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'Stopwatch Marketing': Synchronizing Marketing Strategies with Customers' Shopping Styles

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Understanding your customers' shopping styles is the most important (yet overlooked) thing you need to know in order to succeed in selling your product or service to them. That's what authors John Rosen and AnnaMaria Turano tell marketers in their new book, Stopwatch Marketing.

They use the metaphor of the stopwatch to show that the slower it ticks, "the more time and energy a consumer is willing to spend shopping for a particular purchase, and the more opportunity a marketer has to influence and ultimately capture a purchase decision."
Admittedly, I haven't finished the book yet, but the premise makes a lot of sense. We, as consumers, on any given day or stage in life, will behave differently for different purchases - on different days and with different states of mind. The authors give examples to which I can certainly relate. If I need something immediately, I make a purchase decision quickly, so what is available to me at that moment in time, based on my criteria, is what I'll buy.
I've been contemplating a new laptop and have done extensive research, checking the ads and flyers, online sites and other sources of information. I'm not about to buy one immediately since I reformatted my existing one to a usable state. Had I not had access to my laptop at all, I would have bought another immediately.These two shopping styles are termed "impatient" for consumers who just want to get the purchase over with, and "painstaking" for those who need to learn more and think it's worth the trouble. The other two styles, according to Rosen and Turano, are "reluctant" for those who don't want to spend a lot of time thinking about their purchase, and "recreational" for those who find their buying experience fun.
I'm going to continue reading to see how I can adapt this to the B2B purchasing model. In the meantime, please share your experiences using this type of approach or something similar.

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A Canadian who relocated to the U.S., Elaine Fogel is president and CMO of SOLUTIONS Marketing & Consulting LLC, a boutique marketing and communications agency located in Scottsdale, Arizona. During her career, Elaine has worked for, and with, many organizations, associations, and businesses, across North America, on marketing strategy and communications tactics.

From her earlier agency career assignments freelance copywriting Procter & Gamble, Nestlé Carnation, and Kraft materials, to “inside” senior-level marketing positions, Elaine’s passion for marketing has evolved to helping clients reach new heights through strategic brand-building, integrated marketing communications, and customer orientation.

She has been a contributing writer for The Business Journal and her articles have appeared in many publications, including the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Marketing News, The Arizona Republic, Advancing Philanthropy, and several association publications. She has been interviewed by CNN, Connect Magazine, and The Capitol Times, and her content was included in Guerrilla Marketing for Nonprofits by Jay Conrad Levinson, Frank Adkins, and Chris Forbes. Nonprofit Consulting Essentials by Penelope Cagney. and Share of Mind, Share of Heart by Sybil F. Stershic.

Elaine is a Faculty Associate at the Arizona State University Lodestar Center for Philanthropy & Nonprofit Innovation and a professional member of the National Speakers Association – she does keynotes and presentations on business and nonprofit marketing, branding, customer orientation, and cause marketing at conferences and meetings.

Elaine’s career has also included stints as a cookbook author, teacher, singer, and television show host. A golf and tennis enthusiast, Elaine is enjoying life in the sunny Sonoran Desert while serving clients across North America.

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  • by Lewis Green Tue Jan 29, 2008 via blog

    Well, at least now I can put a name to it: I am a "reluctant" shopper. In other words, I need something really bad before I will shop for it. Although, online shopping may move me into another category, and that's a story idea for one of our writers. I suspect online shoppers are made up of lots of "reluctant" ones.

  • by AnnaMaria Turano Tue Jan 29, 2008 via blog

    Lewis, We found that successful online selling means that these companies understand how much time and energy their consumers are willing to "shop" and that these retailers address this behavior accordingly. For example, the online retailer Zappos does an excellent job at reaching what we call "impatient" consumers (those want to get the purchase process over with as soon as possible) with its free overnite delivery and free return/exchange shipping policies. Many online shoppers might be "painstaking" - and may exhibit the same type of painstaking behavior (meaning, spend lots of time and energy) whether online or in traditional stores. For example, brides planning their special day, a high school student researching colleges, or a working mother evaluating the pluses and minuses of a new car. And, last, some online shoppers (like myself when it comes to researching vacation destinations via TripAdvisor, Expedia, etc.) actually consider shopping to be "recreational." In some ways, planning my trip last year to Costa Rica was almost as much fun as the trip itself! Like yourself, "reluctant" shoppers welcome online shopping as it makes the shopping experience as painless as possible when it can't be put off any longer. In some cases, online shopping now makes a visit to an actual store (especially on a busy weekend afternoon) seem like a trip to a dentist. Hope you enjoy the book.

  • by John Rosen Tue Jan 29, 2008 via blog

    Lewis: I'll bet there are times when you are an impatient shopper. Say, when you have a flat tire or when your furnace breaks down on a subzero day and just want to get it fixed RIGHT NOW, or when you're terribly late for your son's piano recital and the car is runnign on empty. Our point, in the book, is that all consumers fall into these different shopping styles at different occasions, making it imperative that marketers focus on those time segments, not just demographics or product features. Thans, John

  • by Elaine Fogel Tue Jan 29, 2008 via blog

    Woah, right from the horses' mouths! :)Thanks for your comments AnnaMaria and John. Lewis, I wonder if your typical reluctance is a "guy" thing. As the authors point out - as consumers, we fall into different categories at different times, but perhaps there's a pattern when gender is involved. Just a speculation.

  • by C. Hutchins Wed Jan 30, 2008 via blog

    Very interesting post, Elaine. Thanks for culling this data! In addition to the "stopwatch effect," I've found that retailers in particular should be (literally) speaking the shopper's language -- especially online. My company has been delivering "in-language" website experiences for dozens of Fortune 500 clients for seven years, and those companies are seeing growth in online sales (especially with considered purchases), thanks to it.

  • by Stephen Tucker Wed Jan 30, 2008 via blog

    AnnaMarie: Very fascinating. Through the process of searching online for a vacation options, I typically get to enjoy four to five theoretical vacations for each one I actually take! That's affordable vacationing! From a marketing standpoint, your comments address a very real challenge today. We truly must find a way to engage our customers and prospects on their time and in their manner. That's not easy. When I first started my career, we could "segment" the market at the ZIP Code level. Then came ZIP+4 and we were all excited because we were moving from "birds of a feather flock together" to "birds of a feather nest together." Then we looked at the neighbors with whom we shared the ZIP+4 and realized that while we may nest together, we're not alike at all. So then we got access to household data and transactional data which gave us the ability to further focus our messages. Now your observations add yet another dimension -- that of recognizing that while I'll spend hours researching a vacation, please don't ask me spend more than five minutes buying just about anything else. For B-to-B-to-C marketers, I think this really points out the importance of moving from providing Interuption Marketing resources for our channel marketers to providing Engagement Marketing tools. Focused content and data-driven messages are great, but putting the discovery and decision process into the hands of the ultimate consumer is critical. Thanks again for your insight. I think I'll jump online and take four or five vacations this evening!

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  • by Shane Vaughan Thu Dec 17, 2009 via blog

    Interesting stuff. I think it becomes more interesting (at least for me)when you apply it to the B2B market - are there "recreational shoppers" in this market?

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