“So now it is time to disassemble the parts of the jigsaw puzzle or to piece another one together, for I find that, having come to the end of my story, my life is just beginning.” – Conrad Veidt

For this week’s ‘business fitness’ blog, I am going to ask for audience participation.

Please take a length of string of 150cm to 250cm. Attach a pin or some method of attaching the string to a hard object like a board and ensure that the string is as rigid or taut as possible.

In doing this, you have constructed the classic metaphor for the “path to purchase” with one end being the shopper and the other end being the point of purchase.

Here, our shopper sees traditional advertising and takes the most direct path to their retailer of choice, meeting wonderful and friendly customer service with exact product in stock etc.

We know that this is just not the dominant process by which product is purchased and most importantly, it is a profoundly redundant way of thinking that regrettably pervades some retailers in their marketing and advertising.

The product push supply channel is largely being replaced with the customer pull psychology and this dismantles the classic approaches.

Now for the second part of the exercise.

Take the string, remove the pin, and cut the string into pieces of approximately 15cm to 25cm. Place them pieces randomly across the board with no particular shape, direction, or navigation. Name each piece with the following titles:

  • TV
  • Radio
  • Press
  • Magazines
  • Word of mouth
  • Post purchase
  • Social media (this can then be divided into Facebook, Instagram etc.)
  • Peer group reviews (blogs etc)
  • Instore display
  • CRM/database
  • Catalogue
  • Online (more than 80 per cent of pre-purchase research is done online for bigger ticket items)
  • Personal endorsement.

Now we start to see that in fact the path is no longer really a path in the classic thinking.

Path is also defined as a ‘way beaten or trodden to a destination’. Again, much of today’s purchase behaviour simply doesn’t rely on a well beaten path per se. Rather, a highly individualistic journey, personalised, and customised less by the retailer construction and far more by two simple concepts.

1) Retail is about an interactive, interdependent series of brand “portals” of which the most dominant experiential hub is the physical store.

2) Understanding consumer behaviour at its most intimate insight, moving from the old way of demographics. In other words, to understand the real drivers of consumer behaviour linked directly to interpreting the unconscious drivers of behaviour. This is so we can start to predict the most likely manner in which a consumer will travel to your brand and the cues that attract and distract.

As Katharina Kuehn, director of RDG Insights and one of Australia’s first consumer neuroscientists, says: “Being in retail without intimately understanding your customers drivers and perceptions is like performing plastic surgery without seeing the patient”.

So now we speak less about the path to purchase, rather the journey to purchase.

Thanks for cutting up the old path to purchase with me, and exploring the journey to purchase as we assist businesses to their goal of business fitness in this changing world of retail.

Brian Walker is founder and CEO of retail consulting company, Retail Doctor Group. He specialises in the development and implementation of retail and franchise strategies. He can be contacted on 02 9460 2882 or brian@retaildoctor.com.au.

First published 28th January 2015 on Inside Retail