How to Map Your Customers’ Path to Purchase

Selling products to consumers used to be much simpler… a consumer needed/wanted an item, got in their car, drove to the store, maybe did little price shopping by visiting multiple stores, then purchased item.

However, as we all know, things have changed and are continuing to change at an alarming speed. Online and ecommerce have definitely shaken things up. Now mobile and the Internet have made the path to purchase for the consumer much easier, and simultaneously, much more complex for the brand and retailer.

But, before we get into how to map your customer’s path to purchase, we should probably answer the question of why. Why bother mapping your customer’s path to purchase?

While there are many reasons, one of the most important reasons, with the highest payback, is to deliver highly relevant and optimized experiences to your shoppers along the entire path. The more you know about that person, what they purchased, what they were interested in, what they ignored, etc., the more likely you will be able to provide them with what they need, when they need it and ultimately convert them as a consumer… again and again.

Now – let’s get down to the actual process of how to map your consumer’s path to purchase. The path to purchase is actually broken down into many phases. For simplicity we’ll keep the number of phases to 3½. Actually, you could call it 4 phases, receiving or picking up the product can be separated from purchase, as there are now many options available to the shopper.

  • Pre-Purchase – this is where the consumer is doing research
  • Purchase – the actual movement of funds in exchange for an item
  • Pick-up/Receive – physically receiving the product
  • Post-Purchase/Support – support after the sale, which could include, installation help for product use and more

Although these discreet phases may make the path to purchase seem simple and linear, these days and in the near future it will be anything but. So what do you need to do to map this non-linear and complex path to purchase? There are a few main actions that need to happen to start getting a handle on this.

First – Get insights from a panel of representative consumers shopping for your product or at your store of what they think/feel while in the path to purchase. What motivations and behaviors are determining where they go, what they do, and when. This speaks to the need for qualitative research, and specifically mobile research. With a mobile research app and service, you can find out exactly what the consumer is doing as they go through each of the phases defined above. Most importantly, with this research you can understand why they chose the path they did and what were their pain points.

Secondly – Get analytics in store. See what the numbers say about shoppers entering the store or going by your area. Look to accumulate metrics such as – new visitors, repeat visitors, # of shoppers that entered, number of people at each display and/or aisle, dwell time per product/display, queue at check-out, (multiple check-out options? Which is most popular?) the number of purchases per product, etc.

Then make sure you are also getting detailed analytics online. This includes mobile use (website and app), including purchases, clicks and page views, selected pickup options and more. It’s of course much easier to get online analytics than in store, but you need to start making sure you are collecting analytics in a format where you can discern insights and trends related to the phases in the path to purchase.

Additionally, you need to correlate (combine) online and mobile analytics with in-store analytics to get a complete picture of our shopper at each phase of the path to purchase.

Mapping your consumer’s path to purchase and taking appropriate action based on these insights will become one of the most critical items in your ability to drive sales and loyalty in retail today. The sooner you start understanding this, the sooner you’ll be able drive behavior and sales in your favor.

Lisa Cramer is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing for InReality

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