The consumer path to purchase, like many things about the modern consumer, has evolved and changed dramatically over the years. The “path to purchase” is the series of information channels customers encounter as they transform interest in a product to purchase of a product.
Information channels have proliferated, and include mobile apps, emails, Google searches, blogs, brand websites, social media networks, and retailer loyalty programs. But these channels don’t just influence the process leading up to the purchase. If CPG brands play their cards right, the path to purchase can help with customer retention too.
1. By Forcing Brands to Integrate Consumer Marketing Channels
If the people running a brand’s social media presence don’t have their goals and plans aligned with people who develop and upgrade the brand’s mobile app, the risk of a disjointed consumer experience can cause friction and bumps along the path to purchase. Even non-digital channels, like newspaper inserts and television commercials have to be on the same metaphorical page as the digital advertising, lest shoppers be confused about things like when promotions start and end, and product availability where they live.
2. By Furthering Understanding of “Consumer” vs. “Shopper”
The “consumer’s” actions are based on need (or perceived need), and in the pre-purchase phase, the consumer may spend time researching solutions to their problem. The “shopper,” on the other hand, may or may not be the same person as the consumer. The shopper is affected by the purchase experience, whether that takes place online, or in a traditional retailer. Pouring all the attention on the consumer at the expense of the shopper is short-sighted, because we’re still human, and the experience we have inside a retailer makes a tremendous difference in how we perceive both the retailer and the brands. Connecting “shopper” and “consumer” through various digital and non-digital in-store experiences is crucial to today’s consumer marketing.
3. By Causing Redistribution of Advertising Spending
Advertising budgets of yesteryear simply won’t make sense in a fast-evolving digital universe. Brands that may have once scoffed at spending money on social media advertising are realizing just how laser-focused social media advertising can be, for example. But simply spreading the ad dollars around isn’t the right approach. Today, both brands and retailers have the opportunity to know their target audience in great detail, and can, therefore, learn which advertising channels—both digital and otherwise—will get them the best return on their consumer marketing dollars.
4. By Prompting Greater Creativity in Consumer Marketing
A catchy jingle and recognizable mascot aren’t enough anymore in terms of creative consumer marketing. People are used to more immersive online experiences, and they expect marketing content to resonate with them. Fortunately, technology has freed brands and retailers from the more restrictive creative constraints of decades past. Not only can consumers learn more about products more easily than ever, the in-store experience can also reinforce those product “lessons”—even sweetening the pot by beaming special offers right to consumers' mobile devices as they roam the aisles.
The consumer path to purchase is infinitely more complex than it was in the pre-internet days. Just as mass media changed the consumer path to purchase, the digital and mobile revolutions have upended it again. The good news is that it’s easier than ever for brands to collect and use consumer marketing data in creative and innovative ways. The further good news is that the in-store shopper experience can be tied to the online consumer experience, for a path to purchase that makes perfect sense at every step.
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