Understanding the consumer journey has always been (and still is) a crucial piece to closing the gap between interest and purchase. But while fundamental needs haven’t changed, the customer journey is much more layered and multi-directional.
Today’s consumer doesn’t just follow one of a handful of discrete routes in their journey to purchasing a good or service. With the Internet at their fingertips, shoppers now bounce around the traditionally linear path to purchase–easily jumping from an in-store touchpoint to a digital platform in the snap of a finger, gathering information from multiple sources throughout the process.
Consumers can now leverage the wisdom of the crowd to educate themselves before ever setting foot in a store.
Keep these two major shifts in mind when deciding on research strategy for your next consumer journey project:
Shoppers are wildly more empowered in their relationship with brands.
We don’t just live in the age of information. We live in the age of informational guidance, with unprecedented access to (and considerable depths of) knowledge about almost anything there is to know about. This is especially true when it comes to products and brands. Consumers can now leverage the wisdom of the crowd to educate themselves before ever setting foot in a store. This presents a huge opportunity for brands to garner awareness among consumers shopping for their products. At the same time, this also means exponentially more touchpoints to maintain and track, as well as heightened expectations of consistent brand experiences across platforms.
Just as every shopper is able to consume information via the Internet, they are equally as empowered to publish their own thoughts, reviews, and experiences en masse. An opinion that was once voiced to a handful of peers can now be amplified 1,000 fold by way of direct input and feedback platforms. Rapid customer service response has never been more important as a result. While companies have lost a degree of control over their digital narrative thanks to bloggers and product/service review sites, the new landscape is not without its advantages. Adding a digital footprint to brand perceptions offers a valuable opportunity to monitor and better understand perceptions of your brand, and what sites consumers are visiting online.
Today’s world is defined by options.
The market landscape has become significantly more fragmented and competitive.
Today’s world is defined by options. Consumers now have a tremendous amount of choice in what products to buy and brands to engage with in order to serve a given need. The rapid increase in number of options for shoppers to explore, coupled with more ways to access and consume products, means that consumers expect a brand experience that fits seamlessly into their lives (not vice versa). What’s more, people browsing online now have easier access to information about your competitors– even comparing their products and yours side by side. It’s important to visually communicate this aspect of a consumer journey in a way that is clear and concise, so that your internal team can understand and activate on consumers’ actual paths.
It can be difficult to capture and map the complexities of today’s typical path to purchase, because there’s nothing “typical” about it. Keeping to the traditional research model for path to purchase is no longer an option, because it doesn’t paint a complete picture of the varied journeys a consumer may realistically take. But abandoning the model entirely isn’t the solution, either. We believe in a differentiated customer journey mapping philosophy based on key shifts in the landscape, integrating existing knowledge with newer techniques (like social listening) to give our clients a complete and accurate picture of the customer journey.
Download our Shopper Journey Instructographic for best practices and tips on how your brand can better understand and articulate path to purchase in the digital age.