Chapter 4:
The Consumer Path to Purchase

Understanding the consumer path to purchase and the drivers along the path to purchase is important in understanding how to influence shopper behavior. Thinking about the traditional retail path to purchase there are many different influences along that path.

diagram showing influences along the consumer path to purchase


woman squatting down looking inside a fridge

Shopper Behaviors

⦁ Subconscious need collection
⦁ Open to offers
⦁ 70% items planned

Need To Know

⦁ Planning levels
⦁ Purchase influencers
⦁ Offer interaction
⦁ Tool usage


woman in a grocery store looking through cards in her purse

Shopper Behaviors

⦁ First 2 mins of trip sets tone
⦁ Mentally “mapped” trip
⦁ More discovery driven in store perimeter

Need To Know

⦁ Trip type
⦁ Shopping pattern
⦁ Shopper mode/mindset


woman in a grocery store looking through cards in her purse

Shopper Behaviors

⦁ Focus narrows-task mindset increases foot speed increases
⦁ Uses mental map + macro navigation cues to guide way in aisle (signs/adjacencies/colors/shapes)

Need To Know

⦁ Scanning pattern & traffic flow
⦁ Section interaction
⦁ Offer interaction


man and woman looking at a grocery shelf

Shopper Behaviors

⦁ Section size, organization + shopper familiarity and “shopping mode” dictates behavior

Need To Know

⦁ Section complexity
⦁ Shopping mode
⦁ Product needs/purchase requirements

The Changing Consumer Path to Purchase

The Path to Purchase is changing dramatically as the points of sales have multiplied from the traditional brick and mortar retail stores to include mobile commerce, automated storefronts, smart homes, on-demand services, voice commerce, e-commerce and virtual reality. While some of these are emerging channels, many are very well established.

Mobile Commerce Buying and selling of goods and services through wireless handheld devices such as cellular telephone and personal digital assistants.

On-demand Services Gives customers the option to get their purchases on the day they order, sometimes within hours or even minutes.

E-commerce Buying and selling of goods and services using the internet and the transfer of money and data to execute these transactions.

Automated Storefronts Amazon launched Amazon Go, a chain of grocery stores which use several technologies, including computer vision, deep learning algorithms and sensor fusion to automate purchase, checkout and payment steps thereby eliminating the need for a cashier.

Voice Commerce Purchases made over voice-based intelligent assistant devices like Amazon’s Echo Dot and Google Home smart speakers.

Virtual Reality Use of technology to enable the online user to shop without malls and shops with the goal to create a personalized virtual store where a customer could choose and buy products.

Smart Homes Walmart recently patented methods of using IoT based personalized distribution systems including a Smart Trash Can (to track Shoppers’s consumption in the home and automatically reorder depleted products).

The shopper today is also demanding an improved experience and the increased use of technology is enhancing customer experiences by offering better visualization (such as augmented or virtual reality) and improved transparency (online reviews) and service.

Beauty Shoppers Research Example

If we look at a category that has had major change in the Path to Purchase and how shoppers buy, the beauty category is a good example. Consumer demand has been evolving towards products which offer long-term benefits, are visually appealing, are experiential and lifestyle-oriented. Demand for personalized and wellness products are also growing.

While from a product standpoint, consumers want more plant-based products with beneficial ingredients, they also want packaging that is visually appealing and primed for social media. From an experiential standpoint, they want memorable points of sale with unforgettable instore and online experiences.

Where they buy and the experience around that has been changed by companies like Sephora. We also see Beauty boxes with monthly subscriptions to beauty samples as well as personalization of cosmetics with companies like Bite Beauty Lip Lab.

The Path to Purchase is extremely influenced now by beauty bloggers and endorsements.

When an industry experiences such dramatic change it becomes even more important to understand the shopper journey and what is influencing them along the path to purchase.

In Chapter 5 we look at who is using shopper insights to improve profitability. It turns out that in addition to retailers and CPG manufacturers, auto makers and even B2B companies use shopper insights these days.