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Marty Murk

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Expanding Possibilities in Path to Purchase Research

Posted by Marty Murk

Thu, Jun 25, 2020

Marty Expand P2P Blog Opener (1)

With most of the country moving through stages of “reopening,” consumers’ path to purchase has been disrupted. New habits and behaviors are forming on the fly. It feels like now, and in the coming months, reassessing the “new path to purchase” will emerge as a priority for brands big and small.

Path to purchase/consumer journey research is about exploring what moves people towards the business outcome: a purchase. The framework is relatively similar across industries, categories, and products, and typically includes a heavy focus on the actions a consumer takes towards their final purchase. The words may differ however the research typically covers:

  • Trigger: A need or want emerges moving you to a more active state in the category
  • Discovery: Initial stages of research and learning performed
  • Evaluation: Options narrowed and evaluated in more depth
  • Purchase: A decision is made, and a product is purchased

At CMB, this approach is one of the subtle differences between thinking about path to purchase versus consumer journey research. The journey being broader, more inclusive and including pre-category engagement and later stage customer experiences. Prior to COVID-19, CMB ran self-funded consumer journey research on the gaming industry.  We designed the study to be broad and inclusive of “consumer journey” stages AND in a few other ways worthy of consideration in future consumer journey research.

We went BROAD, expanding categories beyond what would typically be included.  And we think you should too. Think industry not category. In gaming, a typical approach would look at a tightly defined category within the gaming industry, the “Games” category, for instance, might define the category into gaming genres (e.g., Role-Playing-Games, First-Person-Shooters, Sporting Games). While this category approach generally yields fantastic insights - one thing that has always stuck with me is how VERY FEW differences often exist between narrowly defined categories (e.g., RPGs paths aren’t all that different form FSP paths).

Cast a wide net—in our case covering Games, Consoles, Peripherals, Cloud Gaming, AR/VR Devices, and Gaming PC/Hardware—and the differences will JUMP off the page. Take the duration of the journey for instance, the time from Trigger to Purchase:

Gaming CJ Timeline Micrographic (2)

With broad context, it becomes obvious how quickly decisions are made in the Games category (Fast, System-1 Thinking). With an easy implication on the priority of the Evaluation and Purchase moments of the path, we discover that AR/VR Devices is a much harder, slower path (Slow, System-2 Thinking) requiring heavy touches in the Research moments of the path (e.g., Discovery, Consideration). Marketing tactics need to follow suit.

As an Insights professional, the context helps with interpretation. It also sets the research up to serve broader business objectives, rather than driving an action for a solo category. In a past life, I worked in athletic industry and led some similar work on athletic footwear. After a while, we thought it would have served the business well to think more broadly and capture athletic apparel, equipment, and accessories in the same initiative.

We were INCLUSIVE, expanding to include incomplete paths. We looked at products “considered but the purchase was not completed.” Doing so allowed us to model touchpoints that drive purchases. It also allowed insights to include the idea of friction and barriers hindering the path forward. For instance, in the AR/VR category, the consumer journey creates a lot of friction with consumers. Forgive the corny gaming analogy here, but the AR/VR category is making consumers slog through an “Oregon Trail” journey, and they’re dying of exhaustion (or dysentery, or measles or fever).

CJ Friction Micrographic

Expanding in these areas doesn’t have to mean a lack of “depth” either. It may mean you need more sample/participants to support the analysis, however the right questionnaire design can still grab the granular details needed to support key business decisions. In this study, there’s a clear consumer need for those interested in AR/VR to experience the product(s) more easily. In Cloud Gaming, consumers are asking for more trustworthy reviews that are less self-serving. By comparing these two categories, key business decision makers are provided context to their data, which helps in better defining where the needs are, and what you can learn from.

P2P Gaming Challenges Categories Micrographic

So, if you’re exploring path to purchase / consumer journey work, it’s worth a pause to ask yourself, “should I expand my world?” This experience shows that there may be more categories of the business that could be included that would lead to easier interpretation and would set the research up to serve the broader business. It also open opportunities to gain more clear actionable insights by including both completed and incomplete paths. These two ideas are great additions to traditional path to purchase work.

Please reach out if you’re interested in learning more about path to purchase/consumer journey work or seeing more of the great work with did in the gaming industry.

Marty MurkMarty Murk, Account Director, is an avid runner, and our resident path to purchase guru.

Follow CMB on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter for the latest news and updates. Also, read "Fast-Moving, Slow-Thinking: How Friction, Challenges, and Barriers Derail Customer Journeys" to understand the consumer psychology behind decision-making.

Don't forget to immerse yourself in our latest gaming research: A Gamer's Journey | The Virtual Reality Edition. And stayed tuned for more of our findings--VR and beyond.

Explore A Gamer's Journey
Sample provided by Dynata

Topics: strategy consulting, methodology, path to purchase, consumer insights, marketing strategy, Market research, Gaming, consumer journey

Osmosis: What Happens BEFORE "The Path to Purchase?"

Posted by Marty Murk

Wed, May 20, 2020

Osmosis Blog Opener (1)

When I go hiking, when does my “hike” really start? Is it when my shoes hit the dirt path? When I pull out of my driveway? When I park at the trail head? Or...if we go really “deep” maybe it was when I was six, learning to play baseball, and ultimately built an affinity for exercise.

It can be similarly hard to understand when a buyer’s path to purchase truly begins. In a research-heavy category, like TVs for instance, it’s obvious that you need to measure, dig into, and understand the experiences along a consumer’s journey (the Trigger, Discovery, Evaluation, and Purchase phases)

What about a category like fashion?  In some categories... there are a LOT of ideas taking shape prior to that “foot hitting the dirt path.” In fashion, people absorb what’s on/off trend (colors, styles, shapes) well before they start looking for a new pair of pants. At CMB, this approach is one of the subtle differences between thinking about this as a path to purchase versus a consumer journey. The journey being broader and including pre-category engagement and later stage customer experiences.

Customer Journey Approach

At CMB, we think of this early stage as “Osmosis” (the process of gradual or unconscious assimilation of ideas, knowledge, etc.). In the context of consumer journey, it’s the part of a person’s journey, that includes the way they engage with a category prior to a conscious need emerging

Recently, CMB self-funded an online study on the consumer journey exploring the gaming industry.  There’s no silver bullet in measuring the idea of Osmosis, however it’s very easy to miss, ignore or skip during the design phase of consumer journey work.  For this reason, we were extra careful about embedding measurement indicators about the consumer’s background and experience in the category. This study lent itself nicely, given the breadth of gaming categories covered. A few categories that intuitively would rely heavily on Osmosis in the decision process, and few that would rely heavily on the Discovery and Evaluation process.

Below is an example of drivers of the final decision, comparing six gaming categories. You see Peripherals, AR/VR, PC/Hardware relying on traditional Evaluation criteria:  reviews, promotions, etc. However, categories like Games and Consoles, are putting a lot of weight on pieces that have been gathered prior to actively being in the market: trust, and love for instance.

Four Factors Influencing Final Decision

Prior to starting path to purchase or consumer journey work, thinking through internal hypotheses and the notion of Osmosis is critical. Without it, insights risk over-emphasizing parts of the consumer journey, and missing other parts all together. Here are two tips to consider:

  1. When you think about qual, while you are connecting with the consumer—through one-on-one quality time, shopping along, or reliving a purchase—spend some healthy time digging into their background in the category (e.g., the affinity for exercise, the introduction to health and fitness). This knowledge can be invaluable to understanding the consumer broader journey. 
  2. Design any quant to probe on their history in the category, experience with product/competitors, etc. At CMB, we dig into psychological motivations by understanding  the Emotional, Social, Identity, and Functional Benefits to the consumer as well as perceptions of a brand.

In short: be conscious of what happens BEFORE you THINK “the Path” begins.

Marty MurkMarty Murk, Account Director, is an avid runner, and our resident path to purchase guru.

Follow CMB on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter for the latest news and updates.

Don't forget to immerse yourself in our latest gaming research: A Gamer's Journey | The Virtual Reality Edition. And stayed tuned for more of our findings--VR and beyond.

Explore A Gamer's Journey

Sample provided by Dynata

Topics: strategy consulting, methodology, path to purchase, consumer insights, marketing strategy, Consumer Pulse, customer journey, engagement strategy, Gaming, consumer journey, osmosis

The Danger of Painting by Numbers

Posted by Marty Murk

Wed, Nov 14, 2012

I recently learned the story of Vitaly Komar and Alex Melamid, two Russian-born conceptual artists who, as part of their People's Choice series, captured EXACTLY what America wanted in their paintings. To create “The Most Wanted” (1994) painting in America, Komar and Melamid gathered data from professional polling companies and actually gave the people what they asked for.

Komar and Melamid Most WantedNaturally, by basing decisions unquestioningly on what consumers asked for, Komar and Melamid came up with a beauty. It’s a perfect combination of a pleasant blue sky, scenic mountains, frolicking deer, a picnicking family, and George Washington pondering life smack dab in the middle. It is a scene that has everything, and it's brilliant social commentary—but J.M.W. Turner it’s not.

Pointing out that a complete and unquestioning faith in numbers is a foolish exercise is nothing new. That’s especially true when you’re in the business of market research, consumer insights, or whatever you want to call us. I’m sure you’ve all heard the Henry Ford quote…“if I’d asked people how they’d like to see travel improved, they’d have told you: I want a faster horse.” But I’ve never come across anything that illustrated this better than “The Most Wanted” paintings. 

Besides giving me a chance to channel my inner art critic, the painting, and how it came to be, makes me think about how I design studies, analyze data, and think about its implications for my clients:

  • Sometimes by listening to everyone, you’re hearing no one:  It’s tempting to want to hear from as many people as possible, but more opinions don’t necessarily translate into more insights. Just as Komar and Melamid's data translated into something a little ridiculous, trying to get everyone to answer every question won’t give you a clear picture of what you need to improve or the decisions you have to make. That’s why it’s critical to identify who you want to listen to and determine what you can learn from a specific segment.

  • People can’t tell you EXACTLY what they want:  Consumer research that focuses solely on what customers say they want won’t tell you everything you should know. If you want to understand customer needs and develop products or services that meet them, you have to ask the questions that uncover what those needs are. Are people asking for mountains when they’re really seeking relaxation? Techniques like key driver analysis can help us understand customer needs and goals, and not just what they say they want.

  • If you want insights, you’ll need context: Just like slapping a few artistic elements on a canvas won’t make a great painting, pasting all of your data points onto a PowerPoint won’t add up to insights you can use. I’m reminded to ask what else we know— is there other information or behavioral data is available and can help give us a fuller picture?

Komar and Melamid Least WantedBut above all the biggest takeaway for me, from “The Most Wanted” painting, is that thoughtful actionable research starts with the end in mind. We researchers can’t measure needs, wants, and preferences for specific elements in the design without any forethought about the final results of the potential outcomes.  

And if you’re curious here’s America’s Least Wanted Painting:


Marty is a Senior Project Manager on CMB's Retail Practice. You may be surprised to learn he earned his Master's in Marketing Research and not Art History.

See how CMB and South Street Strategy Group helped Tauck create a successful new travel product through a multi-phase multi-method approach. Click here to read the Case Study.

Topics: consumer insights, research design

Tying Compensation to Customer Satisfaction—A Slippery Slope

Posted by Marty Murk

Wed, Apr 27, 2011

Recently, my wife and I purchased a new car, trading away my old beater for a fresh new ride.  It was a big deal in the Murk household.  We went on endless test rides, popped in and out of a bunch of dealerships, and generally did our best to explore all of our options.  While lengthy, the purchase process couldn’t have been less memorable.  And that’s just what we had hoped for.  We asked questions and the sales representatives politely answered them. Then we bought a car.  

End of story, right?  Nope.Customer satisfaction research

I think we all understand the utility of the post-sale survey, particularly as it pertains to durable goods.  As a researcher, of course I’m okay with participating.  In this case, my experience was unremarkable.  But guess what?  That’s just what I wanted.  Under normal circumstances, that’s what I would have told them.

Instead, what I got was a perversion of the research process – something motivated not by genuine interest in feedback but by sales rep compensation and dealership profitability.  When you tie research results (an impartial discipline) to a sales rep’s compensation (something they feel anything but impartial about), it’s a recipe for disaster and a great way to anger an otherwise happy customer.  And that’s how I felt.  Angry. 

Here’s why:

  • A few days after we bought the car, I got a voicemail from the dealership: “Hi Mr. Murk, please remember to fill out our customer satisfaction survey and return it at your earliest convenience.”
  • Me:  “Hmm, I haven’t even gotten it in the mail yet, but I’m in research, I’ll dig this.”
  • Voicemail from dealership (less than 12 hours later): “Hi Mr. Murk, this is just a friendly reminder to return your customer satisfaction survey as soon as possible.”
  • Me:  “Hmm, 2 calls before it even arrived.  That’s weird.”
  • Voicemail from dealership (3 hours later): “Hi Mr. Murk, just calling to see why you haven’t returned our customer satisfaction survey.  If you’ll be giving us ANYTHING less that ‘completely satisfied ratings’, call me back first so that I can rectify the situation.”
  • Me:  “They’re gaming the system!”
  • 7 voicemails from dealership (spaced about 20 minutes apart):  “Mr. Murk, we need to talk.  We NEEEEEED your top ratings.  Don’t you love us anymore?  Call me ASAP.”
  • Me: “That’s weird, they are starting to remind me of an ex-girlfriend I had and that ended badly.  I am definitely NOT filling this thing out, I can’t reward such behavior.”
  • 7 voicemails from dealership (spaced about 20 minutes apart):  “I’m sorry, baby.  Please just fill this thing out.  Just say you were completely satisfied and you’ll never hear from me again.”
  • Me:  Now I’m scared.  So I relent, and fill dang thing out.  And now I’m ANGRY at the dealership. 

I’m not naïve enough to misunderstand their intentions, though.  In fact, I’m guessing the coupling of feedback with compensation started with the best of intentions.  The manufacturer wants the dealership to care about creating happy customers, so they incent dealerships with discounts on the invoice for quality customer satisfaction ratings.

As researchers, we take pride in the art behind what we do.  It’s our job to remind companies that the whole point of customer research is to listen to customers, not just drive a number.  It’s hard not to be a little insulted when you see research being used in any other way.

Customer Satisfaction

Download our recent Consumer Pulse report on Customer Satisfaction programs.



Posted by Marty Murk. Marty is a Senior Project Manager on CMB's Retail and e-Commerce practice. "Cheapness" runs through his blood and he still can't believe he chose a new car over a used car.

Topics: customer experience and loyalty, retail research