73% of online shoppers agree that their path to purchase is more complex and less direct than it used to be, according to [pdf] an About.com study. As the traditional purchase funnel has been upended and turned into more of a “loop,” per the study, shoppers indicate that shopping has taken on a more personal nature. That is, 79% agree that their relationship with brands is much more personal than ever before, and 68% agree that shopping today is less about the brands/products themselves and more about them (what they’re feeling or needing).
The survey was limited to 1,600 American respondents with the following characteristics:
- High school graduates aged 18-64, with household income of at least $25,000;
- Smartphone owners (of which about 60% are also tablet owners);
- Seek information online and on mobile at least once a week; and
- Frequent shoppers (including browsing) in at least 2 of 8 categories (food, home, health, personal finance, tech, fashion/beauty/style, autos, travel).
The evolution of the shopping experience means that for 87% of respondents, there’s more to it than simply “identifying a need, exploring options and purchasing.” Instead, consumers identify 6 common behaviors along the path to purchase:
- Openness – “being receptive to new or better experiences”
- Realized want or need – “something acts as a catalyst; gives the consumer a reason to start looking into things she wants or needs to do”
- Learning and education – “understanding the fundamentals in order to make a purchase the consumer can feel good about”
- Seeking ideas and inspiration – “looking for, noticing, keeping track of examples, thought-starters, motivators in order to take the next step”
- Research and vetting – “compare options; look for deals; takes price, value, reviews into account, as well as personal associations with brands
- Post-purchase evaluation and expansion – “consumer uses or experiences a purchase and decides how she feels; might post reviews, share experiences”
Consumers move in “spider webs” from one behavior to the next, influenced by different media and devices along the way. For example, social media and TV are more important for ideas and inspiration than learning/education, but the opposite is true for store visits.