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TheStreet Open House

About.com's "The Purchase Loop" Study Identifies Most Influential Behaviors In Buying Decisions

NEW YORK, Feb. 5, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- The concept of the purchase funnel first appeared in the late 19 th century, as a linear journey from a need to a final purchase. Since then, nearly everything about how consumers interact with brands has changed. Proprietary research conducted by About.com in collaboration with Latitude, confirms that the actions of consumers have evolved drastically, and that what most influences shopping decisions varies widely by purchase category.

Shopping has Evolved

Not surprisingly, shopping has evolved significantly, fueled in large part by incredible growth in mobile computing and digital & social media – all factors which make shopping more convenient and allow for greater sharing of ideas and opinions. "The Purchase Loop" study demonstrates that shopping is about the individual more so than ever before. Key elements of the study found that:

  • Shopping is more complex than simply identifying a need, exploring options and purchasing.
  • Paths to purchase are more complex and less linear.
  • Paths to purchase may require a greater number of "stops" along the way but purchases happen more quickly.
  • Consumers' relationships with brands are much more personal.
  • Shopping today is less about brands and products themselves and more about the consumers' feelings and needs.

The Six Behaviors Driving Purchase

"The Purchase Loop" identified six behaviors which may be followed along the path to purchase.  Each behavior represents a critical point for brands to engage with and influence the consumer. Notably, the order in which consumers follow each behavior varies by purchase category as does the importance of that behavior for each category. Categories studied include food, health, home, personal finance, technology, style, automobiles, and travel.

"With the rise of mobile and social, along with the sheer volume of information available online, the path to purchase has radically shifted for consumers and smart marketers are taking note," said Laura Salant, director of research for About.com. "The information in this study allows marketers to understand how they can walk specific paths with consumers and add value throughout these behaviors – keeping their brands in consumers' consideration every step of the way."

The six behaviors along "The Purchase Loop" are:

  • Openness – consumers are receptive to new or better experiences stemming from pre-existing interest in or curiosity about a category or topic area. Consciously or subconsciously, brands, products or services may be on the consumers' radar.
  • Realized want or need – something acts as a catalyst giving the consumer a reason to start looking into things he/she wants or needs to do.
  • Learning and education – understanding the broad fundamentals in order to make a purchase the consumer can feel good about.
  • Seeking ideas and inspiration – looking for, noticing and keeping track of examples, thought-starters, and motivators in order to take the next step.
  • Research and vetting – comparing options, looking for deals, comparing prices, reading reviews and determining personal associations with the brand.
  • Post purchase evaluation and expansion – consumer uses or experiences a purchase and decides how he/she feels, might post reviews and share experience, can send the consumer into additional purchase loops if  renewed openness to brand or inspiration to look into related products, tasks or needs.

Consumers move from behavior to behavior in paths that resemble spider webs, with different categories having distinctly different shapes and patterns proving that current paths to purchase are anything but linear. The study also examines which platforms are the most likely to be used during each behavior. Tablets are frequently used during the openness and learning behaviors whereas television only plays a significant role during the openness and ideas and inspiration behaviors. The study helps inform marketers on how to deliver information that is more personal and meaningful to the consumer at any given point in the purchase process.

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