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Consumer Research


Pathways to Purchase

Pathways to Purchase

How consumers approach each purchase decision they make will differ according to a series of factors identified through extensive R&D by Harris Interactive.

Whilst a vast degree of knowledge and confidence may make a decision easy for a consumer in one category, they may be unfamiliar about another category and even reluctant to move forward even to the extent of putting off the purchase.

The strategies adopted by just one individual across the myriad of purchases they make over a year will differ. Understanding how consumers approach your category, the product line and ultimately your brand will help you better position your communications, your website and your staff to interact with customers in support of retention or new sales. And, if you are not selling direct, this understanding will allow you to think about how to influence the channel, and further still, if you know that conversations about your category are happening inside forums or across Facebook you can devise a social media strategy.

In 2010 Harris Interactive conducted a major piece of R&D in the UK, from which we developed a framework of six different types of pathways: Help from all sides; Systematic; Emotional; Reactive; Familiar habit; and Spontaneous. For each pathway the study explored the person’s overall strategy, their feelings about the process, the steps they took along the way and their satisfaction with the result.

We examined the prevalence of these pathways across many different product and service categories, and checked the category-specific details of the touchpoints involved and the parameters of the purchase. And we used a mixture of qualitative individual depth interviews, combined with a large scale quantitative study, to create the full picture.

Example insights:

• 4 in 10 people who chose a new mobile network provider found the whole process uninspiring and they lacked confidence in their decision – consider how you can help this significant group of customers find the whole process easier

• 1 in 5 new mobile handset buyers were influenced by comments on forums and social network sites but there were many categories where this influence was minimal – do not just jump on the social media bandwagon – invest some time in understanding if and why your category is being talked about

• Price comparison sites are used as much to validate staying with a brand as switching - thus demonstrating the importance of building and defending your brand

• New car buyers use a mix of their own research and taking advice. Test drives, dealer sales staff and websites are experienced equally – a perfect example of how integration across channels is key to influencing customer decision making.

Are you letting customers down at any one of these points? The lessons for brands are clear. Here are a just a few:

• Think about how marketing communications interacts with channel, and whether you are helping confident customers just make up their mind or whether you need to provide advice that is clear, instructive and instills confidence

• Do you need to interject some sparkle to conversations as the category you are in is perceived as rather dull? • If you know conversations or influences are not happening in one channel does this give you an opportunity to own that channel?

• Are your customers using the internet but buying in branch or checking out in a shop first before making the final decision on line? Do you know which customers follow these paths and how you can influence them along the way?

Peter Shreeve, Senior Consultant, Harris Interactive For more information about Pathways to Purchase approaches contact us on 020 8263 5200. Copies of the full Pathways to Purchase study are available to purchase. For more details vsist:

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