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Paths to Purchase: What is it and why should brands care?

June 28, 2024

Karen Chandler

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In the ever-evolving landscape of consumer behaviour, understanding the Paths to Purchase is crucial for brands aiming to connect with their audience and drive conversions. The concept of “paths to purchase” encompasses the various stages and channels through which consumers journey before making a purchase decision. This journey has transformed significantly with the rise of digital technologies and the diversification of consumer behaviour, especially in the post-pandemic era.

Traditional Paths to Purchase stages

For many years, marketers have been taught that the traditional path to purchase follows a linear funnel, with distinct touchpoints guiding consumers to perform specific actions:


The first stage is where the consumer becomes aware of a product or service. It can be generated through various means, including advertising (both traditional and digital), social media, word-of-mouth, search engines, and other marketing efforts. Effective strategies in this stage often involve creating compelling content that captures attention and piques interest.


Once awareness is established, the consumer moves into the consideration stage. Here, they compare different options, evaluate competitors, and scrutinise prices, features, and benefits. They also heavily rely on customer feedback and reviews. Marketers can influence this stage by providing detailed product information, comparison tools, and showcasing positive customer testimonials.


In the purchase stage, the actual transaction takes place. This can occur online, in physical stores, or through direct sales channels. The key to success in this stage is providing a seamless and user-friendly purchasing experience. Offering multiple payment options, ensuring website usability, and providing excellent customer service can significantly enhance the likelihood of conversion.


Post-purchase, marketers often make efforts to retain the customer and keep them engaged and satisfied. Retention strategies might include sending thank-you emails, offering loyalty programmes, and creating exclusive content for existing customers.


The final stage sees satisfied consumers promote the product or service to others. This can involve activities such as user-generated content (UGC), referrals, testimonials, and other forms of social proof. Encouraging customers to share their positive experiences and rewarding them for referrals can amplify word-of-mouth marketing.

The modern Paths to Purchase stages

In today’s dynamic market, the Paths to Purchase have evolved from a distinct funnel to a more complex, non-linear journey. Modern consumers interact with brands across multiple touchpoints and platforms, often moving back and forth between stages. No touchpoint solely drives awareness, consideration, or loyalty. Instead, the funnel has morphed into an infinite loop with conversions at the centre.

Infinity conversion loop

Awareness and consideration now blend

In the digital age, awareness and consideration often overlap. A consumer might discover a product on Instagram, and simultaneously read reviews on Amazon and watch unboxing videos on YouTube. They might engage with brand content on their TikTok, participate in discussions on SnapChat, and compare alternatives on Reddit, all within the same session. This blending of stages requires brands to ensure consistency and cohesion across all touchpoints.

Purchase flexibility

Consumers now expect a seamless transition between online and offline channels. For instance, they might research products online and complete the purchase in a physical store, or vice versa. Brands must provide a unified shopping experience across all platforms to meet these new expectations.

Continuous engagement

Retention and advocacy now require continuous engagement rather than discrete post-purchase activities. Brands need to maintain an ongoing relationship with customers through personalised content, timely updates, and responsive customer service. Brand increasingly need to be more effective with leveraging their data to anticipate customer needs and preferences, thereby fostering loyalty, and encouraging advocacy.

Why does this matter to brands?

Understanding their specific Paths to Purchase is critical for brands to effectively allocate marketing budgets and resources. With no single ‘path’ to purchase, there is now a multitude of paths that a consumer can take to conversion, each different from the other and varying from one instance to the next. Brands must identify and quantify the touchpoints that are key to driving purchase conversion, determine when in the journey they are used, and understand why they are effective.

Evaluating all touchpoints

All touchpoints need to be evaluated with the same level of scrutiny – whether digital, physical, paid, unpaid, earned, or owned. This holistic approach ensures that marketing efforts are optimised and aligned with their unique consumer behaviours across all relevant channels.

How does Nepa measure Paths to Purchase?

Nepa’s approach to measuring Paths to Purchase is unique. By blending behavioural data from URL tracking with self-stated data from diaries, we provide a comprehensive view of the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ of all online and offline touchpoints. This dual approach allows for detailed analysis and reporting on the most influential touchpoints driving purchases and takes into account all cross-channel effects.

– Behavioural data

This involves tracking consumer actions and interactions across various digital platforms. This data provides insights into what consumers are doing – such as the websites they visit and the products they browse.

– Self-stated data

Collected through diaries and surveys, this captures the consumer’s perspective and motivations. This data reveals why consumers make certain decisions and what factors influence their behaviour.

– Using the data

By combining this data, Nepa can create detailed reports that identify the most influential touchpoints in driving purchases. These take into account any cross-channel effects that may occur, providing brands with a nuanced understanding of their consumer behaviours.

– Benefits for brands

Global powerhouse brands have utilised Nepa’s insights in various ways. For instance, they have grown their total category by tapping into new audiences, increased frequency or basket incidence by leveraging omnichannel shopping behaviour and driven up trade by understanding their audience’s needs.

Nepa’s Paths to Purchase in summary

Our best-in-class Paths to Purchase solution will help brands to:

– Bring all offline and online touchpoints onto the same playing field

By measuring all data points with the same yardstick, brands get a comprehensive view of consumer behaviour across all channels.

– Focus on the metric that truly matters: Conversions

Conversions are the ultimate goal, and by understanding the touchpoints that drive them, brands can optimise their marketing efforts for maximum impact.

– Collect what happens, where it happens

Understand exactly what consumers are doing, when, to understand what drives them to conversion.

– Map the entire omnichannel journey

By considering cross-channel effects, brands can create a cohesive and seamless consumer experience across all platforms.

– Invest in the touchpoints that really matter

Identifying the most effective touchpoints allows brands to rise above the noise and invest in areas that drive growth.

In conclusion, understanding the Paths to Purchase is essential for brands aiming to connect with today’s consumers. The journey to purchase is no longer a linear path but a complex, multi-faceted process. By leveraging insights from data analytics and adopting a holistic approach, brands can effectively navigate this journey, optimise their marketing strategies, and ultimately drive conversions. Nepa’s comprehensive Paths to Purchase solution provides the tools and insights needed to succeed in this dynamic landscape, helping brands to not only understand but also influence consumer behaviour across all touchpoints.