The Winding Road to Revenue: Demystifying the Consumer Path to Purchase
Understanding the consumer path to purchase is critical for driving revenue growth. However, this path is rarely straightforward. To shed light on this winding journey, Jenn Mancusi, CEO and Co-Founder of Growgetter, and Michael Nevski, Director of Global Insights at Visa shared valuable insights on how to map and influence the consumer decision-making process on “Marketing, Demystified.”
The Ingredients of Mapping the Journey
To map the consumer purchasing decision journey, you need to consider multiple research techniques: qualitative, quantitative, third-party data, syndicated, and many others. This includes analyzing first-party sales data to identify profitable consumer segments that drive relationships and revenue. You also must understand what attracts these segments to the business and how offerings can be differentiated.
Externally, identifying life events that spur people to consider purchases is crucial, especially for high-involvement categories like wealth management. This means developing a dashboard to determine consumer triggers. Michael explains, “You need to look at when and what life events or moments, consumers start thinking about purchasing the product.”
The subsequent path differs based on product type. Impulse buys occur quickly with minimal research, whereas automotive purchases, for example, have longer, more complex journeys spanning months. Either way, the touchpoints made during their “digital footprint” and offline interactions shape attitudes.
Furthermore, outside influences matter. As Michael notes, “Who else is influencing them, or what else is influencing them?” Word of mouth is especially impactful. The goal is to achieve a 360-degree view of the interconnected consumer factors steering them toward or away from purchase.
Why Mapping is Challenging
Consumers don’t always understand their motivations. What they say in an interview may not align with actual behavior. According to Michael, “In reality, you’re doing something different because people might perceive something and think that this is the way, but when they actually go on that path to purchase, some other factors will influence them.”
There are also differences in low versus high-involvement categories. Impulse purchases come down to micro-moments and availability. If a desired snack is in the vending machine when cravings hit, it gets bought.
Emotions also play a role that surveys don’t always detect. As Michael says, “Sometimes you need to understand the emotions. And that’s where the qualitative research comes in more in-depth.” Observing behaviors and reactions rather than just asking questions unearths additional attitudes shaping decisions.
The key is partnership between insights and marketing teams. After identifying target audiences and needs, create actionable insights that build relationships versus merely making sales. Consider the entire customer experience, from initial outreach to onboarding, measuring satisfaction over their lifecycle.
Michael emphasizes tailoring the approach to the customer versus just assuming your product will resonate. He advises, “…It’s about strategically based on this research, how can we build those successful and fruitful relationships with our target audience? What else besides just the sales point of differentiation point?”
Insights should also inform environments matching buyer preferences. With consumers increasingly favoring digital, ensure omnichannel alignment. And amid inflationary concerns, stress long-term value over discounts to combat deal-seeking. Adapt to economic factors but maintain focus on lifetime relationships instead of short-term transactions.
Overcoming Blind Spots
Companies often develop tunnel vision, convinced their offering is superior versus competition. However, people weigh many elements in purchase decisions. According to Michael, “Consumer mindset changes constantly based on the external environment, internal environment, life stages, and needs.” Meet them where they are.
Firms might also frequently rely solely on internal data and past research. But Michael asserts, “Be open and flexible, and not to really completely devote yourself just to believe that you’re building the most superior product.” Incorporate third-party data on media habits and digital body language.
Finally, businesses often want quick answers to complex questions. Resist this temptation. Map the journey properly by examining primary stats, ethnographies, digital tracking across devices and qualitative insights. Then connect the dots through analytics to uncover relationships.
Spreading Findings Internally
To drive alignment on journey mapping initiatives, start by defining intended outcomes, then work backward. What research is required to reach goals? Who needs to participate across insights, marketing, operations, and technology? Document a project plan while remaining agile to new learnings that arise.
Visual representations of the path can be useful, too, once established. Ultimately, secure executive buy-in along with appropriate resources and budget before kicking things off. Then reconvene key players periodically to reevaluate direction based on latest results.
Michael explains how this played out for a financial services client. They started by analyzing third-party data on how prospects opened investment accounts digitally over three months. Combining analytics with additional surveys and interviews yielded insights to craft personas and tailor messaging. Aligning touchpoints to match their path paved the way for acquisition success.
Why to Understand the Consumer Path to Purchase?
When asked for guidance convincing stakeholders, Michael suggests emphasizing the outside-in perspective required to remain competitive. He says, “We really need to understand the consumer psyche in order to build those relationships…”
Another piece of advice is to “bring that experience and become a subject matter expert” on consumer behavior by sharing related knowledge from past roles. Stress that a complex approach is mandatory beyond surface-level data. As Michael states, “The devil is in the details.”
He concludes: “Being naturally curious, constantly asking those questions why and trying to find the answers why someone’s doing what they’re doing…that will become a very differentiating factor because you really will be able to explain nuances usually left out from the bigger picture.” Curiosity fuels the discovery of revenue opportunities hiding in plain sight.
While the road to revenue has many twists and turns, mapping the consumer decision-making journey prepares organizations to navigate them. By taking an expansive, curious, and committed approach, brands can gain an essential outside-in perspective on their customers to build lasting relationships. Though the process is winding, the payoff makes it well worth the effort.
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