Shopping is more like a journey than it is a series of discrete, orderly steps. Shoppers use multiple information sources and channels as they learn, consider, and decide to buy. Because of all the education, emotions, checking, and cross-checking, consumers take different routes to the checkout; sometimes it’s direct, sometimes it’s not. The concept of “path” captures this idea very well.
Yahoo! (2006b), with OMD, studied shopping paths in a richly detailed study that combined ethnographic techniques (depth interviews, shopping trips, journals, etc.) with online surveys conducted among a high-quality panel. Their research looked at people who intended to purchase or made a purchase in five major product categories: auto, finance, technology and electronics, retail goods, and consumer packaged goods. Four paths emerged:
Quick paths. Characterized by a short time frame, fast decision making, little or no research prior to purchase, and immediate gratification, this type of purchase path is most common for routine purchases like consumer packaged goods, impulse purchases, and when people are distracted or under time pressure. Grab and go.
Winding paths. Shoppers move between different shopping channels and information sources on the road to discovering the right item. Winding paths typify retail purchases. Confidence using technology assists purchasing as shoppers search, visit sites. and compare. Sales conclude within a relatively short ...