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Four Things to Know about the “Research” Phase of the Path to Purchase

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Introducing Euromonitor International’s Path to Purchase Model

In a recent white paper, Euromonitor used its extensive global consumer survey results to map out the purchase decision-making process. The outcome of this analysis is a new path to purchase model that synthesizes the many aspects of buying into three key phases: opportunity, research, and selection.


To help marketers and other strategic decision-makers reach consumers throughout the buying process, Euromonitor presents a series of three articles highlighting business opportunities in each of these three phases.  This second article highlights insights about the second phase of the path to purchase: research.

Why focus on the “Research” phase?

Today’s internet-savvy consumers often walk into a store more informed than sales staff, particularly when it comes to product specifications, comparability to the offerings of competitors, and even price. By understanding typical research effort and key information sources for those interested in their products, companies and brands can adapt to this new breed of better-informed customers and position themselves as a partner in the purchase decision-making process.

Four Things to Know about the “Research” Phase:

1. Retailers and companies striving to grow sales with an increasingly-connected customer base should ensure that information about their products and overall brand are easily accessible via online and mobile devices.

  • Many shoppers are now more likely to turn to their smartphone to check a website for product information than they are to ask an in-store salesperson; over one-third of online consumers often or almost always look to websites to get information, check inventory, or compare prices when shopping in stores.
  • To continue appealing to tech-savvy shoppers, especially young ones, companies and retailers should focus on bolstering their online presence, whether creating an app for mobile-friendly shopping and product research or providing consumer reviews and price comparisons next to items listed in their online store.

2. Companies selling expensive or particularly complicated products still have an opportunity to directly provide these shoppers with information, both online and in stores.

  • More extensive research is more common for expensive electronics, such as computers and tablets. Companies with more complicated or nuanced products, such as these electronic devices, can expect consumers to come to them to learn about benefits.
  • Firms selling more “everyday” items, such as cooking pans, do not have the same opportunity to convey product benefits to consumers during a substantial research phase and should plan marketing strategies accordingly.
  • Whether they have an opportunity to provide additional information to potential customers or not, companies and retailers may be able to convince potential customers that they should buy a new product when the customer is already shopping for something else.

3. When middle class consumers are researching products, friends and family are an essential resource for opinions and recommendations. These people are seen as trusted sources of information, but many may not share their thoughts about a product unless asked. Companies should leverage these key influencers in both online and offline settings to drive sales.

  • Current and potential customers are discussing all types of products with their friends and family on a wide variety of social media platforms right now. Companies hoping to capture more of these consumers should engage in the conversation.
  • At a minimum, companies should encourage happy customers to share positive experiences with a particular product or brand with their social network.
  • Beyond online reviews and product mentions on social media, brands and retailers can capture less tech-savvy shoppers by offering discounts or other deals to customers who refer (or are referred by) their friends.

4. Although shoppers may now have instantaneous access to product information, retailers should not expect a store full of Impulse Buyers. Instead, companies should anticipate that their customers will take time to consider their purchase.

  • Middle class consumers tend to be cautious in their purchase decision-making. Even when buying typical household items, the average shopper takes more than a week between first considering a new product and finally making the purchase.
  • In addition to a relatively slow purchase time, the vast majority of middle class consumers do at least a small amount of research before purchasing household items. This can include reading product descriptions and user reviews online, talking to friends and family, and engaging with salespeople.
  • Even when they do not conduct “a lot” of research, as in the case of buying a coffee maker or cooking pan, consumers still wait more than a week before purchasing. One reason for this may be that consumers know a replacement is needed, but are unable (or simply unwilling) to dedicate time to significant research or comparison shopping prior to making their purchase.


For more on the path to purchase, including in-depth analyses of the purchase decision-making process for individual household products, read Euromonitor’s recent white paper.

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