• 09.25.12

The New Purchase Path

How the old path-to-purchase diagram has evolved for an uber-connected consumer generation.

The New Purchase Path

I’d be willing to bet that everyone who has been to business school knows the old path-to-purchase diagram. It went something like: become aware of your choices and needs -> consider all of the options -> assess how you feel about them -> buy.


This process has evolved hugely over the past few years of tech innovation, and brands need to think about how to create campaigns that tell connected stories across entertainment, gaming, information, social, and educational content. Why is it important to reach all of these consumer touchpoints? One or all these channels are likely being consumed by an audience you want to reach. To illustrate the new path to purchase that incorporates this multichannel landscape, I’ve defined the below “zones” and will briefly dip into the consumer mindset reflected by each of them [you can also see a full video on this concept here].

We start with the “wonder zone,” which is depicted by a tight messy knot reflecting the crazy busy lives of today’s consumer. The knot is hard to penetrate for marketers because technology allows consumers to so easily block out any media they want. Job one is to find ways to break into their closely guarded world. Find ways to make them wonder.

The “evaluation zone” is the next pit stop in the path to purchase, and it’s represented by a figure eight because in today’s world,it’s a continual learning process in which people move in and out of the digital world and the real world, often several times.

Then we reach the “select zone.” This is where consumers go through the whirlpool of making the best choice and finding the best deal, often using mobile media, that systematically leads to the best possible deal for them.

The final zone we refer to as the “happy zone,” and it’s represented by a sine wave that reflects the highs and lows in any product experience. The difference today is that these experiences are easily and widely shared through social media, making it all the more important for marketers to support and enrich the post-purchase experience.

In effect, today’s consumer consideration and purchase path is more individualized and complex than ever. You need to engage with prospects and customers every step of the way, and do it in a real-time, highly customized manner, if you hope to make it to the end of a much narrower and more cluttered path to purchase.

John Coleman is the CEO of The VIA Agency, based in Portland, Maine. VIA works with the likes of Samsung, Perdue Farms, Welch’s, Romano’s Macaroni Grill, and Unilever.


[Image: Flickr user martinak15]

About the author

In 1993, (and with no agency experience) John founded The VIA Agency and developed an effective model in which cross-functional teams solve complex marketing challenges and help clients find new growth. The model combined his engineering background, his unbridled love of ideas and his entrepreneurial appetite and produced results quickly and consistently—earning a spot on Inc.