Following the Breadcrumbs to Guide People Through the Path to Purchase

 

Marketing is about service; it’s about helping a company identify and fulfill the needs, wants and desires of consumers. Throughout most of its history, marketing has focused on the needs of the marketer and the marketer’s company. We’ve been shareholder-centric, company-centric and product-centric. We’ve organized our companies to be engineering-driven, sales-driven or marketing-driven. In other words, we’ve been self-absorbed and focused on our needs and our offerings and what we want to accomplish. This inward focus must change. To execute effectively, brands most certainly need to maintain an inward focus on all of the activities above. However, they also need to create and hone their mobile marketing capabilities. That is, train their people, invest in technology and develop processes to achieve their goals in the new mobile reality. 

 

Move aside purchase funnel and make room for the path to purchase. Perhaps you’ve noticed the headlines of late: “Marketing is Changing,” “Mobile Advertising is More Effective Than Desktop Advertising,” “CIOs Now Report to the CMOs (Or Should),” “It Is About Being Mobile First,” and so on.

All of these headlines, and countless more, are referring to an inalienable truth today: social norms and people’s behaviors are changing, and as a consequence so is the practice of marketing.

Marketing is about service; it’s about helping a company identify and fulfill the needs, wants and desires of consumers. Throughout most of its history, marketing has focused on the needs of the marketer and the marketer’s company. We’ve been shareholder-centric, company-centric and product-centric. We’ve organized our companies to be engineering-driven, sales-driven or marketing-driven. In other words, we’ve been self-absorbed and focused on our needs and our offerings and what we want to accomplish. This inward focus must change.

To execute effectively, brands most certainly need to maintain an inward focus on all of the activities above. However, they also need to create and hone their mobile marketing capabilities. That is, train their people, invest in technology and develop processes to achieve their goals in the new mobile reality.

Since today’s consumer spends the majority of their time on or being influenced by mobile devices and mobile-enhanced media, they’ve begun to expect one-to-one personalized treatment. It’s imperative that marketers turn their primary focus away from themselves and towards people (a word rarely used to define consumers). Marketers must take their focus away from shuttling the “consumer” down the proverbial purchase funnel cattle shoot and direct it toward guiding and helping people along their individualized path to purchase.

Below is a side-by-side illustration of the purchase funnel, resting on the base of loyalty and advocacy, and the new path to purchase.

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The stages and steps along the purchase funnel and path to purchase are similar, but subtle differences exist. The purchase funnel is a linear view of the world through the marketer’s eyes and the marketer’s goals, while the path to purchase is a nonlinear view, with many branches. It’s a view of the world through an individual’s senses and how they go through their day, week, year or life satisfying their wants and desires.

These two views of the world, the purchase funnel and the path to purchase, aren’t at odds with each other. Rather, they’re simply a view of the world through different lenses.

To be clear, the path to purchase isn’t the purchase funnel laid on its side as it’s often portrayed. People don’t care about “brand awareness” like marketers do. People care about expressing their needs or responding to conscious and unconscious exposure. Marketers need to understand that value is created between the customer’s view and their own.

For marketers to be successful in the age of the mobile-led digital economy, it’s important to look at the world through both lenses, the purchase funnel and the path to purchase. They need to be able to step into the shoes of the people they serve (their customers) and will service (their prospects).

Putting yourself in people’s shoes isn’t easy nor is it comfortable, but it must be done. The first step is to build empathy and understanding. A helpful way to do this is to understand behavior, ideally by talking with and listening to your customers directly, as explained by Jonathan Stephen from JetBlue in a recent webinar I did with him.

Another way is to conduct primary research and review secondary research. For example, to help you understand the behavior of people along the path to purchase, I encourage you to read the xAd Mobile Path To Purchase research.

In 2012 and 2013, xAd conducted studies in the U.S. and the U.K. to evaluate mobile’s role along the path to purchase for the travel, auto, restaurant, retail, gas and convenience, banking and finance, and insurance industries.

What the studies showed, not surprisingly, was that mobile has an impact but its impact varies and its use differs along each step of a person’s journey along the path to purchase. The insights from the xAd studies and related industry efforts are valuable breadcrumbs to understanding people today, their behavior (especially when it comes to mobile) and for putting mobile at the heart of modern-day marketing strategies.

I know it’s hard and change is never easy, but as marketers we must continually relearn our trade and adapt to the changing conditions of the marketplace.