Redefining Conversion: The New (And Shorter) Path To Purchase For CPGs

At a recent trade show, a major CPG company shared what it thought of as its customers’ typical “path to purchase.” It involved an offline ad, a friend mentioning the product on social media, consumers seeing the product in the store, engaging with a digital coupon in a digital ad, and then going to an online retailer to search for and buy the product online using that coupon. 

That is: Ad —> Social —> Store —> Coupon —> eRetailer search —> eRetailer cart. That’s an awful lot of pieces that have to fall into place, more or less perfectly, to get a product into a cart.

It may be one way to get to a sale, but it’s pretty darn expensive — particularly considering the brand was talking about an item that couldn’t cost more than six dollars. It’s true that lifetime customer value can’t be overestimated, but why would any brand pay more than necessary to get a new user? And how dangerous is it to depend on a prospect seeing the product in the store, when today’s consumers are going into stores less frequently, and traveling fewer aisles when they do? Further, that digital coupon may be buying the wrong kind of user: the kind that changes brands for the latest deal. This path to purchase is wrought with potholes.



KISS - Keep it short and simple

Some savvy brand marketers have worked tirelessly to come up with new ways to build conversion online, but they have also gone down some blind alleys on the way. Selling “direct to consumers” misses on several fronts. First, very few consumers will convert on a single CPG item regardless of how good it is. Would you interrupt your busy life just to go through checkout for a bottle of detergent, a new shampoo, or a new salad dressing? Second, brands aren’t retailers and their models just aren’t optimized for fulfillment. Retailers excel at this and it’s almost always better to let them handle that job. 

Similarly, “engaging” consumers is just another way to slow down the sale. Most consumers really don’t want branded tweets and Facebook posts clogging up their feeds. No matter how cute they are, they aren’t as cute as a friend’s new baby or puppy. There aren’t very many valuable consumers that want to “comment” on your brand posts to join a group or possibly win a sample. 

However, brands can grab consumer interest and drive them to act when they provide an easy, no-friction way to act on that interest. But it has to be short. Really short. 

An ideal path could like this: Digital ad —> cart.

Or this: Social post —> cart.

The new end-game: Cart or bust

For CPG brands, carting is the new conversion. The goal of every campaign should be to empower consumers to cart items with as few clicks as possible. Remember, you aren’t asking for a checkout or for a credit card. You’re just making it easy to toss something into the virtual consideration set that is a cart. Studies show that once that happens, conversion tends to take care of itself. Conversely, products that don’t find their way into carts stand a 100% chance of not being purchased. It also helps if you have a technology partner that can help you avoid speed bumps like out-of-stock items and broken links that can kill carting immediately. 

The best brands have mastered reaching consumers on websites, social media platforms, and influencer pages. All that is left for them is to close the gap between “I want it” and “I’m buying it.” 

With an easy response loop like driving into the cart, you’ll keep the shopper’s interest and inspire action for the eight seconds they’re going to give you. Without that loop, you will lose them and the value of the interest you drove.

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