Marketers are scrambling with how to deal with this new reality – and often there is a lack of insight on how the paths to purchase are influencing sales and how they can be leveraged to drive business growth.
To help gain an understanding of today’s opportunities, we need to define a clear framework of the path to purchase and identify what needs to be influenced to help marketers and retailers develop a successful path to purchase strategy.
The path to purchase: what is it?
There are four stages on the path to purchase:
- Stage 1: The path starts with a purchase trigger. At the time of the trigger, the consumer may already have brand preferences, which can be referred to as pre-trigger brand preferences.
- Stage 2: The consumer may (though not necessarily) actively start exploring and evaluating options. During this stage, brand preferences can change significantly.
- Stage 3: The consumer transforms into a ‘shopper’ and makes his/her final choice at the point of sale. There are two choices which matter: choice for a retailer or channel and choice for a product or brand.
- Stage 4: Purchase is followed by the actual product experience. This will impact mental networks that will shape brand preferences for the next purchase.
Along these stages, the consumer is continuously exposed to touchpoints which reinforce and disrupt mental networks and thereby influence purchase decisions. Touchpoints can be defined as any encounter where a consumer is exposed to the brand (e.g., TV advertising, social media, store display, etc.).
Let’s look at an example of LIFE Path in action for the cell phone category in the Netherlands and how it answered the 6 key questions mentioned above.
- What are the dominant paths?
- How important are pre-trigger brand preferences in driving sales?
- How can we measure reach and model the mpact of different touchpoints?
- How can we understand the role of touchpoints in the path to purchase?
- What are the pain points in the path to purchase?
- How can we understand how brands perform relative to competition and on specific touchpoints?
A path to grow
Digitalisation has dramatically altered the shopping experience and marketers need to understand and influence the new paths to purchase in order to grow and survive. This will require marketers to ask new questions, connect with digital consumers in new ways (e.g., through social listening and passive metering) and think beyond mass marketing and embrace touchpoint opportunities. While paths to purchase have become more complex, with the right thinking and the right tools they can be understood and capitalised on to become paths to growth.