Comparing our own user behavior a couple of years ago to now, it is clear that the decision making process and the steps leading up to the final purchase have changed dramatically. Up until a decade ago, potential buyers followed a pretty universal and linear path leading up to a purchase that followed four defined steps: awareness, consideration, intent and decision. Their decision making process would have looked something similar to the image below:

Awareness

From becoming aware of a product via print, billboard ads, TV or word of mouth, to visiting a shop, speaking with a seller and considering purchase intent for a few days, the purchase path happened mostly offline for the majority of businesses across all industries. These days, there is no doubt that the technology and the digital landscape in particular have shaped the purchase process. Digitalization has changed our behaviour from the initial research to purchase, benefiting both the end consumer as well as the seller streamlining every step along the way, up to the final step.

Consumers no longer rely on seeing print ads in yellow pages or on billboards but can be made aware of products in the comfort of their own home via a wide range of digital devices. Mobile searches have exceeded desktop searches. So, not only can users constantly research products themselves on the go via smartphones, the initial step of awareness leading to purchase has changed through online product reviews, influencers on social media and product video content on YouTube, making products and services accessible 24/7.

Does the same apply for users’ research travel deals or their next holiday destination? Most definitely! A recent study undertaken by Phocuswright claims that today’s travelers are increasingly impulsive and want information quickly. In addition, according to Phocuswrights’ findings, more than 60% of U.S travelers would consider an impulsive trip based on a good hotel or flight deal. But what does that mean for us marketers? The answer is simple, but it is difficult to conduct: Marketers must advertise smarter to capture the golden 60%.

Consideration

Moving on to consideration, from prospecting campaigns on Facebook to remarketing ads on Google Ads – digital advertising is everywhere these days. Consumers are much more aware of digital marketing practices and the fact that they are being marketed to, not only since GDPR came into place on May 25, 2018. Sellers and marketers must be more innovative and up to speed with what is happening in the digital landscape.

While ad blockers have been around for years, most recently GDPR has influenced end consumers and users, allowing us to be in full control whether we opt in to be marketed to. Recent studies have shown that there is a major difference between certain demographics. Millennials don’t seem to mind remarketing ads, while older target audiences feel quite strongly about it.

Google’s annual Marketing Live conference highlighted that users can update their Google + settings to select marketing topics of interest to them. One might say this is limiting the reach of campaigns and ads, but is it not all about targeting the right users? Additionally, new features and campaign types such as Responsive search ads available in the new layout of Google Ads will make AB testing much easier. Google’s VP of engineering for travel and shopping, Oliver Heckmann, claims “People don’t just want faster access to information—they want better, more personalized experiences”.

consumer path to purchase

Intent

Users no longer need to spend hours comparing goods in store anymore. Tools such as Triptease and Hotel Price Ads have made planning the next trip much easier online, while showing the user the best deals. Heckmann noted that over 1 in 3 travelers across countries are interested in using digital assistants to research or book their next upcoming trip searching for everything from hotels and flights to things to do on site.

Travel and hospitality have always been about assisting and anticipating needs, and we’re barely scratching the surface in terms of how this technology can be used to simplify and streamline the entire consumer journey” says Heckmann.

Decision

Coming to the final decision process, figures suggest that travelers are not as loyal as the may seem. Only 9% of travelers “always” know which brand they want to book with prior to their research process, which leaves hotels and marketers with a huge opportunity. Furthermore, 36% of travelers would pay more for tailed information and experiences based on their needs, demographics and preferences.

Once the initial digital campaign has been personalized, the next thing to focus on is having a website that makes it easy to navigate and complete a booking.

Conclusion

So, the consumer’s path to purchase is certainly not as straightforward and as simplistic as it once was, creating both a challenge and an advantage for marketers. Consumers can be made aware of products in the comfort of their own home, however, they are much more aware of digital marketing practices. Therefore, in order to have a successful digital campaign, you must ensure that it is personalised and advertised strategically to meet the expectations of today’s consumer.