Understanding how consumers interact with brands on the path to purchase

What makes a consumer purchase? In the past, marketers have described the path to purchase as a linear process of moving from awareness to consideration to conversion to evaluation. Research has proven that how consumers interact with brands on the path to purchase is no longer linear. Shoppers can move back and forth between the different phases. They often gain information about a product from a variety of sources before converting. And, the consumer journey doesn’t end with the sale—rather, that conversion can be viewed as the beginning of a potentially long-term relationship if loyalty is established.

How Consumers Interact With Brands When Shopping in Stores 

Despite the rise in eCommerce, 84% of shoppers still prefer to shop at brick-and-mortar locations (or at a combination of online and in-store retailers). They like the ambiance of a well-designed shop, the helpfulness of the staff, the in-store deals, and the immediate gratification of leaving with their products the same day.

If you are a CPG brand competing fiercely with a number of similar products, it can be helpful to look beyond the basics of “awareness, consideration, conversion, and evaluation.” Instead, to gain real market share, you might consider breaking down the path to purchase as follows:

  • Pre-Store: Brands have the opportunity to alert consumers of a need—of which they may not have been aware—before they make a purchase. Because the vast majority (87%) of consumers research products online before purchasing, brands have time to sway them with offers, unique value propositions, and well-timed suggestions before they set foot in a store. At this stage, it’s important to know what tools shoppers use to plan their trips, who the purchase influencers are, and which offers are most persuasive.
  • In-Store: The first two minutes of a shopping trip sets the tone. During this moment, the shopper is mentally mapping out the trip. The store perimeter offers the most opportunity for discovery, enticing shoppers down the aisles with endcap displays. Brands will need to know the mindset of the shopper, what type of trip he or she is taking, and what habitual patterns may affect product selection.
  • In-Aisle: As the shopper narrows down into specific tasks, their foot speed increases. Mental maps and macro navigation cues guide the shopper through the aisles. Signs, adjacent product placement, colors, and shapes can all influence at this level. Brands need to understand scanning patterns and traffic flow data, how different sections interact with each other, and what influence offers can play at this stage.
  • At-Shelf: Shopper behavior is largely governed by the size of the shelf, organization, the shopper’s familiarity with the shelf, and which shopping mode the person is in—be it to quickly pick up a few items, or to stop and consider what is available. Brands must know how much complexity is inherent at-shelf, what the shopper’s purchase requirements are, and what mode the shopper is operating in at the time.

How Consumers Interact With Brands on the Path to Purchase

learn how consumers interact with brandsDepending on the type of purchase and the shopping habits of the individual consumer, a purchase decision can be made within a matter of minutes, or after researching for days or even months. Consumers interact with brands in a number of disjointed ways along the path to purchase, but important touchpoints include:

1. Digital

Only 11% of customers are “strictly online” buyers, whereas only 12% of customers are “strictly offline” buyers. Most shoppers use a variety of touchpoints, starting with online and moving in-store. Brands should make sure they’re appealing to consumers at every stage of the path to purchase.

Almost every visit to a website begins with a search query, so it’s worth paying to rank for certain competitive keywords within your industry. As much as possible, associate local terms with your products to reach digital customers who are ready to buy. Generally, online search terms are broken down into “I want to know,” “I want to do,” and “I want to buy” moments. You’ll want to have content addressing each of these queries. Consumers want to see product features and specs, compare prices, and read product reviews. Make it easy for them by bolstering these areas on your website.

Use aggregated data to inform your decision-making in:

  • Identifying Topics: What’s in the news? What’s on your consumer’s minds? What are people searching for relative to your industry? What do they need to know more about? What top-ranking subjects do they find interesting and helpful?
  • Identifying Segments: What similarities in age, gender, race, location, and household income do your typical consumers possess? What behaviors do shoppers customarily engage in before and after leaving your site? What are the most-viewed areas on your site? These topics could be ideal for future blog posts, videos, whitepapers, or graphics.
  • Crafting a Narrative: What does your company stand for? Who is your founder? What don’t shoppers know about your brand that makes it special? What extension of your customers’ personalities do you cater to? Be authentic to boost your content marketing.

If you want to boost engagement and consumer interaction with your content, you might consider working with a strategic content marketing firm. Otherwise, you’ll need really robust software and an internal team to determine the core fundamentals of content marketing.

2. Mobile

According to Google, 90% of smartphone users hop on their mobile devices for pre-trip planning. Furthermore, 84% of shoppers use their phones once they’re in stores shopping—no matter if they’re buying baby products, clothing, appliances, groceries, electronics, health and beauty items, or pet supplies. Half of shoppers surveyed admitted to using their phones for 15 minutes or more in the store. Best of all, these mobile-enabled shoppers spent 25-50% more money than other customers.

Your brand can capitalize on the mobile trend by partnering with a third-party mobile shopping app like Shopkick. Here’s how the platform works: Shopkickers begin the purchase journey by browsing engaging in-app content from several brands and retailers, whether they’re at home or on the go. Brands can use the app to cultivate pre-shop awareness and consideration, putting their products at the top of shoppers’ minds in the trip-planning phase.

Shopkickers are offered a personalized greeting once they’re in-store and are led to products at-shelf through a gamification strategy. They receive rewards points for their engagement with partner brands, whether it’s watching a branded video, scanning item barcodes, flipping through lookbooks, or making a desired purchase.

Eventually, these points can be redeemed for free gift cards, leaving shoppers with a positive impression of your brand, especially if they weren’t previously familiar. Down the crowded aisles, it helps to have the added exposure. Best of all, you can offer generous rewards to shoppers without slashing your prices or brand value.

3. In-store

While much of the in-store experience will be dictated by the retailers selling your products, you have control over where your products are sold and considerable influence over a number of touchpoints within the retail sphere. You are on equal footing with your competitors in terms of the overall look and presentation of the stores, but you have a strong hand in determining brand visibility, nevertheless.

Your packaging and display merchandising are your first impression. Make it simple to open, functional, and planet-friendly, designed with transparency in labeling. For instance, consumers often care more about familiar ingredients than claims of “organic.” They want to see and know where their food comes from. Sometimes you can achieve that end with images and a few sentences; other times, you may want to use a QR code that can be scanned with a mobile device for additional information.   

Product placement represents another frontier for interacting with consumers. Product grouping and shelf height are only part of the story. Brands are using technology that tracks consumer eye movements to determine optimal placement on the shelf. They’re using tech to allow customers the ability to scan a UPC code for out-of-stock items via mobile to purchase online. Display advertising has gone beyond aisle end-caps to include interactive digital displays that invite consumers to use all five senses in considering the brand.

New products demand innovative ways of capturing attention. In-store demos and guerilla promotions are a great way to get your product directly into people’s hands. Including a celebrity endorsement in your signage or attaching a coupon to your display can also catch the wandering eye.

Understanding how consumers interact with brands on the path to purchase is a highly complex task for which there is no easy solution.

Understanding how consumers interact with brands on the path to purchase is a highly complex task for which there is no easy solution. However, by finding the right partners and tools, you can insert yourself into the consumer purchasing process at multiple touchpoints to maximize your influence. The best strategy is an omnichannel approach that uses online, offline, and mobile communications.    

Looking for more insight into how consumers interact with brands on the path to purchase? Read our success stories or contact Shopkick to learn how to become one of our partners, gain a leg up on the competition during the pre-trip planning phase, and convert more sales in-aisle.  


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Shopkick is the fun and easy way to earn free gift cards for the shopping you already do. Download the app now!

Understanding how consumers interact with brands on the path to purchase



Shopkick is the fun and easy way to earn free gift cards for the shopping you already do. Download the app now!

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