Consumers can shop anytime, anywhere. People don’t just “go online,” they live online, where they access a world of choices and information. With this ubiquitous access, consumers tap into a vast amount of sources to inform their potential purchase “path.”
I like to refer to this less than a path and more like a game of hopscotch. Consumers have more information available to them, and they are using a wide range of sources and inputs to inform nearly all their purchase decisions.
In particular, for high-consideration, meaningful purchases, consumers have become highly adept at navigating large amounts of information across traditional, digital, social and retail channels. Yet, while the amount of available informational resources continues to rise, consumers are becoming more savvy with their time. We are now seeing a slight contraction in the time it takes them to make a purchase decision.
There are several reasons for this contraction:
Better sources: At a fundamental level, the sources we have available to us have been the same for the last decade, but they are significantly better. From retailer emails to other consumer-facing content, brands are becoming more sophisticated in the way they communicate their messages. Consumers no longer have to dig to get the information they need.
Technology is smarter: Buyers are being intelligently matched with the products and information that they need. Artificial intelligence is driving predictive analytics, rapidly evolving to get us what we want, when we want it. Many of us have seen this type of technology at work in our Netflix account, which uses massive amounts of data to predict what we’ll want to watch next.
Reviews aren’t as trustworthy: With some brands paying or rewarding consumers for positive reviews, shoppers are increasingly wary of their accuracy. This means many may be spending less time perusing star ratings and comments from other shoppers.
Decision-making routines: We are starting to see some patterns emerge as shoppers establish routines for making purchase decisions. There is a movement toward maturity as they solidify the sources they use with a “get in, get the information I need quickly, feel confident and get out” mindset.
This reality means that marketers must be everywhere, literally. And they must be there with the right, easily consumable message for their audience.
Digital media consumption habits have changed as consumers are learning how they prefer to receive and process the information needed to make decisions. Advertising, media and marketing approaches must bridge the gap between traditional approaches and the new, dynamic reality of always-on shopper decision-making.
Researching and buying things is shifting as the barriers continue to fall between consumers and shopping. A heightened awareness of this shift, and the agility to adapt, is vital for brands. Marketers need to be ready to capture consumers during a shrinking window of purchase decision-making, using the right data to target outreach and messaging vehicles that will reach their audiences.