Forget The Funnel: Mapping The Modern Customer’s Path To Purchase

Human crowd forming a funnel symbol on white background. Horizontal  composition with copy space. Clipping path is included. Marketing concept.

Once upon a time, a customer’s path to purchase could be mapped using a simple funnel.

Awareness, interest, consideration, intent, evaluation and then purchase – straight from the marketing textbooks.

But new data from Google and The Behavioural Architects, which analysed the behaviour of 250,000 online shoppers over two years, suggests the process of a customer buying laundry detergent can take as many 80 different touchpoints.

For an international flight, this figure balloons to 259 and takes an average of 12 weeks.

“Historically we’ve always thought about the path to purchase being very linear,” said Google head of consumer market research Rachael Powell.

“I think in today’s environment where we have so many different sources of information that’s just not the case.”

It’s something Google has labelled ‘the messy middle’.

The research also looked at customer choices from a behavioural science point of view.

With Gartner predicting that by 2025 one in four marketing departments will have a dedicated behavioural scientist as part of their staff, Powell gave insight into how this knowledge can be applied.

“When we make decisions, we’re not rational creatures. We’re far more emotive, and that’s certainly what we saw when we came into this research,” Powell said.

“We actually asked people before they started the research what they thought would influence them and what actually came out and research was something completely different entirely.”

And although emotion plays a huge role in dictating consumer decision, there is an opportunity for marketers to leverage this.

“We are predictably irrational,” Powell said.

“There are principles we can use that explain emotive decision making, that we can help marketers leverage in terms of how they show up and the messaging they use to be able to have influence over that decision-making process.”

The recent panic buying phenomenon that took over at the start of COVID-19 also gave us some insight into the mind’s of consumer, explained Mike Daniel of The Behavioural Architects.

“We are irrationally predisposed to immediacy,” said Daniel.

“Scarcity bias – when something’s in short supply or perceived to be in short supply, there’s nothing like that to get us acting immediately.”

the Advice

The advice from Google and The Behavioural Architects is simple: be there, be compelling and be experimental.

“It’s most important for Marketers to be there when consumers are at the point of making a decision, either to protect your share, or seizing on the opportunity by leveraging behavioural science principles,” said Daniel.

“Critically, behavioural science principles are free to implement and can be very effective.“

Powell added that marketers have to embrace this ‘messy middle’ to succeed in the current ecosystem.

“With so many factors and influences on the consumer journey, this research contains some clear messages for businesses to navigate ‘the messy middle’ – to be more effective in advertising, be experimental and constantly re-evaluate effectiveness,” Powell said.

“Messaging that worked last month might be different from what will work next month, because context is key.”


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