As consumers continue to embrace all things digital to enhance their shopping experience, Forrester is conducting a series of research studies on the consumer’s new path to purchase. My colleague Cory Madigan introduces the first report in this series, focused on the buy phase of the customer life cycle. Here’s her take on these new behaviors:

Digital channels and devices have enabled today’s consumers to be more discerning about how they buy, from where, and at what prices. This disrupted “path to purchase” has complicated the marketer’s job as she tries to reach her shopper with more timely and relevant offers, both online and off. Particularly at the start of the buying process, consumers are doing more research online than ever. Which sites do they find most helpful when making a purchase decision? Forrester's recent North American Technographics® Consumer Deep Dive survey showed that about 1 in 5 found Google and Amazon most helpful, while half as many found traditional stores or websites most helpful. What other key trends should shopper marketers be aware of in 2012?

  • Today’s shopper is fluent in multiple channels and focused on value. Eighty-two percent of consumers researched a product before buying it, and nearly two-thirds of respondents say they pay more attention to prices and value now than they did a year ago. The savings mentality brought on by the Great Recession hasn’t eroded over time; progressive marketers will adapt to this new reality by shifting their focus away from competing on price and toward delivering superior value to shoppers. Emphasize retention and use smarter targeting to get your product in front of the right person at the right time.
  • Digital touchpoints have varied adoption. Retailer websites and search engines dominate consumers’ choices for research aids. But social media hardly registers as a channel for doing product research; indeed, the same number of respondents found Facebook and newspaper useful: 1%. In addition, each product category has a unique path to purchase, so shopper marketers must invest in technology according to their product or vertical line and consumer adoption and behaviors using holistic and well-defined shopper segments. “Moms” or “newlyweds” are no longer sufficiently comprehensive ways to characterize shoppers, who have nuanced and particular digital habits and preferences.
  • Digital, balanced, and analog researchers all use digital differently, but few use mobile. Fifty-four percent of the US online population are digital researchers, using primarily online resources to research products; 72% of that group also complete their purchases online. Less than a tenth of this group, however, used mobile to research a recent purchase. Mobile will become an irreplaceable tool eventually, but hasn’t hit its stride just yet — even among the most digitally savvy.

To learn more, check out our “The Role Of Digital In The Path To Purchase” report to dive further into the data and share your perspective on the conclusions with us here or in the Forrester Community for CMOs & Marketing Leadership Professionals.