Understanding the consumers path to purchase

Understanding the consumers path to purchase

Can you tell me what my consumers path to purchase is?

The million-dollar question and one that is asked time and time again, and up until now, it’s been fairly hard to determine. But with online retail growing at such a fast pace, and with the abundance of online behavioural data being collected, answering this question has become a lot easier.

One of the areas that Hitwise specialises in, is understanding online behaviours, in particular getting to know the Australian consumers. We track millions of digital daily footprints across its online panel of 1 million Australians. We can see what consumers are searching for, where that search activity takes them and the journey that consumers took whilst on a brands website. This kind of data is pure gold for any retailer wanting to know where their online strengths and weaknesses lie.

According to ShopperTrak, last December saw the first time ever that in-store traffic declined significantly YoY. During this same time, we also saw Shopping & Classifieds reach its largest online audience ever. With more and more consumers turning to online and the arrival of Amazon to Australian shores later this year, now is the time to truly understand how consumers use the internet when purchasing goods.

It all starts with search, in particular Google. 14 million Australian’s incorporated search into their online journey in December last year. 9.5 million Australian consumers started their online retail journey, with Google becoming the first step along the path to purchase. Search terms provide vital information on consumers, mostly what they want to buy or brands they want to purchase from.

It’s this search data that can help assist in understanding consumer journeys as products hold vastly different journeys. More importantly, consumer journeys also differ by demographic. Below are two examples of how different journeys can be.

First up, Bunnings. One of Australia’s strongest and most loved brands. Bunnings is an incredibly interesting case as the search activity around this brand showcase that many consumers don’t intend to buy products online. When you think about it, Bunnings is huge on the in-store experience and whether this is their intention or not, consumers are preferring to go in-store rather than online to make that final purchase. With experts on hand, ‘how to’ sessions, and the famous sausage sizzle (a weekend ritual for many!) they make being in store a lot more beneficial for the consumer than any other store in their competitive set! But online still plays a big part in the consumer journey for Bunnings consumers, and again – it starts with search.
Of the top 50 search terms for Bunnings, 30% are location based searches such as ‘near me’ and ‘locations’ and 17% are on opening hours. That’s almost 50% of all search terms purely being around going to the store. Many other searches are for the catalogue, product price or seeking advice. Whilst this might not be groundbreaking stuff, it highlights that in-store visits, whilst declining for most categories, are still very much alive when it comes to Bunnings.

However, if you look at the automotive industry, where the journey is a lot longer and includes many more steps, the findings become very interesting. We recently partnered with a financial institution who wanted to understand when car buyers seek out loans during the car buying process. In order to capture a panel, we flagged all those who had shown the ‘trigger’ behaviour that they intended to buy a car, by either seeking out dealer locations or by booking a test drive. We then tracked the panels behaviour 8 weeks prior, and 8 weeks after they showed the ‘intended trigger’. Given each individual performed it on a different date, we removed the ‘dates’ and grouped all trigger behaviours into ‘Week 0’. We then worked out the time between behaviours and the trigger, and mapped it out. What we found is that searches for ‘price’ and ‘reviews’ and ‘sales’ saw a significant peak in the same week as the intender trigger and then remained elevated for some weeks after. Searches for ‘car finance’ kicked in strongly in week 1 (post trigger behaviour) and held its strength until week 3. This highlighted that the key time frame when car buyers consider finances actually comes after the ‘book a test drive’ or ‘visit a dealer’. We then saw ‘car insurance’ searches peak in weeks 2 and week 5, indicating that the consumer may have found the car they are likely to buy.

This methodology can be replicated across all categories. It not only assists brands in understanding the consumer journey, but it can help brands deliver the right message, at the right time within the journey. Rather than spray and pray all your content at once, drip feed the information to the consumer when they are more likely to be seeking out information.