Follow that Shopper with Roku

Editor's note: Automated speech-to-text transcription, edited lightly for clarity. 

At The Quirk’s Event - LA, Roku’s Senior Consumer Insights Manager, Danielle Blugrind, gave a presentation on how she and her colleagues created an omnichannel shopper insights practice This session was recorded and then re-broadcasted on March 15 during Wisdom Wednesday. 

Webinar transcription:

Joe Rydholm:

Hi everybody, I'm Quirks editor, Joe Rydholm. Welcome to our webinar, “Follow That Shopper! How We Built an Omnichannel Shopper Insights Practice at Roku.” This is a recording of a session from the Quirks Los Angeles event in February. And if you're a client side researcher and you'd like more information about speaking at an upcoming Quirk’s event, please reach out to meat and then my contact information will also be available in the chat tab during the session. Speaking of the chat tab, if you'd like to interact with other attendees, you can use the chat tab to post your comments during the session and you can also use the Q&A tab to submit questions to the presenter during the session. And we'll answer as many as possible during the Q&A portion afterwards. Enjoy the presentation!

Danielle Blugrind:

Okay, according to my trustee iPhone, it's 11:00 a.m. and I'm gonna start because I know me and I talk a lot, so I wanna go ahead and fill up the half hour. 

So welcome, thank you for being here to talk about Roku and shopper research. I'm really excited to be here at Quirk’s again this year. 

I'm going to talk to you about how I built a omnichannel shopper research program at Roku, but first I have to start with this cuz everyone always says ‘Roku, where did that name come from? What does Roku stand for?’ 

And so I always give everybody the little trivia piece, which is Anthony Wood, who started our company, first developed the Roku streaming product as part of Netflix. He was working for Reed Hastings at Netflix and he developed this streaming box and they were going to launch it. 

And at the last minute they said, ‘you know what? We wanna be in the content business, not the device business.’ And Anthony said, ‘can I take it and run with it?’ And they said, ‘sure, have it, it's all yours.’ So he said, ‘well, I'm gonna go start another company.’ And it was his sixth company. 

So he's at sushi with his wife trying to decide what to name his sixth company. And he looked it up and determined that the number six in Japanese is Roku. So there's the little character and there's the inspiration and it's, we're literally named six. So I use a lot of hexagons normally in my presentations to reflect that. But today I went with circles, you're gonna see lots of round stuff. So that's our background. 

So let's start with 2019. That's the year that I joined Roku. What kind of research were we doing? We were doing a lot of new product testing.

So when we launched new products, we wanted to understand how happy people were. So what was the NPS of scores? Were they experiencing any issues that we could get ahead of before they became problematic? If they were happy, could we get them to write reviews? 

Our tenured users, so once people had been on board for 90 days, how had they explored the platform? Were they having any issues they hadn't had immediately when they joined Roku? And what were they doing, you know, what were their usage levels? Were they engaged? Were they falling off? And we were also talking to churned users, people who had gone on board for at least a month, but then they stopped using the platform. 

So why was it? Was it us? Was it a push reason? Was it a pull reason? Was it because of something else that they liked? How are they watching tv? 

Now, we were doing all this kind of research with our existing users. We were doing the new product stuff, we were doing the churned users and the tenured users, but what we weren't looking at was what happens before all that, okay, before they became Roku users, what brought them on board? 

What was their process? What was their research? What was their thinking? Why and how did they become a Roku buyer in the first place? And that to me was really the missing piece. And to address that, I needed to put together shopper research and I really wanted to come at it in three different ways. I wanted to look at it from a behavioral perspective, from a qualitative perspective and a quantitative perspective. So we're gonna talk through each one of those and I'm gonna give them each a little bit of attention.

And feel free to ask questions in the middle of while I'm talking. I'm perfectly happy to make this conversational as we go or save 'em to the end, whatever you like. But ask clarifying questions as we go. 

I'm gonna walk you through each of those different sections, which has to do with online shoppers. That's the behavioral piece I was talking about. That's real life data in terms of what people are doing online. That is not them telling me based on their recollections what they were doing, but that is real life data that people have gone on, on their laptops, on their phones, on any mobile device or stationary device that is collected. And I am able to analyze that data through a research vendor and tell exactly what's going on with their online shopping. 

There's in-store shoppers, that's a qualitative piece where we're following them around and we're seeing if they can find the section that we're looking, they're looking for what they explore, what they look at, how they compare, what is the process they go through in the store. And they talk to us also about what they did before they came in. Do they buy, where are they going after the store, those kinds of things. 

And then I also wanted to talk to recent shoppers, people who just got on board with Roku and tell us about the experience they just went through. Who did they talk to, who gave them advice, what were they told about the brand? So that I'm getting everything that has to do with leading up to that purchase and right immediately after it so that I'm coming at it from all different areas. 

And that last piece is my quantitative piece, which is my survey based tool. 

So I'll walk through each of those for you in a few minutes. So let's start with those online shoppers. I don't have to go into all of this in great detail, but what I wanna explore or is just kind of at a high level, I'm gonna be able to understand their purchase journey in detail really specifically.

Like where they went, where did they start, where did they go next, where did they go after? How many different points were there in their shopper journey, how long did it last? How deep did they go into different sites?

I'm gonna know before and after navigation. Like did they start on a search engine and then go to Amazon and then come back? Did they go to And if so, how did they get there and where did they go afterwards? 

I'm gonna know everything about what domains were interesting to them, how deep they went into them, how many PDPs they looked at, what search terms they used, correlation between site visits, like people who go to look at review sites and CNET also go here.

People who go to Amazon also go here. People who make a purchase versus those who don't tend to go to these sites.

So all this really interesting actual real life detailed site visits, you know, exploration in terms of their online visitation is real life behavioral data. 

So what do I get from that? I'm gonna be able to tell you, for instance, one in so many shoppers made an actual purchase during that visit, during that exploration, or this many people compared fire TV to Roku TV or this many people were just shopping for Roku and weren't even looking at any competition. And so they'd already decided that they were on Roku. I could tell you what percentage people were shopping just for, you know, like their search term was really broad, like ‘best streaming player of the year’ and what percent of people were already looking at Roku streaming sticks. So by the time they went online, they'd already made up their mind that they were looking for our brand.

I can also tell you, again, the top search terms, and these are actual numbers. I don't have the terms in there, so I'm not giving anything away. But these are actually the percentage that come back to me, 19% of people search for this, 16% of people search for this and I have real life examples that come back. 

So I'm turning that over to the team that is managing SEO and saying, look, you can see exactly how people are searching for your products. You can maximize, you can run with this, you know, you can get ahead of the fact you can do this before they get to Amazon, for instance. Because we know a lot of people start on Amazon and a lot of people start on search engines. So knowing that what they're searching for is a great way to capture these people hopefully before they even start searching on Amazon.

I also know exactly which retailers they visited. You can probably guess which one is on the left. Okay, let's be honest it wasn't but still it's just having those numbers to know exactly what percent of people went to Amazon, went to Target, went to Best Buy, went to, what percent of them go between sites. 

I mean, that's hugely valuable information for us to know exactly, exactly where our shoppers are and where to put our money, right? If we have to put our money towards online, where does it go? Where are these people? Where are these eyeballs? Where do we wanna capture them? 

I can directly compare our shoppers to fire TV shoppers because in the world of streaming players, and that's the example I'm giving here, although I've done this for TVs as well, those are the two lead brands. We've got Apple TV, you've also got Google Chromecast, but these are the two lead brands in the category by far. They're up here, the next two are down here. So I can look directly at those two shoppers. 

I can also look at who's shopping for Roku, who's shopping for Fire tv, who's shopping for both. And then look at their behaviors specifically and how they differ and how they're the same. So we know how to capture those competitive shoppers. 

What about the people who are looking at our two products? Where are they going? What are they deciding between, what are they purchasing? And then where are opportunities in that process to stop them from getting that fire TV and come onto the Roku platform instead? 

And then the last piece, that I think is so amazing, it was one of these alluvial charts, which literally is showing you, and I've cut off where it was, but again, you can imagine orange might be something, you know, where did they go? Where did they start? And from there, where did they flow from site to site? 

I mean, this is incredibly valuable for our teams to be able to look at and know exactly not just people telling us, ‘oh, I think I went, um, and did a search and then went to Amazon,’ but to actually be able to see the flow and how many steps. And I can look at this for any group I want: buyers, non-buyers, total Roku shoppers, total fire TV shoppers, anything I want to, so phenomenal stuff. 

And the last piece was surf alongs. So we took some of the people from that quantitative behavioral data and had them walk us through, we viewed their screen and did a qualitative session where they walked us through their process and talked about every step of the way, what they were looking at.

So then you're visualizing, ‘oh, are they really going deep on this PDP or are they just looking at one picture and then going onto the next thing?’ So that gave a lot of context for it. 

So all of a sudden we have this huge, huge repository of behavioral data. 

So the next piece was qualitative. Now let's shop with them. Let's add a lot of context. We know what we saw online and we know that nobody's just shopping online or in store, right? We know it all kind of wraps together. So what we next wanted to do was go with people in the store. 

Again, purchase journey mapping, right? We still wanna understand how they are doing this process? Like where do they start? Who do they talk to? We still wanted to explore with them their online behavior because we know that they're doing research online. Even if they come to a store and then talk to them, why do you come to a store? I mean, the main reason they come to a store is usually because it's two fold. 

One, they wanna compare products and touch and feel and see them, which you can't do online. And then the second thing is “I've already made up my mind and I don't wanna wait any longer. I don't wanna wait for shipping or pay for shipping. I wanna walk home with a product in my hand tonight and start streaming.” So it's that immediate gratification thing. 

Again, they're motivations, you know, like I said, why are you in the store? What is, you know, why are you on this journey to begin with? 

Retail navigation. You know, it's fascinating to walk into a Best Buy with someone. And we don't tell them where to go. We don't say, “come on, let's go to the streaming aisle.” We say, “okay, take us to the streaming aisle.” 

I've ended up in refrigerators. I've ended up, you know, way in the back by washing machines. That tells you a lot about, the struggle to even find our section. 

TVs are great. People are like, they walk in and they're like, oh, they see that TV wall in the back and they just, it draws them in like a mothership. They're like, Hmm. And they kind of stand around completely lost and it's split up and we know that. 

But seeing it from their perspective, watching them walk around and sometimes miss our aisle altogether where we've put all this effort into beautiful products and signage and they don't even get there. Okay. It's frustrating and it's demoralizing, but it's also great learning for the retail team. It's like they couldn't find you. So no matter what you did in that aisle, it doesn't matter if they can't find you. 

So again, all of that. And then we compare retailers too. What's their experience in Target? What's it like in Walmart? What's it like in Best Buy? How can we get best practices from each one and implement them into the others? And so we do retailer profiles too, like a summary of what the experience is like in each of those stores for our retail marketing team. So we know that people walk in, like I said, just kind of, you know, even if it's TVs, they walk in and they're, they're awed by what's up there, but they're a little bit overwhelmed. 

So I'm gonna walk you through, for the TV qualitative, cause that was the first one I did. The TV in-store shopper.

So people walk in and it's like they had all this stuff in mind. They've done all this research online. They've gotten brands that they're interested in. Then they walk in and see all those TVs and it's like they can't connect that wall to the research they did online. They don't remember model numbers, they just remember brands. 

And so they usually, they'll like see one of the like, “Ooh, that's pretty,” and they just walk up to that one and all of a sudden everything they've done in the research take is gone and subjectivity takes over and it's “ooh, it's bright.” And then someone will walk in and “go, oh, that one's too bright.” The same one that somebody loved. “I like that one.” So the subjectivity just absolutely takes over. So we're sitting there going, how do we get Roku TV to even pop from this?

Cuz they also look at that TV wall and Best Buy and say, well Best Buy has already taken all the best TVs and put them on that wall. So that's what I should look at. Not knowing that people pay to be on that wall. And that's how you ended up there. So they think it's like, you know, curated like everything else on the side, that's the crappy TVs don't look at those and, and they really feel that way. And so we're like, how do we get Roku TV in front of people? 

And we also found out that people feel overwhelmed by this experience. What surprised us was the TV shopping experience. Months, months of time they go online, they do research, they go to one of the stores, it's like, ugh, which one of these was the one I saw online? Okay, well I like these now I'm gonna go back home and research those ones that I saw on here.

And then they go home and then they look at ones they think are the same ones but aren't the same ones. Like they would swear that they saw, you know, oh, I love this one, but it's a 45, a 43 inch, I want the 65. And they go over here, there it is totally different tv. Don't know it. So they're so overwhelmed and confused. 

But this is one guy who really realized that, he's like, “I don't have a lot of confidence going into this.” Like, I want a new TV so bad, I wanna keep up with my friends. I realize mine is a junk TV compared to what they've got, but I don't know what I'm doing. 

So it gives us a picture of their whole journey. And I've truncated this a great deal to take out some of the detail, but I think the most important thing, and I don't know how to do the little laser pointer, is that thing in the middle.

See where it's like over and over and over and over and over. We go back online and back and store and back online and look at some circulars and back online because it's a lot. And for them it's an investment. Okay? TVs are not $50. They're cheaper than they've ever been. People realize that. But if you're buying a 65, 75 inch set and it's gonna be the centerpiece of your living room and you want it to look good and you wanna be proud of it, it's an emotional decision, okay? And this represents family time and good times with friends and all this. 

So it holds a lot of weight. So it was really interesting to see how that middle part just spins and spins and spins for a long time before they decide to make that investment. 

Again, we also got to compare stores, so on different dimensions like signage and you know, like Best Buy  the print is teeny tiny and they couldn't figure out which sign went to which TV and in Walmart it was fantastic big numbers and you could see exactly what goes to what. But then other things in Walmart were terrible. 

So, you know, we did an assessment of each store so that the retail team can look at that and say, here's what best buy's doing. Great, here's what Walmart's doing. Great. Maybe between the two of them, you know, we can figure out how to do everything really well in total. So that was our qualitative, one of our qualitative pieces we've done. 

Then the final thing is recent shoppers. So people who just came on board, you brand new purchaser, I'm talking like the last couple of weeks, why do I wanna talk to them? A few different things. I wanna do some buyer profiles. I wanna understand who these people are, where they came from, what they were doing before they were on Roku. I wanna understand their research process while it's still fresh in their mind.

Did they look at review websites? Did they go into stores? Did they go online? Did they talk to people? What was their entire process like? 

I wanna understand then not just the research, but their purchase process. Did they go into stores? Did they,, again, go online? I want them to report to me what they've just recently done and all the steps it took to bring them on board to the Roku platform. 

And then I wanna know their Roku experience so far. So I wanna know what the very beginning is like, was it easy to set up? Was it easy to get started? What have they explored so far? I'll literally show them a picture of our left hand nav and say, which of these sections have you been to? Check off everything you've gone to so far. Have you added a channel yet to your home screen? Did you know you could add a channel to your home screen? Have you taken in the out, have you arranged, rearranged your channels? 

We're trying to understand kind of their depth of engagement because a lot of that relates to how likely they are to stay with the platform, those initial experiences. Are they having any issues? Are they confused about how to do anything? Because the more confused they are, the less likely they are to stay on board, the more likely they are, especially if they're older to just say, I'm just gonna stick with cable because it's familiar. Not necessarily better, but just familiar. So they end up staying there. 

So I really wanna understand how happy they are with it, any problems they're having, because if they're having issues with, you know, navigation, we can address that. If they're having, you know, um, connection errors, we can address those things. Like anything we can address to preempt confusion, to preempt issues, to preempt people saying, “eh, maybe streaming's not for me. And going back to cable,” I can learn from those first couple of weeks onboard for our platform. 

I just actually did some recent shopper quantitative and found three groups of people and it really helped me to understand who they were and how they were different. 

I had these people who were absolutely new to tv to TV streaming. They were definitely older and they had come from cable and so they had kind of inexperience where like, oh, well if I turn on the TV like a show comes on. And so when it doesn't, it's like, uh, now what do I do? How do I start, how do I begin? They're the most at risk. 

They're also kind of tech laggards, right? Because if they're just buying their first streaming device, they're definitely not cutting edge tech people. And like I said, they tend to be older and a little more hesitant. And so they're the ones we kind of wanna figure out how to coddle them and walk them through the experience so that they, even though they're kind of scared of it, that we make it as friendly for them as possible. 

Then you've got people who are prior player streamers, but maybe they're coming over from, another brand or they're adding a brand. Some people don't care. They'll have fire TV on one tv, Apple TV and another Roku TV and a third. They don't care. Just whatever strikes their fancy or someone tells 'em about, they'll put on. And so these are the people who are younger guys and so forth. They're very comfortable with tech. So there's no need to have everything be consistent and safe and easy to use. 

And then you've got people who were streaming but not with the device. They had a smart TV and they had that built in system that ties in which nobody knows that that's on their Samsung, but if you have a Samsung TV that's the name of the system built in and they've decided either to change, like not use the built-in system to their smart TV and add a streaming player to it, or now that they've gotten on streaming on a smart TV and they love it, they wanna add it to another tv that's not smart. And so we've got that group of people as well.

We also found out from them you know, what brought you on board? And one of the first things we heard was, “I heard good things about your brand.”

So word of mouth, we were discovering, was hugely important for our brand. When we looked at sources of influence and what you use to research for people who were new to Roku in another survey that I did, that was number one and it was something like six or eight times the next thing down.

So you can do a lot with that. It's like, okay, evangelist programs, you know, referral programs, all these kinds of things let's find that kind of thing out that people are telling people like, I'm on Roku and you should be too. That's humongous for us to learn. That kind of thing.

These are some of the quotes we heard from people. Like, I love this first one, “a family member told me about Roku and how easy it was and if he could do it, I knew we could” and I loved the capital.

They didn't regard this person as a tech person, you know, so it was like, well if that person can do it, we can. Or sales associate. “The sales associate was a Roku maniac and he had it and he told us everything about it. 

And the fact that I don't need to buy a new smart TV to start streaming. I can just buy a device and get going. Like for some people that was big news. Someone told them “what you're buying a smart tv, why you have a tv? Just attach a device to it.” And their budget went from $600 down to $50. So that's huge for people to find that out. And so that's why we get great credit for value. I mean I think the whole category gets credit for value because of that.

But hearing these things, mining these quotes for the themes that we're hearing about our brand and about streaming again, absolute gold. This had to do with, uh, God, I don't, what does that say? 

Oh, this is what I was telling you earlier. Why'd you go to a store number one reason So I could get it without waiting. Like once they've decided, they may take a month to decide, but if they decide on Monday, they're not waiting till Tuesday. That's it. I need it now. And so that's why people end up going into a store. 

I can find out exactly what features made people buy each of the products. Now I can tell you that like for every single one of my products, no matter what product I put out there, the number one thing they tell me is the reason I bought it is because it's easy to set up and use.

And that is one of our brand hallmarks and one of our brand pillars. It's very important to us that we are easy to set up and easy to use no matter whether you have technology and experience or not. So it's good to see that at the top. But then from there on, you know, different products are offering different features and different things to different people, different things of importance. 

So we can see exactly what is driving the purchase of each one of these and if it's in line with what we're trying to communicate with that product, great. And if it's not, you go back and you tweak that PDP and that packaging to make sure that you are emphasizing the things that you're trying to convey with that product. I know where people put them, what room they put them on, whether it's on their primary tv cause that's always our goal, right?

Primary tv, because that gets the most usage. We want it in front of the most eyeball time possible, and whether they attach it to a smart TV or not, we see more and more of that. It used to be a way streaming devices used to be a way to make a dumb TV smart. Now it's a way to make your smart TV better. “I know I've got a built-in system, but I want this instead. I want this platform instead.” 

I was in Best Buy during one of those interviews and the salesperson said, “look, don't worry about what's built into the tv. Get the TV you love the most and if you hate the system that's built in, just stick a stick on it.” And I'm like, you know, that's about what it's come down to because it's such a little monetary addition to your TV purchase.Get the best TV you can and then just put the system you want on it.

I'm also able to profile the buyers from every different place. So I find out where they bought their tv and then I look at, well, who are my Amazon buyers? Who are my best buy buyers? I can look at them in terms of demographics, I can look at them in terms of behaviors. I can look at the, where do the newbies come from? Who are they? They're probably, I don't recall, but probably more Walmart shoppers. 

I can look at all kinds of demographic and behavioral and every information by all of these. And then give that again to the retail marketing team and say, “here's who's shopping and here's who's buying at each of your stores.” 

So you remember what it was like in 2019. Now this is what I've got in 2023, which is at the bottom. That's what I had before. Now I've got this whole comprehensive program with this layer on top that is showing me what's happening before I talk to new product owners or tenured users or god forbid, shared users. And this is what I've done so far with, uh, streaming players. I've been out with, the online piece once, and then we've been in the store a couple times and we wanna go back to the online research and do a second round of it again this year. Tv we've done both. And now we've got new smart home products. I haven't addressed that yet, but I know that's gonna be coming up this year. So what do we get out of this? Besides lots of fun standing around for 10 hours at a Best Buy, and amazing, amazing data ideas, right? Sparks new ideas. 

We have the presentations, but then I hold ideation sessions with the teams and say, “okay, what are your ideas? What are your thoughts?” We, I, you know, kind of put together some of the highlights of what we heard and then we sit together a team and say, what do we do with this? What are the ideas? 

So PDPs have changed as a result. We've talked about referral programs. As a result, we have a brand new Roku TV display in many Best Buys to honor that TV wall and be really dominant as opposed to a couple TVs on the side. Because of this, the video that plays on those TVs were designed and guided by the research that we've done on here by both the, you know, by all three of those pieces of research in terms of what do people wanna see and not wanna see when they're in the store, what do they pay attention to?

We got down into nitty gritty stuff. So all of that is coming out of this research, these combined pieces that come together. 

When I started at Roku three and a half years ago, we had 37 million users. So we're pretty excited to just hit this 70 million user mark. Again, like every time we make these improvements and we attract more people to our streaming players and we attract more people to our TVs, we're boosting this number, we're bringing more people on board. And that's not just in the U.S. we're definitely, you know, expanding globally, which helps a lot too. But it's, it's a sense of pride to see, you know, it's not just the ideas, but it's what the ideas bring. It brings new customers on board. 

So really thrilled to have seen the impact our shopper program has had and really excited to be expanding it into Smart Home this year. 

Happy to take questions.