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e-Commerce Industry News

May 1, 2014
Making heads or tails of the modern path to purchase
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May 1, 2014
Retailers need to play a big part in all parts of the purchase path. Retailers need to play a big part
in all parts of the purchase path..
In years past, the concept of the path to purchase was typically viewed as a linear funnel. Retailers would then deploy different strategies designed to get people to walk down that path until they were comfortable making a purchase, after which the business would work to keep the customer loyal.

The path to purchase still exists and retailers are still trying to aid customers down the sales funnel. The problem is that this path is no longer linear. The rise of the omnichannel consumer has made it much harder for merchants to gauge where people stand in the sales process and take the appropriate steps to push them further down the funnel toward conversion.

"Now, because of smartphones and tablets, marketers need to fundamentally rethink things," Mobile Future Institute CEO Chuck Martin explained in a Harvard Business Review blog post. "Shopping is becoming an iterative rather than a serial process. Consumers no longer go shopping, they always are shopping."

In turn, retailers need to redefine the "path to purchase" as it no longer starts at point A and goes in a straight line to point B. The same customer might research an item at an online store, use their phone to find a nearby physical location, go check out the item in person, use their phone again to compare prices and then make the final purchase online (and perhaps even with a competitor).

"In 2014, the online purchase cycle requires merchants to be present not [with] sales, discount, offers, and specials, but with real content that allows them to interact with shoppers," Practical eCommerce contributor Armando Roggio explained.

Trending toward flexibility
Merchants must be dynamic and flexible if they want to convert sales in their online stores. Part of this stems from better integration of multiple shopping channels and establishing universal customer profiles. In the above example, if retailers can track the shopper's movement as he or she goes from online to mobile to brick-and-mortar and back online, they can go a long way toward offering this individual relevant promotions and suggestions.

The key is playing an active role in the path to purchase. Merchants need to be involved in everything from product research to purchase decisions. The retailer that is flexible, nimble and dynamic is the one that can respond to customers at every step of the way and secure the sale.