How to leverage media for victory on the purchase journey

The febrile atmosphere of the Olympics and Paralympics draws huge, highly engaged audiences. This presents brands with a golden opportunity, so how can media get them on the podium in winning position?

Purchase decisions can be tricky to understand when they occur over an extended period of days, weeks or even longer, especially as they tend to vary by category. Buying a big ticket item such as a car is usually more involved than a supermarket top-up of groceries: the investment, both emotional and economic, can be considerable and drawn out. In a potentially prolonged process, how can media be used to position choices and provide timely encouragement?

In order to understand the purchase journey we conducted an exploratory qualitative study, hosting an online community for several months. By mapping out the purchase process for a new media device (such as a television or smartphone) we identified three important lessons for the use of media to reach and influence consumers, and ultimately to achieve sales.

  • Broad targeting – digital allows very precise, niche targeting, based on demographics and attitudes, but this carries risk. Talking to ever more targeted audiences means missing out on the growth potential of the new customers vital to brand and revenue growth. The complexity of the purchase journey suggests broader targeting is likely to be more effective in shifting behaviour, providing helpful nudges in moments and environments of need.
  • Crowd wisdom – in an era when the authority of experts is increasingly disavowed, trust is diverging from perceived vested interests towards fellow consumers. Blogs, forums and social media are considered reassuringly neutral sources of information. The earned trust of social media has an important advocacy role to play in seeding crowd perceptions and nurturing loyalty. Social media is potent because its transparency fosters trust through accountability. Owned media (both brand and retailer websites) and search channels also play well to this need for trustworthy sources.
  • Magic of the moment – as consumers flit indifferently across devices and channels, brands need to connect seamlessly and consistently across platforms, providing inspiration and guidance to encourage people to the next stage of the journey. However, rational planned consumer decisions can be felled by the situation – be that the lure of an offer, the misfortune of low product availability, or myriad other distractions. Media therefore needs to be employed opportunistically to target people in the context of decision-making, offering convenience and promotional hooks that work at moments of truth to shift behaviour with emotional rewards.

Clearly it is important to know your target consumer – but the target audience should not be defined too narrowly. By deploying media agilely around consumer moments of need, smart brands will navigate a path to victory. 

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