The purchase journey: what role do brand preferences play?

A study conducted by Wavemaker on purchasing behavior shows how important brand preferences are for purchasing decisions.

The purchase journey: what role do brand preferences play?

What influences consumers’ purchasing decisions today? Usually, the answers to this question consists of typical sales factors such as pricing, availability, recommendations and ratings, as well as emotions, and many purchase decisions are unconsciously made before the actual purchase journey. This is due to the brand preferences that everyone has. They move the most important moment in the purchase decision forward, so that the “Zero Moment of Truth” (ZMoT) defined by Google, in which the consumer determines their needs, actually no longer represents the zero point for the customer journey.


The purchase decision is often based on the brand relationship

The recent Wavemaker Momentum Report shows how important consumer attitudes to brands are today. It reflects 35 studies conducted in the last five years that evaluate a total of 75,000 German purchase journeys. Here are the most important results:

  • 53 percent have a subconscious brand preference long before buying
  • Buyers in Germany have around three brands in the so-called relevant set, regardless of category
  • FMCG products have the greatest conversion potential

The extremely important “relevant set” consists of a small selection of brands that have established themselves in the consumer’s subconscious because, for example, they have already had good experience with the products. During a product search in the ZMoT phase, these brand preferences are activated and influence perception. This subconscious pre-filtering can make decision-making easier, especially in the case of a large selection of products and brands, as only 10 out of the 100 products, for example, come into consideration. The number of brands in the relevant set and their conversion potential depend on the product category. In the case of Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG), an average of four brands (41 percent) are actually chosen for purchase. In the case of consumer goods and services, three brands each convert 38 percent and 36 percent respectively.


Six steps to the purchase decision

We have known for some time now that the path from discovery of the need to the actual purchase is no longer linear and has become longer overall. Digital options in particular are playing an increasingly important role in this regard. This is also reflected in the number of touchpoints identified by Wavemaker prior to the purchase. Accordingly, German consumers make their final purchase decision after an average of almost six steps. There are significant differences between the categories here as well. On average, FMCG products are purchased after 4.6, services after 5.7 and consumer goods after 6.5 touchpoints.

But it is also worth taking a look at smaller segments. For example, electronics are purchased after 9.3 touchpoints. This above-average statistic can easily be explained by the fact that the products in this category require more explanation. They are also suitable for more extensive comparisons with similar products. Cars, on the other hand, show the opposite. According to Wavemaker, only 3.9 relevant touchpoints are required for a car purchase.


The bottom line: Marketers should take a strategic approach to brand preferences

The Wavemaker report includes some useful insight for marketers. The number of touchpoints up to the final purchase decision, for example, indicates the consumers’ need for information. The higher this number is, the more likely brands should invest in such content. When it comes to durable and higher-priced products, special prices can be a good sales strategy. On the other hand, if there are only a few touchpoints along the purchase journey, as is the case with FMCG, purchase triggers at regular intervals can be a successful concept.

But no matter what the product, strategic integration of brand preferences is important. How can I ensure my brand is fixed in consumers’ minds? This is the question that has to be answered in a cooperation between marketing and sales.