Increase Customer Loyalty by Simplifying the Path to Purchase

Today’s consumers have lots of options to search for information on brands and their products, and they use them all—from cell phones and tablets to desk tops, etc.—to find and select where they will spend their hard-earned money. Unfortunately, as Brandwatch points out, few businesses know where to engage customers on their path to purchase:

“For many brands, there is little understanding of the path by which consumers discover, learn, purchase and experience a product.” 

In order for retailers to improve the path of purchase and create “sticky” customers, they need to have a stronger understanding of a customer’s full shopping journey.

Source: Slideshare

A Harvard Business Review study found that the best tool for measuring consumer-engagement efforts is the “decision simplicity index,” which gauges how easy it is for consumers to gather and navigate (or understand) information about a brand, how much they’re able to trust the information they find, and how easily they can weigh their options.

The easier a brand makes the purchase-decision journey, the higher it scores on the decision-simplicity scale. Brands in the top quarter scores were 86% more likely to be purchased by consumers considering them than those in the bottom quarter. Additionally, they were 9% more likely to be repurchased, as well as 115% more likely to be recommended to others.

Assist with Navigation

Creating a more efficient path to purchase means minimizing the number of information sources consumers must wade through in order to move toward a purchase.

Brands that are serious about incorporating decision-simplicity strategies make full use of big data and sophisticated analytics to assess where consumers are on the path to purchase and direct them to the best touch points. Some auto manufacturers, retailers, and travel brands, for example, have been analyzing consumer data to learn how search terms and search platforms (say, mobile versus desktop) indicate consumer intent and their position on the path.

Interestingly, they’ve found that 70% of consumers using a mobile device to search are within a few hours of making a purchase, while 70% of consumers using a desktop are approximately a week away.

Analyzing data and search terms helps companies discern what information the consumer most needs next so they can direct them to the appropriate information and increase the possibility of a purchase.

Build Trust

It’s important to note that in the context of decision simplicity, “trust” pertains to trusting the information gathered, not trusting the brand. Unfortunately, this point is often missed as brands recruit recommenders who only focus on product features and benefits. But it’s important for consumers to have information about an adviser’s decision criteria and brand usage as well.

The current “haul video” craze among teenage girls is a good example of this. After a shopping trip to the mall, many girls upload YouTube videos of themselves talking about their haul, or purchases. In the videos, the girls discuss what they bought, why they bought it, and how they plan to incorporate their new items into the rest of their wardrobe. This breaks down the complicated world of teen clothing and accessories and simplifies it by showcasing fashionable peers who offer trustworthy guidance.

Essentially, the “hauler” cuts through the infinite fashion options and provides decision-making criteria. Brands such as J.C. Penney and American Eagle have capitalized on the the “haul” trend by hosting unbiased haulers on their sites and in their digital communications. The brands don’t require the haulers to show just brands purchased at its store, and the haulers are transparent about their links to the companies.

Remember, the idea here is not to just activate recommenders who only push your brand. Instead, find a group of trustworthy advisers and aggregate their advice to make it easy for consumers to discover and use it, as J.C. Penney did (b.t.w., their haul videos get hundreds of thousands of views).

Make it Easier to Evaluate Choices

To help consumers weigh options, brands often describe their unique features and benefits. Some even offer buying guides containing  side-by-side brand or product comparisons. While both approaches provide consumers with a lot of information, neither offers much in the way of guidance. As a result, the consumer is left feeling as confused as ever about the best choice.

Brands need to provide ways for customers to identify and weigh the features that are most relevant to them. Take De Beers’s use of the “4 Cs” (cut, color, clarity, and carat), for example, to aid consumers in the comparison of diamonds. The 4 Cs simplify the buying decision for consumers by giving them confidence that they are weighing the necessary features of the diamonds they’re considering and making an informed choice.

Don’t be one of those brands that leads consumers down confusing purchase paths. Simplify and personalize the route by eliminating most—if not all—of the hassle of weighing choices and providing a likely best choice from the beginning.


As the rapid expansion of social and mobile technologies continues, brands will have more and more opportunities to bombard consumers with marketing messages. “In their aggressive efforts to engage with their customers,” says Harvard Business Review, “they’ll only make the decision journey more complex and confusing.”

Instead, follow the simple advice below and you’ll succeed where other brands fail to engage their customers on the path to purchase:

“Brands who focus on simplifying consumers’ decision making will rise above the din, and their customers will stick by them as a result.”


Source: Harvard Business Review

Sherene Funk is the author of the contemporary romance Autumn in Your Arms and two small business e-books. She is a voracious reader who owns more books than she can ever read in this lifetime. A graduate of Brigham Young University, she worked in advertising for many years before moving to her current writing position at Rain Retail Software. She researches non-stop to see what successful retailers do and loves to share what she learns with small business owners.