WARC from Home is a new series to help subscribers to brush up on the essentials of marketing during the COVID-19 lockdown. Find all WARC from Home content here.

Every week we’ll guide you around the latest thinking on a key topic, pointing you in the direction of must-read articles, seminal research papers and essential webinars, to ensure you are top of the class when we all finally return to office life. 

Understanding the ‘path to purchase’ is top of mind for many marketers as consumers engage with brands across an increasing number of online and offline touchpoints. This week we share key thinking around the topic, how its changing and why, and how marketers can use data and smart measurement to engage consumers along their journey.

What is the path to purchase, and how is it changing?

The path to purchase refers to a customer’s journey across various touchpoints before ultimately making a purchase. Brands should have a deep understanding of how consumers move through multiple touchpoints across their ‘funnel’. With this knowledge, marketers are able to make much more effective and efficient decisions about media investment and brand experience, among others.

The traditional path to purchase (remember the old-school ‘awareness-interest-desire-action’ AIDA funnel?) has evolved dramatically in the digital age. Today, the idea of linear journeys through a funnel can seem decidedly simplistic. Multichannel interaction now drives the overall customer experience, with shoppers ‘pinballing’ across multiple offline and online touchpoints in the path to purchase.

Witness: Kantar’s famed ‘purchase fish’ from way back in 2013. Imagine how complicated the fish would look in today’s media environment.

With that complexity in mind, a consistent brand experience across the touchpoints has never been more important. With e-commerce, live-streaming and social commerce now a way of life, traditional strategies will need updating for a new generation which is constantly discovering brands, researching and purchasing all from mobile devices with one single click.

Essential reading:

For a deeper dive:

There’s so much data now. How can I make it work for my brand?

With so many digital touchpoints, brands can now access data which gives them greater insight into how shoppers move through the path to purchase, allowing them to respond dynamically to any one of the many paths the customer chooses to take. Insights from this data can inform more effective marketing decisions, especially when it comes to media investment.

According to Accenture Interactive’s Nikki Mendonca, creating an effective, impactful brand experience across the path to purchase starts with understanding the value the brand delivers to consumers and implementing a frictionless customer experience at every touchpoint.

SKIM’s Alex Zhu advises that brands consider three key questions before developing a strategy:

  1. What are the strategic touchpoints in the decision journeys?
  2. What are the content expectations at these touchpoints?
  3. What are the friction points and desired experiences for customers?

Brands should track and digest all signals from customers across all touchpoints to better inform the connected customer experience. Aiming for a single customer view is the gold standard: it is critically important that all of a brand’s marketing, advertising, and commerce touchpoints show marketers a view of the entire customer journey.

Essential reading:

For a deeper dive:

Give me some examples

Kia is a great example of this philosophy in action. The automotive brand personalised its customers’ purchase experience – from online research to mobile experience, through to when they entered a dealership – all based on path to purchase data.

Canadian online retailer Sports Chek noticed that customers were placing items in their online baskets but waiting for promotions to check out. The brand used this data to create a mass retargeting campaign, and beat Amazon in the battle of Black Friday sales.

But how do I know what touchpoints are working?

Once brands have visibility of how consumers move through the path to purchase, they need to understand the impact of individual touchpoints and adjust strategies accordingly.

Measurement frameworks should provide an accurate picture of performance via a granular, near real-time understanding of how individual channels and tactics are driving response. A clear view of this drives more effective media investment decisions.

TRESemmé knew its target audience in the Philippines was highly engaged on mobile and digital channels, but path to purchase data showed those consumers preferred to shop in-store for haircare products. As a result, the women’s haircare brand ran a rich-media mobile campaign using location-targeting to direct shoppers to their nearest bricks-and-mortar outlet, and used the data from their visits to evaluate how they behaved and purchased after seeing the ad. Purchases increased 11.25%.

WARC recommends a blend of attribution modelling and econometrics, which can help with insights and recommendations on optimal media budget, media channel mix, campaign timing, and pricing and promotion strategies. Simpler measurement models like last-click attribution don’t necessarily offer a full picture.

Essential reading:

We hope you enjoyed this lesson and found it useful. Please do share any feedback, and get in touch with the WARC team if you would like to find out more.