No Linear Path to Purchase, it's a ”Combination of Moments" (Digital Life)

April 26, 2016

Circa 10 years ago and the path to purchase was pretty simple, moving from a traditional ad to a brick and mortar. Fast forward today and the path to purchase is a conglomerate of different experiences within social media and ads that move towards either a brick and mortar or online store.

Pontificating on the Digital Life

To understand why having a depth of digital knowledge is crucial for any brand today is to firstly be aware that the world and consumers have changed over the last 10 years. Consumers today rely on digital experiences to shop, be entertained, get organized, find information, start their cars, consume news, and have a social circle.

What’s even more interesting than the awareness of change is the awareness of these consumer's path to purchase. For low consideration products the path a consumer 10 years ago was vastly different than a path they take today. Ten years ago shoppers primarily purchased products in a physical location and the path to purchase was linear. A potential customer saw an advertisement or perhaps a coupon, then went straight to the physical location to purchase.

Diagram 1: Linear Path to Purchase, circa 10 years ago

Combination of Moments

Today the path to purchase isn’t linear. Firstly, the end-point (where to purchase) is split into Physical and Online. Then Online is split into at least three sub-end-points where a consumer can purchase a product: Web, Apps, and Social (one of my favorite new trends is buying products through an Instagram photo!). The 'path' a consumer takes to purchase in Physical or Online is not a path, but a combination of moments she has with your brand. To illustrate; see diagram below:

The dots represent the various engagement activities a consumer can have with your brand that ultimately lead a consumer to a purchase (e.g. consumer read a tweet, watched a branded video, visited your website, stumbled upon a blog entry, saw an interesting Instagram photo of your product etc.). All these engagements and a  combination of them will define the consumer's path to purchase. It’s anything but linear.

These engagements are how a potential customer hears, learns, discover products today, and all of it is lead by digital. This doesn’t mean that a brand must do every single plausible ‘dot’, but a brand should be represented by as many dots that make sense for them while giving a consumer the best, consistent branded experience for each dot. Also, it’s important to go back and test the effectiveness of the dots, and that’s more than a ‘click’, 'time on site', 'download', based analysis. It’s not a 1:1.

Taking time to build a true digital strategy is firstly identifying the right dots, then understanding how the chosen dots fit together to tell the right story that leads to a purchase. Both the world and consumers have and are changing at a dramatic rate in a very short period of time - this would behoove a brand to rethink (or think) about their immediate and future business and how to best leverage digital.

If you’d like to pontificate on the digital life, join our mailing list for quarterly happy hours at our office or email us to chat:

(This is a concept I'm interested evolving, so feel free to send me feedback directly: naushad [at] xtopoly . com)

Want to see another?