Big Idea

The New Path to Purchase

Shopping moments are now ubiquitous, particularly for the growing proportion of shoppers using “smart” mobile devices. In a world where it is difficult to distinctly identify when a consumer is “going shopping,” it is time to rethink our understanding of shopper journeys.

The initial Path to Purchase models typically depicted a linear journey, beginning from the point at which the consumer recognizes a need (the "Create Demand" phase in many models), through a multi-step shopping process, to the point at which the consumer evaluates the experience with the product purchased ("User Satisfaction"). However, even casual observers of consumer/shopper behavior usually recognize that these Path to Purchase models simplify what is often a complex, multi-faceted shopping process.

With the advent of and increasing adoption of digital tools and technologies, the initial Path to Purchase models have been reincarnated in myriad forms that have one thing in common: they are not linear. In these "post-digital" models, a new conventional wisdom holds that shoppers repeat steps, reconsider, and review alternatives across channels and touchpoints—sometimes in an iterative fashion—and this manifests itself in a model that is circular or asynchronous. Kantar Retail challenges that new conventional wisdom with the assertion that the shopping process in the digital era is indeed linear in the sense that a straight line can be drawn from the starting point of need recognition to post-purchase consideration—regardless of the path, the final goal is the same: purchase. The more representative way of mapping the behavior from "point A" to "point B" morphs from "straight-line linear" to "sequentially linear"—a continuous, connected series of events that looks like a series of zigs and zags until a purchase is made (picture a Chutes and Ladders game board—as you move along the Path to Purchase, you run across information or run into barriers that either launch you forward or set you back).

This process becomes potentially even more recursive when shoppers leverage digital tools and technologies—especially those that are mobile—as part of the shopping process. Because mobile touchpoints are ever-present—literally in a shopper’s pocket or only an arm’s length away—it is increasingly common for shoppers to be shopping two retailers at the same time (in a store in the "real" world and virtually on a smartphone) or to be shopping while interacting with multiple screens (so-called couch commerce—i.e., shopping on a tablet while watching television). Consequently, the concept of "channel" is increasingly irrelevant to a shopper who is omni-channel in her interaction with retailers and brands in both the "real" world and the virtual world.

Regardless of the image used to visualize or map the process, it is the combination of on-demand access to information and mobile engagement that has transformed the Path to Purchase.

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