Online shoppers: difficult creatures to understand. Online shoppers do a lot of research before clicking the “Buy” button. In the process of researching or the path to online purchase, they are influenced by the following media channels: email, social, search, direct and referral.

The path to online purchase

A few days ago, Judith Lewis, Social Media&SEO expert, gave a presentation at SEM Days, in Bucharest, Romania, about the influence of social on search in the process of purchasing. Judith uses a wheel to graphically represent the path to online purchase: the first half of the wheel is the SEARCH divided in 3 sections:

  1. Awareness/Share of Conversation
  2. Consideration
  3. Action/ Online Purchase

The second half of the wheel is the SOCIAL, also divided into:

  1. Enjoying
  2. Bonding
  3. Recommending

The deal with these 2 main halfs of the wheel is that they cannot exist one without each other. More important is that the SOCIAL half has a huge influence on the SEARCH. It means that people will search for your brand if they find out about it from the others’ mouths. This fact is available only if you are not Nestle or I don’t know what famous brand with a huge outdoor visibility…you get it.

Google shows us in a study in the US on all industries concerning the online conversions in Q4 2012, that the path to online purchase consists of 4 steps: awareness, consideration, intent, purchase/action. This scheme is similar to Judith’s, but doesn’t emphasize the role of social so much. If Google’s scheme is viewed as a wheel, the first half would be the Assist Interaction and the second one, the Last Interaction.

Path to purchaseSource:Google Think Insights

It looks like Display Click, Social and Email play the most important 3 roles in the process of purchase and they are included in the Assist Interaction; in Judith Lewis words that would mean that SOCIAL and EMAIL plays an equal role with the DISPLAY CLICKING in influencing a customer to action.

typical channel

Source:Google Think Insights

In the second half of the road to online purchase, the potential customer will be helped to finish what he started, to convert through paid search, organic search and direct.

The conclusion is that email, social and display clicking are vital on the journey of one customer to reach the online purchase. Keep track of these aspects when you’re designing your conversion optimization strategy.

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