How search enables people to create a unique path to purchase

Our previous report revealed the funnel has changed. New data reveals that people shop in unique and varied ways, even within categories and products.

These days, no two consumer journeys are exactly alike

In fact, even within the same category or item, journeys differ radically. Some look like rolling hills, stretching out across weeks or even months. Others are short and focused, resembling an hourglass. And for many, a purchase doesn’t signal the end of a journey. What’s causing this shift? Digital technology. Today’s shoppers are in control of their path to purchase and can explore thousands of categories, brands, and products at any moment.

We looked at thousands of users’ clickstream data as part of an opt-in panel to learn more about this new behavior.3 Scroll down to explore unique consumer journeys across key categories and products.

  • 0%
    of Americans are shopping for something in any given 48-hour period.1
  • 0%
    of shopping occasions begin online.2

Click on a person to explore their journey.

Key Takeaways

What this means for marketers


Be there

People now expect to be assisted everywhere. If your brand isn’t there, another brand will be. And that means it’s critical to measure and understand the impact of your media touchpoints on the consumer journey. Align marketing to business outcomes, and help your marketing team understand the intent, interactions, and signals driving long-term growth.


Be useful

People respond to brands that understand their needs. So, it’s important to optimize your media, both for relevance to the consumer and lifetime value for the brand. Some customers spend more than others. Understanding that can mean the difference between paying to acquire profitable customers and paying to acquire the customers your competition didn’t want.


Be quick

Speed is table stakes. And the bar for speed continues to rise. To succeed, brands must deliver experiences that are fast and frictionless. That means it’s time to invest in mobile experiences as well as a machine learning and automation strategy. Machine learning can help you understand and predict intent in ways that simply aren’t possible manually.

Sources (18)

  • 1-2 Google/Ipsos, U.S., “Shopping Tracker,” Online survey, n=3,613 online Americans 13+ who shopped in the past two days, Oct.–Dec. 2017.
  • 3 Google/Verto Analytics, U.S., Verto Smart Cross-Device Audience Measurement Panel, analysis of clickstream data of n=2,989 individuals, [Sept. 2017–Feb. 2018].
  • 4, 17 Google Data, US, Jan - Sept 2015 vs. Jan - Sept 2017. Classification for retail stores and products were based on a list of large retailers and top product searches, and may not account for every product and store.
  • 5-7, 11, 15-16 Google Data, US, Oct 2015 - Sep 2016 vs. Oct 2017 - Sep 2018.
  • 8 Google Data, US, Jan - Dec 2015 vs. Jan - Dec 2017.
  • 9-10, 18 Google Data, US, Jan - June 2015 vs. Jan - June 2017.
  • 12 Google Data, US, July-Dec 2015 vs. July-Dec 2017.
  • 13 Google Data, US, Oct 2015 - Sept 2016 vs. Oct 2017 - Sept 2018
  • 14 Google/Ipsos, "How People Shop with YouTube” Study, US, July 2018. 18-64 year olds who go online at least once per month and have purchased [insert vertical] in the last year (n=400).