brands who have done it right

The T2 tea store is a great example of a store that can deliver all three missions. The website delivers on the find mission with convenience and ease of purchase and fulfilment. For the discover mission, both the T2 website and store deliver an experience that allows the shopper to discover new teas and tastes as well as all the accessories for making and serving tea. For the inspire mission, the T2 store is always surprising with constantly changing displays and accessories. The shopper can learn about the many types and flavours of tea and the rituals of serving and can gain a deeper knowledge of the origins of the teas, the leaf types, and the farmers, locations and production process that is involved.

Another brand that delivers on the three missions is Glossier. Its simple and frictionless purchase process delivers very well on the find mission. The discover mission is delivered through great user reviews and product demonstrations. The inspire mission is delivered through an inspirational community. The experience centres on real people experiencing real life who show how they use Glossier products and demonstrate them in action. Shoppers, or more accurately fans, are inspired by makeup ideas with new shade combinations all in the context of a social network.

In a very different context, The Guardian newspaper has recognized that it must deliver on the three missions. Its find mission is delivered through its Instagram feed where the reader can access small snippets and teasers of news very conveniently. The discover mission is delivered through The Guardian website or the physical newspaper, where the reader can access more information or indeed discover new stories with its long-form journalism. Very interestingly, the inspire mission can be experienced online or in real-life debates and classes with journalists and other thought leaders, all as part of the brand's subscription model.

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