The stakes have never been higher

June 14, 2022
Annie Little
Associate Strategy Director

With the covid-19 pandemic transforming shopping habits, journey orchestration matters more now than ever before.

Digital commerce has totally shifted the journey stage balance – now, there is no such thing as “the” consumer journey for any given category. Instead, there exists a complex maze of touchpoints that must be carefully navigated if brands wish to emerge successful.

Simply put, the stakes have never been higher.

Brands need to get a firm grip on how the consumer journey has evolved and update traditional linear purchase funnels from their marketing agenda as a strategic priority.

In this article, we’ll look at the evolution of the purchasing journey and the impact this has on consumer behaviour.

With these insights in hand, we’ll offer valuable guidance on how to ensure that – in a sea of endless consumer choice – your brand gets chosen first.


The emergence of decision paralysis

The availability and ease at which consumers can access product information has changed the landscape forever.

Gone are the days of a linear purchase journey. With more options and far greater accessibility than ever before, consumers today are quite literally spoiled for choice.

And while this new world offers countless benefits for brands and retailers, it also adds a new layer of complexity to consumer decision-making. When this complexity reaches a tipping point, it can spiral into “decision paralysis”: too much choice, too many options, too hard to decide.

Such an overwhelming wealth of information for consumers to wade through, has done the opposite of streamlining the consumer journey. In many ways, these extra touchpoints and decision-factors have created a more complex and cumbersome path to purchase.


A new model for the consumer journey

To date, some of the savviest brands and retailers have quickly pivoted their consumer engagement strategies, adopting prevailing shoppable touchpoints to remove any immediate friction or pain points for their target audience.

However, creating a high-converting omnichannel purchase journey can’t be a checkbox exercise. A more holistic and strategic approach is required that spans the entire consumer journey and incorporates reciprocal actions at every experience encounter.

This requires a) an understanding of how the consumer journey has evolved and b) insight into how consumers are navigating their way through it.

Let’s start by addressing the former.

This ‘messy middle’, coined by Google, is a space of abundant choice and unlimited content. Here, consumers explore and evaluate product information, research brands and weigh up their options. This is happening across an ever-expanding digital ecosystem – from online channels to social media to search engines, aggregators, review website and much more.

This exposure is not a stage or step in the buying process, but rather an “always-on” experience.

This means that consumers will spend many times traversing the loop between exploration and evaluation before a purchasing decision is made.

So, how can brands show up at the right moment and win consumer preference?


How to address cognitive biases and win consumer preference

While the initial trigger and purchasing moments still stand in today’s journey, the middle area between the trigger and purchase has become messy and complex.

Due to the constant bombardment that consumers now face, they are turning to a range of coping mechanisms (cognitive bias) to shortcut indecision and make purchase conclusions.

Cognitive biases are often a result of the brain’s attempt to simplify information processing. In this case, they help consumers make sense of the world and reach decisions with relative speed.

These cognitive biases shape shopping behaviours and influence why we choose one product over another.

By responding to the cognitive biases at play intelligently, responsibly and at the right moment in the consumer journey, brands can effectively shorten the gap between trigger and purchase and emerge victorious at the point of conversion.

But how do brands pinpoint which biases are at play during a typical purchase journey within their respective category?

At Initials, we have developed our own strategic model to help brands hack the consumer journey and win the moments that matter. Since the path to purchase is no longer linear, we can’t afford to think in linear terms.

Our Consumer Journey Hackerä is a data-driven and behavioural-science-based strategy that helps brands plan for the right stimuli that will impact buyers in key moments.

Understanding behavioural biases does more than just increase advertising effectiveness; it can encourage a deeper psychological understanding of consumers, their cultural norms and nuances and ultimately inspire new business strategies and products.

These behavioural science principles (and the behavioural and informational needs they align with) are powerful tools for winning and defending consumer preference in the new complex consumer journey.

Here, the goal is close the gap between trigger and purchase. This means consumers spend less time exposed to competitor brands and transition to your basket faster and with greater confidence.

In a sea of overwhelming choice, this is how your brand can emerge victorious.

As seen in The Drum.