And changes in behavior happen faster than ever. Consumers learn about products, compare prices, share opinions, consume content, and make their decisions where and when it best serves them on their consumer journey – their path to purchase. Different websites, devices, store channels and media types (both online and offline) interact to impact consumers throughout their journey. This forms the consumer experience that is ultimately decisive for the success or failure for brands and retailers.
To make things even more complex, consumers’ paths to purchase are highly different for different consumer segments, purchase channels and shopper missions. Most CPG (Consumer Packaged Goods) giants and top retailers agree with the importance of an omnichannel perspective on the consumer experience. However, most of them have yet to move beyond single-channel tactics.
The gap between online and offline shopper insights
There is one big challenge that companies who do not choose to move into an omnichannel perspective face. It is the lack of easy-to-implement and robust research methods to ultimately measure consumers’ omnichannel paths to purchase. Which online and offline touchpoints should be prioritized for brand building and ultimately conversion? Currently, most CPG companies have a good understanding of how their shoppers are behaving; both online and offline. However, this understanding often does not link the online and the offline world together. It also does not link how shoppers are interacting and behaving across the entire Path to Purchase.
There are several reasons why marketing research methods are not able to uncover the omnichannel paths to purchase.
Let’s go through the most common approaches:
- Self-stated surveys, after completed purchase: The most traditional way of researching path to purchase is asking consumers about their Path to Purchase, the touchpoints they’ve encountered leading up to purchase, and the impact they’ve had on them. This method allows for mapping of typical Paths to Purchase, including all types of touchpoints. However, it is difficult for people to simply tell which specific touchpoints made them take a specific action. Thus, this method gives very limited insight into the impact of different touchpoints.
- Monitor consumers’ digital behavior: This method has a higher validity since it’s based on actual behavior. However, it only links to online behavior not capturing the interaction between online and offline interactions, missing the central omnichannel aspect of paths to purchase. Moreover, in general companies do not have access to online purchase data from different e-retailers, making conversions impossible to capture. Another consideration for this approach is that it generates a TON of data – so be sure to probe an agency on their data engineering and data science chops.
- Qualitative research: Focus groups, online diaries, or in-depth interviews enable research to dig deeper into consumers reasoning and motives behind behaviors. Qualitative methods are therefore widely used to understand Path to Purchase. The main problem with using a qualitative approach is that it does not quantify either your finding or measure the impact of individual touchpoints.
- Media Mix Modeling (MMM): In this method, advanced statistical modeling is applied on historical data on media spend and sales. MMM does not rely on surveys, and as such is free from any research biases. It also allows for understanding the impact of individual touchpoints which guides media planning. However, MMM requires high quality time series data of all relevant media spend and sales. This is difficult for media owners to get a hold of. Further, relying on historical media spend, MMM can only assess the media channels used by the advertiser historically, not revealing anything about the potential of new media channels, nor touchpoints that can’t be quantified by media spend (e.g. recommendations from friends, or key category influencers). Moreover, interactions between and sequences of touchpoints are very difficult to capture with MMM.
Do you recognize the challenges above?
I understand if it’s hard to find a research methodology to capture Path to Purchase across channels. Please share how you have solved this situation by writing in the comments section. Otherwise, you’re most welcome to get in touch with me to discuss this subject.
What methods does your company use to understand Path to Purchase?
Nepa´s approach to map consumers’ omnichannel Path to Purchase is to use both monitored and self-stated data. We do this by collecting individual single source data (both attitudinal and behavioral) through a focused panel of respondents for a limited time period (via web scraping, browser monitoring, app monitoring, and a self-reporting portal). This way we can capture all touchpoints that consumers interact with, as well as their actions (e.g. makes a store visit or purchase) not limited to bought media or owned channels. By modeling this data, we help our clients understand the impact of individual touchpoints and the combinations of them. As a bonus, we use trigger-based surveys to capture motivations behind actions and experiences of touchpoints. The output allows for:
- Optimizing media spend.
- Informing campaigns and content strategies.
- Informing retailer-specific insights. All insights are omnichannel context, and are not limited to bought media touchpoints.
“The output gives our clients an actionable framework to make market-by-market decisions about how to focus their media, marketing, and sales investments along the Path to Purchase.”
I help businesses to thrive with customer-centricity by utilizing the power of continuous consumer insights. There is no end to what you can achieve with real-time consumer insights, customer feedback, and footprints. Do you want to know more about our approach or share your view on these challenges? You’re most welcome to get in touch with me.