By Rebecca Sentance

purchase funnel

The following article is sponsored content produced in collaboration with IgnitionOne. Click here to read our collaborative content guidelines.

If you’re a brand selling high-consideration, ‘big ticket’ items like appliances, cars or luxury goods, the customer journey is vitally important.

Unlike lower-cost goods, sellers of high-consideration items can expect the customer journey to be much longer, taking place over months or even years. Simon Sproule, Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Aston Martin, tells ClickZ Intelligence that the customer journey for an Aston Martin can be stretched out across decades.

“It’s a peculiar segment where a purchase may have its roots in a 10-year-old’s experience, but isn’t fulfilled until 30 years later,” he says.

But research over the past few years has shown that the high-consideration purchase customer journey has begun shortening, indicating that customers may be becoming more decisive. Why is this, and how can brands take advantage of it?

A fragmented customer journey

A new report, published today by ClickZ Intelligence in partnership with IgnitionOne, ‘The Psychology of High-Consideration Buying’, gives an insight into the psychology of high-consideration purchases and how the customer journey has fragmented and changed with the rise of screen-based technologies.

With so many additional sources of information available to them, customers are starting to research earlier on in the journey, which leads to more product discoveries, more research, and so on until the journey is complete.

Unlike the traditional ‘purchase funnel’ which has long been used to visualise the customer journey, today’s fragmented customer journey looks more like a matrix, as envisaged by Martin Talks, consultant and Digital Trends Expert for Google Squared Online. This is true for all types of purchase, but is particularly significant for high-consideration purchases, where customers spend more time in the research stage.

This AIDA model was developed by E. St. Elmo Lewis in 1898, and is often depicted as a funnel.

“There’s definitely more research being done online for big-ticket items, more complex items, generally,” Talks tells ClickZ Intelligence. “If you use Google terminology for example, the ‘zero moment of truth’ – when you get made aware of something, and people go off and research – if it’s a big-ticket item, a complex item, then you spend a lot more time in the zero moment of truth, going on social media, research sites, review sites, because it’s a more complex purchase.”

Talks’ Customer Journey Matrix visualises consumers ping-ponging between different stimuli and ‘moments of truth’: the ‘zero moment of truth’, when they become aware of a product; the ‘first moment of truth’, where they are confronted with the product online or offline; the ‘second moment of truth’; and so on until they arrive at the ‘ultimate moment of truth’, where they decide on the product to buy.

With high-consideration purchases, consumers will inevitably have more of these moments of truth, as they deliberate longer over the purchase and compare many more items to find the perfect one.

And yet, relative to two or three years ago, today’s customers are spending less time in the research stage than they were before. In 2013, GE Capital Retail Bank conducted the second annual Major Purchase Shopper study, and found that customers of high-consideration purchases spent an average of 79 days gathering information before making their purchase.

Two years later, the Synchrony Financial Major Purchase Consumer Study found that consumers were spending an average of 68 days researching a major purchase – a decrease of 14%.

What is driving this change, and how is it linked to the new, fragmented customer journey?

The role of technology

As I mentioned earlier, the rise of screen-based technologies such as computers, laptops and smartphones, together with the internet, is credited with fragmenting the customer journey by giving customers access to more information, more ways to compare products, and more opportunities to research items in the midst of everyday life.

But developments in technology may also be responsible for customers spending less time in the research stage of late, theorises Martin Talks. With so many different ways to pay, customers are being presented with more and more opportunities to ‘jump out’ of the journey and go straight to the moment of purchase.

“There are many other ways we can buy things … You can buy with a click of your button on mobile now, even relatively high-ticket items, [as well as with] technologies like wearable technology, payment bands, Fitbits and other things like that. So this level of friction is removed.

“Perhaps that’s making us more decisive as well, because there are more opportunities to buy, more opportunities to jump out of the journey and need to go to that dealer.”

A lot of technological developments today are geared towards removing the friction from everyday decisions, says Talks.

“This desire to escape friction is driving a lot of digital technology development. A lot of what people want from artificial intelligence, the internet of things, big data, all of these kinds of technological developments, they’re all about making our life easier. Because they’re taking away some of the friction of small decisions for us. They can link one thing to another and make logical conclusions for us, without us having to participate in that decision.”

This applies to many different areas of life, not just retail; but in the case of the retail customer journey, it can speed up the decision-making process. And even as customers are being presented with more information than ever before, removing these points of friction can make the overall journey smoother and more efficient.

“We’ve got more information than ever, and more information can sometimes lead to decision paralysis because you have so many options [that] it’s difficult to make a choice. But obviously what’s happening is that user experience is getting sufficiently good that people are able to make their decisions quicker,” says Talks.

With all this in mind, what can retailers and marketers do to capitalise on this newfound decisiveness, and boost their conversions?

Fill in the form below to download the full report from ClickZ Intelligence and IgnitionOne and find out more about the psychology of high-consideration buying, the new fragmented customer journey, and what you can do to drive up purchases.

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