min read

Navigating the New Path to Purchase

by Jim Brown , 02.04.2012

Redefining shopper purchase behavior

Forget what you thought you knew about the path to purchase. Digital technology and the challenging economy have redefined the way we shop. The path to purchase has transformed from a simple, linear model to a highly complex web of shopping behaviors through which shoppers may bounce around in seemingly random fashion. Take for example:

  • Shopping for a new TV – Who simply goes to the store, picks out a TV and takes it home with them? Not many. These days shoppers do their research. They scan the internet. They talk to friends. They go to stores (not one but several), and they browse. A lot. Then they go to the internet again, or maybe they start looking for (or waiting for) deals.
  • Finding a new outfit – When it comes to shopping apparel, the options can appear almost endless. Beyond the myriad of retailer options, there are catalogs, pop-up stores, shopping apps, shopping communities, “flash” websites, retailer sites, manufacturer sites… shoppers have an incredible number of choices.
  • Bringing home dinner – The grocery shopper is more time starved than ever. What should they fix? What should they buy prepared? More and more go online for recipe ideas. Most have multiple store options to choose from. Virtually all are looking for, and expecting, great deals as part of their shop. And, if that’s not enough, some now have smartphone apps to download deals right at the store.

The bad news for manufacturers and retailers: this path is much more complex and less controllable than ever before. The good news: it offers significantly expanded touchpoints through which shopper relationships can be built in new ways. This includes an emerging focus on the pre-purchase phase and post purchase experience.

What’s fascinating is that this new shopping mindset is not defined by the young, nor by the wealthy. This new shopping behavior cuts across demographic groups, regardless of age, ethnicity, education or income. It is borne out of a new mindset—what GfK describes as the XTreme shopper—which is rapidly redefining how retailers and manufacturers go to market.

Global Phenomenon With Local Flavor

Xtreme shopping behavior is by no means a U.S.-only trend—it is emerging as a truly world-wide phenomenon. Globally shoppers recognize the power of having more technology, resources, and information than ever before. They are determined to stay in control and win at the game of finding the best value. Their best friend is the internet; it is their go-to tool in the search for information and value. Beyond the actual online buy, they are aggressively using the web to collect information from a broad range of sources including shopping and retailer/manufacturer sites as well as blogs, mobile phones and social networks.

While many of these emerging shopping behaviors are proving consistent across countries, some interesting local variations are important for industry practitioners to consider in their programming development. For example:

  • When it comes to online research, US Xtreme shoppers are less laser-focused on the web compared with their European counterparts. While 66% of US shoppers like to research products online to make better purchase decisions, that figure jumps to an almost universal 95% average across European countries.
  • Conversely, US Xtremes are significantly more coupon-focused with nearly two thirds (62%) reporting they are using in-store circulars for coupons and deals more vs only 41% of Europeans who reported an increase in that behavior.
  • Loyalty to any given retailer is practically a thing of the past in Europe where 78% feel they are less loyal to any one retailer because they feel the need to shop around for value. Retailer loyalty is holding up somewhat better in the US where only 65% indicate the need to shop around.

Without question, we have entered a new shopping era with much greater complexity and so much more to learn. As retailers and manufacturers alike learn to navigate this new path to purchase, it will be fascinating to see the new opportunities they can unlock.