Advertisers who understand the user journey are able to optimise the path for future customers. They can no longer rely on being top of mind as the single metric influencing purchase. People add more brands to their consideration sets as they research, so a brand must be present and available whenever users are searching for information. Then, connecting online and offline channels will enable smart marketing investments and bigger gains.

All businesses want to understand the journey consumers take to reach them in order to make the path smoother and quicker for future customers. But integrating structures and getting started is no simple task.

What does it mean to adjust to a one-to-one marketing environment, and what effect does making that adjustment have on a marketing team’s role and structure? Three key insights will help companies deepen their understanding of the consumer journey, from brand building to the transaction and beyond.

1. Researching before purchase is the new norm

A lot has changed in the last decade, and the internet is at the centre of it all. People have become used to constant connectivity, moving from stationary computers to an environment where we all carry more computing power in our pockets than NASA used to send spacecraft to the moon.

This access greatly influences how people behave and buy today. Companies are realising that people no longer depend on them to provide information; consumers can find it themselves anywhere at any time.

Within the car insurance category, 61% of people today perform research before a purchase (Source: Consumer Barometer). Two trends relate to this. First, people no longer buy out of routine; instead they look for the best solution to serve their need. Second, the majority of this research takes place online, where users fully control the information flows and can paint their own picture in their own time.

What does this mean for businesses? Successfully participating in the first part of the consumer journey requires a brand to be present and available when users are conducting their research.

2. For every purchase that happens online, another occurs offline that has been influenced by online

The fact that people are buying online across every industry isn’t new anymore, and most companies are beginning to acknowledge that offline consumer activity is often influenced by online. The challenge today is gaining a view of omni-channel behaviour as people jump between sales and research channels.

Research shows that for every online researcher completing a transaction on a company’s website, another is doing online research but then completing the purchase offline instead (Source: Consumer Barometer). This behaviour is affecting how companies value different consumer interactions. Today, most businesses are evaluating their digital marketing efforts based on online sales. This silo mentality causes inefficient investments, as well as inefficient consumer interaction strategies. Instead, companies needs to connect online and offline channels from a consumer behaviour point of view to develop the insights needed to allocate resources more efficiently.

3. Being top of mind isn’t enough anymore

Marketers have relied on being top of mind as the single most important metric in influencing the purchase. But as people now have access to more information, being top of mind is only one part of the challenge.

In fact, people add more brands to their consideration set as they move through the research phase (Source: Consumer Decision Journey, McKinsey 2009). A study of banking consumers in France found that only 44% bought from the brand they considered initially (Source: Path to Purchase, Nielsen & Google 2014). This added complexity underlines the autonomy consumers now have and how empowered consumers have become, even when it comes to low engagement products.

So what’s the takeaway? Businesses must start taking consumers’ increased choice and power more seriously. By digging deep into the consumer journey and responding to customers’ research behaviour with smart marketing investments, there are truly great gains to be made.