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Customer Journey: The Path of Purchase Decision Making

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Topic | p&a international market research 2/2013

© Peter Smola/ 

 © Peter Smola/

The increased complexity of communication channels requires new integrated research, capturing a comprehensive picture of the complete journey the customer takes. Understanding the decision-making process and relevant touch points helps you to gain deeper insights.

In a world that’s constantly changing, understanding consumer decision-making processes has become more difficult than ever. A multitude of touch points play a role in today’s purchase decision-making, and the controlling of information has shifted away from manufacturers and their traditional advertising to consumers and the content they actively seek. The path to purchase decisions can be a long, winding road with many unexpected turns taken by consumers. The multiple sources of information available to them can influence the duration of the decision-making period in both directions – speeding it up as well as slowing it down.

Moreover, the process varies greatly depending on several factors, including consumer personality, involvement in the product category, disposable budget and time pressure, to name a few. Depending on the respective relevant dimensions, different sources of information and brand touch points can be of relevance.

© Karl-Heinz Laube/ 

 © Karl-Heinz Laube/

All of these factors make it difficult for brands to understand and predict the customer’s journey to a purchase, and thus also impede the ability of brands to actively manage relevant touch points accordingly. This edition of p&a international market research takes a closer look at the state of the art of customer journey measurement and how such a journey can be actively accompanied.

Dr. Rusanna Gaber, Kurt Imminger
and Dr. Tomas Jerkovic take a conceptual perspective in their article Customer Journey: Last Stop Purchase Decision – Understanding Consumers Paths of Decision-Making and discuss the brands and categories it is most beneficial to conduct customer journey research for. If a brand is positioned or caught in a pure price market, the customer journey is very straightforward and thus needs little exploration. Contrary to this, performance- and premium-driven brands demand a clear proposition. They can benefit greatly from customer journey research. From a qualitative perspective, the authors propose research designs for exploring and understanding the journey to a purchase that consumers take, thus enabling brands to actively guide them towards the decision in favour of the respective brand’s own offer. Industry examples with the best potential for customer journey research are included as well.

Subsequently, Axel Puhlmann follows with an example study for three industries: computers, TV sets and mobile communications contracts. His article Reaching Customers Where It Really Matters – The Customer Journey Applied Across Industries goes on to show that the traditional decision-making process with consumers forming a set of preferred brands early on in the decision-making and gradually narrowing it down no longer exists. His clear recommendation based on the results is to invest more in the later stages of the decision-making process, as it gives the highest chances of a good return on investment. Furthermore, in addition to traditional communication, it has proven to be worthwhile – at least in these industries – to also develop attractive earned media strategies and ways to provide information to potential buyers. These findings are an opportunity to strengthen the overall customer orientation within organizations to actively reach consumers where it really matters in order to trigger a purchase.

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