Decoding the Omni Channel Path-to-Purchase:
Driving Brand Growth through Behavioral Design   
By Alex Hunt

Almost 70% of consumers in the US shop in both online and brick-and-mortar retail.  We call them Omni Channel Shoppers, and they are especially valuable because, on average, they spend more in all channels than consumers who shop in one channel alone.

Of these Omni Channel Shoppers, roughly 81% rely on digital research when they are discovering, shopping for, and purchasing your products.  Even if their ultimate purchase is transacted in brick-and-mortar retail, on average 35% are likely to validate their choice on their mobile devices, even when they are poised to purchase the product in a physical store!

In an Omni Channel retail world, the digital Path-to-Purchase dramatically impacts how consumers interact with brands and ultimately how they shop.  How can brands map this new shopper journey to optimize behavior and consumer choice to their advantage?

Knowing When and How to Influence the Omni Channel Path-to-Purchase

Even though e-commerce revenue alone is still small compared with brick-and-mortar, grocery is the fastest growing category in digital retail.  CPG and FMCG brands know they can’t afford to ignore online or digital influencers in the shopper journey.

In a pre-Omni Channel retail world, Path-to-Purchase was divided neatly into three linear steps:

  • Discovery (“I need a Product”),
  • Shopping (“Where shall I look for that Product”), and
  • Purchase (“I am in a physical store, and I am buying that Product”).

Increasingly, savvy marketers are recognizing that the traditional, very linear Path-to-Purchase has been replaced by a much more complex web of interactions in which Omni Channel consumers move seamlessly back and forth between online and physical retail; with the help of mobile, this happens often simultaneously!

Marketers need tools to identify the optimal opportunities to intercept the consumer in each of these activities, understand how and why they make choices, and how to affect consumers’ ultimate buying behavior on the Omni Channel Path-to-Purchase, regardless of where the purchase finally occurs.  

From our point of view the best way to build a holistic view of the Omni Channel Path-to-Purchase is to apply a combination of best in class technology and a behavioral design framework. 

The Winning Omni Channel Combination: Technology and Behavioral Design

There are various ways of mining data relevant to the Omni Channel shopper journey.  There is passive tracking of web behavior, analysis of POS data, consumer diaries, in-context observation of actual shopper behavior using biometrics and eye-tracking. Taken alone each only tells a partial story.

When best-in-class technologies like these are aggregated and viewed through the lens of behavioral design, they often reveal surprising opportunities to intervene to your brand’s advantage. 

So what is behavioral design?  Behavioral design blends the principles of behavioral science and what we call the “Drivers of Influence,” with the practice of design thinking, so brands can shape consumer experiences that influence choice and buying decisions. 

Design Thinking, a principle made famous by Clay Christensen, popularized the hypothesis that consumers have “jobs to be done” and they metaphorically “hire” products to fulfill those jobs. This has a profound implication on how consumers approach the Discovery step in the Omni Channel Path-to-Purchase.
We see this in our research where consumers either search for a “Job to Be Done” (JTBD), a Brand or Product name and a JTBD, or just a brand name.

Search by brand or product is relatively straight forward.  But brands who also anticipate JTBD searching and create content to fit “jobs to be done,” fare better than those who rely on brand awareness alone to drive more consumers to a choice inflection point.

Using passive tracking, we can identify search terms used by consumers that lead them to your brand:  An example we saw is “How to make meatloaf”, a search which led consumers to recipes incorporating Hellman’s Mayonnaise, a somewhat unconventional ingredient in meatloaf preparation.
Conversion to purchase, influenced by engagement that anticipates “jobs to be done”, occurs often in oblique ways. In other research we saw “How to clean mussels”,  a search which led consumers to a page on Knorr’s website, walking would-be chefs through the secrets to de-bearding shellfish, appending a recipe including Knorr bouillon cubes as a key ingredient.

And “Jobs to be Done” doesn’t end with the Discovery!  At the moment of truth at the physical or virtual shopping cart, consumers often search for validation of a “Job to Be Done,” i.e., “Will this sunscreen truly be safe for my child with sensitive skin?”

Mobile phones also enables price comparison between retailers, access to coupons, and access to shopping lists.  Recognizing behavioral inflection points enables marketers to make effective interventions at the moment consumers make choices, reach for a companion item, or an impulse purchase.
By combining validated technology and Behavioral Design brands now have a chance to influence consumer choice in the Omni Channel world, wherever shoppers are buying. 

Alex Hunt is CEO of PRS IN VIVO, a BVA Group company, which is a global shopper and product experience consultancy.

CPG VIEWPOINTS             
                                                                   Early December 2019
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