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Working at a digital marketing agency or owning an online store, you are certainly no stranger to the term “customer purchase path” and have heard of it many times before. As the e-commerce industry has grown, this term has become one of the key concepts in marketing, as it helps to define and understand the entire process a user goes through when making a purchasing decision. Understanding the customer’s purchase path is crucial to growing your business, marketing strategy and achieving satisfactory results, which is why I come to you with this article.
To better understand the whole process – let’s start with theory. What exactly is this whole purchase path? How to define it?
In simplest words – it is a multi-step path that a user takes from the moment of interest in our offer to, finally, making a decision to purchase our product or service. Thanks to available analytical tools (e.g. Google Analytics 4), we can observe such a path, track the user’s actions and react, for example, with a change of strategy at the right moment and at the right stage.
Stages of the customer purchase path
The most basic breakdown of the buyer journey (you may also encounter this term in the context of the customer purchase path) consists of three stages:
- Building brand awareness
- Consideration of opportunities and interest in the company
- Final phase, i.e. purchase
Let’s now elaborate a bit on each of the points indicated above.
Building brand awareness
The awareness stage in a customer’s purchase path is the first and crucial moment! This is when our potential customer becomes aware of the existence of a product or service. At this stage, you need to focus on building your brand recognition and informing potential customers about your product or service. There are really many ways to do this! You can use advertising campaigns to build brand recognition (e.g. in Google Ads or Meta Ads – formerly Facebook Ads), or you can learn about SEO principles and work on positioning your site.
There’s no denying that in today’s time, social media also plays a key role. It is very important for your brand to have a presence in them! A profile on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest allows you to reach a wide audience and build a relationship with potential customers from the very beginning. Publishing interesting content, responding to customer questions and comments, and actively engaging in conversations about your products or services are important for building recognition and a positive brand image. And don’t forget to also show that there is a real person behind it all. Building credibility plays a very big role, and is often overlooked and forgotten. You can build a really great audience when they know that on the other side also stands a person who is not perfect and also has difficulties in doing business. Authenticity is a very important quality today if you want to build your image, especially on social media, so don’t forget about it, and you’ll thank yourself for it in the future 🙂 🙂
Developing your brand in the early stages, also remember to make your advertising message attractive, understandable and focused on the benefits your products or services can bring to customers. Such a marketing strategy, can help build awareness of your brand and provide valuable information to users, who can later turn into potential customers.
If your potential customer is already aware of your brand’s existence in the market and knows what services or products you can offer, we move on to stage two, which is considering opportunities and getting more interest in your company.
This is where the user begins to explore the available options and compare products or services. At this stage, it is very important for your company to provide customers with enough information and arguments to make them choose your product or service. How can you help yourself at this stage?
Content marketing will work great here, because the user has a million questions and doubts in his mind before he makes a purchase decision. And this is where you need to step in and answer those questions before your competitors do. So create valuable content such as tutorials, buying guides, gather expert opinions or present case studies. This will allow customers to gain additional knowledge and understand why your product or service might be the best choice for them.
If you already have your first customers, ask them to recommend or leave feedback on your site. They play an important role in the consideration stage, as positive feedback and recommendations can significantly influence the next customer’s decision to choose a particular product or service.
They can also play an important role in the consideration stage.
Don’t forget one more important aspect at this stage – easy access to information is important! Customers are looking for information about the features or specifications of given products and services, as well as their availability, price, etc. Therefore, you should take care of a clear presentation of this information on your website, clear descriptions of products or services, keeping in mind in all this the principles of UX and UI.
This is the moment that every entrepreneur waits for!!! 🙂 After carefully considering the various options from the previous stages of the purchase path, the customer reaches the moment when he or she makes the decision to buy. Here, however, your work does not end, because at this stage it is important to create an easy and seamless buying process that will minimize the risk of any complications through which the user will drop the purchase process.
Beyond the technical aspects for a moment, at the final stage of the path, marketing activities also count. This is, for example, offering promotions, discounts, free shipping, additional bonuses or loyalty programs. Such activities are aimed at getting the customer to make a final purchase decision and, importantly for the future, building a relationship with your brand. Remember also that although technical facilities play a big role in the final stage, customer service is also very important, especially for online stores. Availability of customer support, quick response to questions and inquiries (you can include such a FAQ section on your product page as well) and professional service are key to building trust and making the customer feel secure during the buying process. If a customer runs into some ambiguity or problem at the time of purchase and has no one to turn to, you can be sure that they will very quickly close the tab on their browser and go to a competitor. Take care to exclude such situations and not give the customer the opportunity to feel negative emotions about buying your brand’s products or services. Especially since opinions on the Internet spread very quickly, and you probably wouldn’t want to see somewhere on forums or Facebook groups that your brand has a problematic purchase process, payment with e.g. BLIK doesn’t work and it’s hard to contact customer service 🙂
How to analyze a customer’s purchase path?
As you can see, it is divided into several main stages. Of course, if we consider e-commerce analysis, we could quietly break down such a purchasing process into several more smaller steps, depending on the activities performed. Each company has its own internal systems for reporting results, but in the case of tracking a user’s purchase path, I would like to recommend you one of the exploration reports in the Google Analytics 4 tool. We’re talking about the “Path Sequence Exploration” report, where you can easily track and analyze how users behave on individual pages in the buying process. You can create such a path based on either the title of a page or a specific event, and with a click of the mouse, expand the further path of the user.
In GA4’s library of custom reports, there is another one that can help you analyze the purchase path. This time it’s a path exploration report, in which you create individual purchase steps based on various user actions. For example, the first step can be the execution of the view_item event, the next one is the add_to_cart event, and finally the path will be closed by the purchase event. After creating such a purchase funnel, you will be able to observe at which stage the most users fall out. This is invaluable knowledge, as it allows you to better optimize each step so that more customers complete the path to purchase.
Learn the most effective sales funnel analysis methods!
Google Analytics 4 offers excellent e-commerce reports to use in analyzing your operations. Look at the data more broadly and draw conclusions about your business goals.
A few words at the end
Now you know what the customer purchase path is and what stages it involves. You also know the most important issues to focus on in each step. Don’t forget to analyze and don’t be afraid to test different solutions if you see (and have it confirmed in the data!) that a solution doesn’t quite work. Listen and observe your audience and respond to their needs. After all, you are really creating a product or service not for yourself, but for them 🙂