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The new path to purchase

January 22, 2009

The Path to Purchase for considered purchases (like a car, a new TV) went something like this:

  • Advertising created awareness.
  • Frequency ensured people saw the thing enough to be aware.
  • Scouting occurred in-store (where POP and promotions did some of the heavy lifting)
  • The person purchased.

For the most part, the post-purchase period meant mailing in a warranty (or most-likely, nothing).

Then along came the internet. It totally changed the path to purchase. You can see that people can enter the path to purchase at any time. They can scout before they are aware, and become aware of brands in ways the brand no longer controls. A review on Yelp, a post on a blog, a tweet on Twitter, all these things can help make someone aware of a product, even when they are outside of the buying cycle.

And so can Google. The simple act of typing “I want to buy a new TV” into Google offers the ability to skip the path to purchase and move right to the purchase.

So should be kill those early parts of the path to purchase? Is brand awareness advertising dead?

Nigel Hollis, Executive Vice President and Chief Global Analyst at Millward Brown, doesn’t think so. This is what he wrote:

“Time is the most expensive commodity in today’s economy. Few people will invest significant amounts of time researching all the possible options for a brand purchase. Usually the risk of making a bad purchase is relatively low and there are too many other things vying for those precious, irreplaceable minutes. So the stronger your brand, the more likely it is that people will click on its link instead of some other one.”

From here.

The point is this: in the digital economy, everything is speeding up. The path to purchase can be a lot faster because people are becoming better at searching. Google and other search engines are becoming better at giving relevant search data. The beginning of the path to purchase has been thrown into disarray, but good branding can keep in on track. If people know the brand, then it doesn’t matter where they enter the buying cycle.

Even more, social media has added back end items to the buying cycle.

When someone is a fan or a follower of the brand, it’s reasonable t assume that they’ve purchased. The simple act of fanning or following, or engaging in social media, means the person is becoming a brand advocate. Brands should still focus on that front end, but thinking about the back end means thinking through having people who have purchased the product talk about their experience with the product (both positive and negative).

At some point in the near future,  chart your customer’s path to purchase. Here’s a start:

The Digital Path to Purchase

The Digital Path to Purchase

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. January 26, 2009 10:37 am

    I read this article this morning:

    It reminded me of this post and encouraged me to bring up the question – should we still call these consumers, who have invested the time to research and understand their options, a ripe “lead” anymore?

    I agree with the article linked here that these consumers don’t want to be sold. Be there for them when they need you, and you have a better chance of being chosen, and this isn’t to say that you can’t target communications directly to them, but I think you’re making a mistake if you classify them strictly as a “lead” that needs to be “sold,” in the classic sense of the term.

    Just be there for them, as the article suggests. The power is really on their side now.

  2. May 23, 2013 8:37 pm

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts about buying facebook likes.


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