The New Consumer Decision Journey
The way that we shop is changing. What was once an excursion to a local shopping center or supermarket is now scrolling through a brand’s app or an online platform such as Amazon. We’re bombarded with advertisements at every turn: on social media, in our emails, and on public transportation, to name a few. This is fundamentally changing the way that consumers shop. Businesses can no longer survive simply by having a strong retail presence. With these changes, the consumer decision journey has transformed. The movement from awareness to the point of purchase now takes a different path.
The Traditional Marketing Funnel
For the past several decades the customer journey has been relatively straightforward, beginning with general awareness, then moving on to familiarity, consideration, purchase, and finally, brand loyalty. The traditional “marketing funnel” would start with a set of potential brands for the consumer to evaluate, slowly narrowing these down until he or she could finally decide on a single brand to purchase.
Now, with so many different mediums and products vying for consumers’ attention, this funnel is no longer applicable. Innumerable digital channels, a seemingly endless supply of comparable products, and a wealth of information to inform purchases all contribute to the need for a new approach to the decision process. We are constantly exposed to brand touch points, whether it’s through advertisements, chats with friends, or product experiences. While much of this exposure does not directly lead to a purchase, the accumulation of these experiences can have a massive impact on a customer's consideration set.
Source: McKinsey & Co.
The Consumer Decision Journey
This new decision process, coined the consumer decision journey by McKinsey & Co., is more sophisticated and all-encompassing of the complexities of today’s decisions. McKinsey asserts that the decision process is now circular. Each phase in this process represents a unique opportunity for marketers to capture consumers (or alternatively, lose them). It begins with a customer’s initial consideration set, which is based on brand perceptions and exposure to recent touch points. The customer then begins to add and remove brands as he or she gathers information, selecting a brand at the moment of purchase. After doing so, the customer builds expectations based on this experience that will influence the next decision journey. With just 13% of today’s consumers being brand loyalists, brands must always be working to capture shoppers' attention. While the traditional funnel can still be useful for organizations assessing how they stack up to competitors at different areas of the decision journey, the massive changes under way necessitate this new way of thinking.
After the consumer's initial consideration set, he or she will continue to add and remove options from his or her consideration set. This modification of options is innate to the age of information. Customers can examine Amazon product reviews, compare best sellers in the category, and more. The key to standing out from competitors is often information. If a potential customer feels as if they have an adequate amount of trustworthy information regarding your product, they will be far more likely to make a purchase. Even during the post-purchase period, it's important for your brand to continue impressing the customer to keep him or her coming back.
Source: McKinsey & Co.
What Does This Mean for Your Brand?
This new approach to the decision journey will unquestionably change the way that marketers need to approach customer acquisition. The first step in doing so will be understanding the new ways that consumers go about their decisions and the touch points that will be most influential. Rather than pushing your products out to consumers, establishing a two-way conversation can be far more effective. Giving shoppers as much information as possible will help them make an informed purchase decision. When presented with a wealth of seemingly identical products, providing extensive product information in the form of reviews, advertisements, and listing details can be the differentiating factor in capturing new customers.
This new consumer decision journey poses new challenges for brands, but it provides a newfound opportunity to capture customers right at the moments that are most influential to their purposes. By offering your products at the right place, at the right time, along with tailored messaging and consumer-driven marketing, your business will find success in the new shopping landscape.