The Path to Purchase Starts at Home, During the Holidays and Year-Round

The Search for Value is Not a Linear Process, with Consumers Making Shopping Decisions Every Day in Every Way

Consumers consider brands as they move through a variety of daily events such as walking through a store, or even non-events such as opening the pantry door.  With major retailers referring to the path as a circle, a pool or even a puddle, it’s dramatically clear that it is neither linear nor defined by a particular channel.  The path to purchase is a big picture opportunity for retailers, fueled by mobile, digital, social, radio, television and print media – and advantage goes to markets using multi-channel strategies to layer messaging and offer consumer value all along the path.

A recent survey by retail industry analyst E-tailing Group confirms the consumer’s focus on value, indicating that merchants must get creative as almost half of shoppers will refuse to pay full price this holiday season.  Further customer service and promotions are heavily favored, and 39 percent of shoppers plan to complete most of their holiday shopping by early December (an increase over last year’s 34 percent.) Savvy marketers have recognized these factors as advantages for offering relevant information to the shopper early in the process, meeting expectations of brand value, keeping them informed and becoming part of the research and ritual of making shopping decisions.

Further, news from IDC Retail Insights points out that ‘sequential use of multiple channels’ by consumers will shift to ‘concurrent omnichannel behavior’ – meaning that new options such as mobile price research weakens the retailer’s immediate influence on purchase decision made right at the product shelf.  Brands that answer back with “three-dimensional selling,” working to solve a customer problem rather than sell a product, are on the right track by offering high value to reinforce greater brand appreciation earlier in the shopping chain.  The consumer may not necessarily care about which entertainment provider they use, rather they are more interested in the cost, availability and convenience enabled by their various options.

The path literally encompasses all aspects of shopping, from considering needs, evaluating brands, comparing prices, researching options and listening to recommendations from trusted friends.  For marketers, influencing customer choices involves strengthening the connection that comes to mind in each of these instances.   Reaching consumers early on the path maximizes the opportunities for shopper connections – whether it’s planning dinner, making a shopping list or just realizing the kids need new shoes.

Does your marketing strategy recognize the limitations of a linear view of the path to purchase? And are you doing enough to reach your customer early in the cycle, offering value and resonant messages that can linger for extended consideration and response?

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