Google’s “Think Insights” and The Online Purchase Maze

The concept of the purchase funnel was amazingly created in 1898 by E St. Elmo Lewis. Back then the model included four steps – awareness, interest, desire and action.  Associating Lewis’s four steps with the actual physical shape of the funnel is credited to William W. Townsend in 1924. The overall concept of the purchase funnel seems so simplistic now.  Brands simply needed to create awareness, generate interest and then tell the consumer how and where to purchase their products. And yes, I know that’s a very simplistic view of purchase funnel.  However, when you think of the purchase “maze” that exists today, it can make your brain start to smoke. Not only is this cycle now a maze, the influencers in each stage of the cycle vary by product category.

A new favorite resource of mine, Think Insights with Google, recently published “The Customer Journey to Online Purchase.“ This report dives into understanding how display, social, paid search, organic search, referrals and e-mail influence the path to purchase from awareness to decision.

An ongoing debate that we are always working through is the role of display advertising in the interactive plan.  Recently someone said to me that it is more likely for a person to give birth to twins twice than it is for them to click on a banner ad. (I don’t necessarily have a source for that.)  But when you look at this latest Google Study, you can see that display banners have greater influence closer to the point of purchase.  For example, within the CPG category display banners act as the first assist interaction in the awareness phase. This is much different than in the travel category, where display, paid search and organic search all influence the intent stage practically at the same time.

So take some time and visit the “Think Insights” page when you have a chance. In typical Google fashion, they know how to deliver concise, relevant research that can help mold your marketing plans.  Two hours later when you are still reading research, remember – I warned you!