Chapter V – The Path To Purchase

In this chapter shoppernewsblog explores the path to purchase along which shoppers decide to buy a product.

Moreover, we will analyze how shopper marketing can affect shoppers’ decision-making process along the path to purchase and which attributes matter most to shoppers when selecting a certain retailer or brand.

Shoppers´ decision-making to buy a product or service is a five-step process as described in the diagram below.

First, he / she recognizes a problem or need (i.e. thirst). It is equally important to take into account different occasions for a product´s usage (kill thirst, relax, refresh, etc.) and the distinct settings (alone, with friends, in public, etc.) all of which influence the subsequent stages of the purchase decision-making.

Next, he / she engages in a information search to determine the different alternatives. The person might remember certain beverages she liked in the past (internal search) or consult friends, magazines, and other sources (external search). For simple purchase decisions (i.e. toilet paper), shoppers engage merely in an internal search without consulting external sources. Some brands are discarded right away as they are not appropriate for the problem, occasion and / or setting the shoppers is facing. Others that satisfy basic criteria enter the set of alternatives.

Third, based on criteria relevant to the specific situation, the shopper evaluates the different alternatives which entered the consideration set. Factors as price, quality, convenience / accessibility, prestige of a product, etc. are weighed against each brand in order to rank the remaining options and to decide which brand to purchase.

Fourth, although the shopper already selected a brand in the previous step, she still has to decide where to buy and when to buy the product (purchase decision). She might purchase a soft drink at a convenience store for instant gratification or might decide to buy soft drinks at the supermarket to stock up for later consumption as well. Nevertheless, purchase decisions might also be postponed to wait for a better bargain, more information, etc.

After the purchase, the shopper engages in the post-purchase behavior. She compares the initial expectations to the actual experience to evaluate the product. This in turn affects shoppers´ perception of the value of a brand, her likelihood of recommending the brand, and ultimately the probability of repeat purchase. If a brand does not live up to the expectations, shoppers experience cognitive dissonance and are more likely to switch brands next time.

The extent to which shoppers engage in the purchase decision-making process and the amount of resources (time, effort, etc.) they are ready to invest, depends on the level of involvement. High-involvement decisions (i.e. buying a car) require a more rigorous decision-making than low-involvement purchases (i.e. toilet paper) do. In general, purchase decisions tend to be high-involvement whenever they are:

  • Expensive
  • Less frequent
  • Complex (multiple product attributes)
  • Involving potential risks
  • Affecting a person´s status


The role of shopper marketing along the path to purchase

Shopper Marketing’s ultimate goal is to influence shoppers along the entire path to purchase using both online and offline marketing vehicles. In order to be successful, CPG manufacturers and retailers need to develop a deep understanding of how their shoppers behave in each stage and what influences their decision-making (shopper insights).

According to the Shopper Marketing 3.0 report, companies can affect various influences along the path to purchase.

These can be grouped into three categories namely, at home, on-the-go, and in-store (see chart to the left). Based on shopper insights, vehicle characteristics, campaign goals, and retailer´s and manufacturer´s objectives, the right mix must be determined.

By improving the value proposition to shoppers, companies can successfully avoid competing merely on price. See below the factors that influence the decision for choosing a certain retail location or brand (out-of-store)¹:

The study also reveals that 41% of purchase decisions are made out-of-store. Consequently, shopper marketing must engage shoppers early on in the path to purchase in order to position a brand in shoppers´ consideration set (alternatives to be evaluated in the decision-making). Besides traditional media such as television and newspapers, digital media offers additional tools to communicate a brand´s unique value proposition to shoppers early on.


For campaigns successfully accompanying shoppers along the entire path to purchase, please see our winners of the Shopper Solution Of The Month award.

Chapter VI provides a more complete introduction to Digital Shopper Marketing.

Click here for the complete table of content.



Although toilet paper is described as low-involvement in this article, brands as P&G´s Charmin are doing a great job at creating additional value for shoppers and hence, at differentiating from competitors.

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