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Consumer buying journeys: complex and chaotic, but full of opportunity

Create better consumer connections by understanding buying journeys

Consumers have fundamentally changed the way they buy products or look for information about them.

Largely driven by evolving technology and the internet, the paths consumers now take to find information, compare products and transact are often complex, varying by a range of factors, from product type to shopping occasion, and even consumer mood.

While these journeys can be difficult to predict, there are patterns of where consumers start and end these journeys, and where they go along the way. Consumer facing businesses that can best understand and predict these journeys will reveal where to focus their efforts to best capture customer attention now and in the future.

Consumer buying journeys for a big-ticket item

Traditionally, consumer purchasing journeys were linear and largely predictable. Although these journeys didn’t always end where they started, they were relatively straightforward, with limited options for research and purchase.

As new tools and channels have emerged, they have created nonlinear ‘loopy journeys’ which can be challenging for businesses to predict. These journeys can be particularly complex and loopy, but many models still reflect these journeys in a simplified way.

The reality is quite different.

Finding patterns in the consumer chaos

New tools and channels have transformed how consumers buy. They no longer follow traditional demographic lines, can include multiple sources of information, and vary significantly in the time taken to purchase. As consumers bounce between cycles of want, information and affirmation, the loopiness of these journeys combined with the length of time to purchase offers significant opportunities to engage with consumers. 

Use our interactive diagram to see the patterns in the chaos of consumer purchasing journeys, and see where you can support, guide or provide relevant information throughout those journeys to better connect with your consumers.

For more details on the interactive diagram visit the about the research notes.

The Consumer Reconsidered

These purchasing journeys blur the boundaries of physical and online stores, and vary greatly in length. It’s this elaborate nature that offers opportunities to engage and attract new consumers, or retain existing ones. 

To succeed, you need to know what your consumers want and understand how they behave, now and next, to give them the experience they desire. 

The Consumer Reconsidered offers unique insights into how to spot the patterns in the turbulence, to better connect with consumers at the right time, and in the right way. Download the report to see how consumer behaviours are evolving, what that means for your business, and find out how to create a strategy to create strong and lasting relationships, build trust and unlock sustained success.

About the research

  1. The Consumer Reconsidered features the findings of bespoke consumer research undertaken on behalf of PwC, including focus groups with shoppers during 2021, and a nationally representative survey of 3,002 adults undertaken between 21 January and 3 February 2022.
  2. A sankey diagram is a visualisation used to depict a flow from one set of values to another. The width of each flow is proportional to the quantity of people represented.
  3. The online non-retailer category includes review sites, search engines and social media.

Contact us

Lisa Hooker

Lisa Hooker

Leader of Industry for Consumer Markets, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)7802 882562

Tom Adams

Tom Adams

Partner, Experience Consulting Leader UK, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)7889 654659

Kien Tan

Kien Tan

Director, Retail Strategy, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)7880 552726

Jacqueline Windsor

Jacqueline Windsor

UK Retail Leader, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)7801 074739

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