Image of a hopscotch game
The path to purchase

The path to purchase

A customer’s or consumer’s path to purchase may vary depending on industry, size of the business, category, brand or product/service.

Online purchases are rarely made spontaneously. There will be multiple triggers and motivators moving the customer or consumer along the path to purchase. Therefore, when evaluating the path to purchase it’s important to understand the decisions that are made during this journey that ultimately lead to the purchase - essentially how a customer decides to buy and thereby become a consumer.

Your customer will go through several stages on their purchase journey and you want to be prepared for them every step of the way!

Businesses of all sizes can use the following model to think about how they communicate with customers and how they keep them close on each step of their journey.

Awareness

At any one time, you will have customers at every stage of the purchasing process. Some people won't have heard of you before, while others will be comparing you to your competition because they are ready to purchase the product or service.

How long a customer spends at each step in the purchasing process depends on how complex or expensive the purchase is. For example, when you get hungry tonight and head out for a burger, your journey from AWARENESS to ACTION will be quick. However, if you are buying an expensive or high risk item that you don’t buy often, your progress through the process will be much slower. For something like a car purchase, you could spend as long as 12 months researching and comparing products.

You should include multiple touch points - where the customer or consumer interacts with your brand or product - for all steps in the journey.

If you’re just selling via an online shop, then your web, digital marketing and social presence should address each of the steps in the process.

If you have multiple touch points outside of the web, for example, a store or a sales team, then you should have a plan for how you communicate the benefits of your business each time a customer comes into contact with you.

Interest and evaluation of alternatives

When customers know they are ‘in the market’ for what you’re selling, or they’ve found your website, then you need to keep them interested.

This stage is about building credibility. You are an expert, you have the solutions.

Your digital content needs to help the customer or consumer with their research and help them come to the conclusion that you can satisfy their needs better than the competition. Some ways this can be achieved are:

  • Quality and informative website copy that tailors content to match what the customer or consumer is looking for
  • Include customer ratings, testimonials and reviews on your website as this helps build your credibility and trust values
  • E-books are a great way to educate and inform when dealing with high involvement products and services
  • ‘How-to’ videos help demonstrate how easy your product or service is to use and they also provide comfort and familiarity with the products or services on offer
  • Social proof can be established through blogging or other social network sites where you can ask customers to upload images and stories on how they have used your products or services and how they have helped solve their problems.

Action!

Once the customer decides to buy the product, make it easy for them by:

  • Providing a phone number for customer service (if feasible)
  • Making the shopping cart really clear and functional
  • Providing freight times, costs and options
  • Making the checkout process easy.

Retention

Keeping your customers engaged increases your chances of repeat purchase and it can provide you with valuable marketing advice.

Post sale, consider the following:

  • Ask the customer for a review (either by email or online)
  • Ask the customer for feedback on how they found your business
  • Ask the customer to follow you on social media
  • Send the customer eNewsletters with new product releases, news and special offers
  • Invite the customer to join a VIP club for special discounts.

Activity

Access ‘Think with Google - The Customer Journey to Online Purchase’

Use the drop-down selection options to modify the data displayed. Choose the option that is the closest to your business concept and analyse how the consumer interaction data is displayed for that product or service.

Was there any data that you found surprising?

Post your reflections to the Comments area.


Share this article:

This article is from the free online course:

Online Business: Customer Profiling for Success

RMIT University