Ecommerce sales are reaching unprecedented growth. Bolstered by a banner 2020, online sales growth slowed briefly in 2021 and 2022, but according to research firm Forrester, it now accounts for more than 15% of total market share — the second-highest level in history.

While this bodes well for ecommerce brands, there’s a caveat: Consumer buying behavior has changed.

Salsify’s “2023 Consumer Research” found that while 68% of customers say they’re shopping more online, 96% say that rising costs have changed how they shop. Now, 73% are looking for discounts or free delivery, 71% are delaying large purchases, and 43% are spending more time on pre-purchase research to find the best value for their dollar.

The result is a new path to purchase — one that’s messier, more complicated, and less predictable. With the right approach, however, brands can make the most of the mess and better navigate new purchase paths.

Different Roads, Same Stops: The New Path To Purchase

The path to purchase still has four familiar stops (or stages): awareness, consideration, purchase, and post-purchase.

What’s changed isn’t the stops themselves but how customers get to these stops and what they do when they arrive. This shift is the impact of personalization — the channels, interactions, and services that provide tailor-made experiences for buyers. Done well, these personalized efforts can drive increased sales.

For ecommerce brands, success on the new path starts with understanding each stage.

Stage 1: Awareness

This stage is all about information gathering, and social media sites and search engines are excellent resources. 

Consider an ecommerce company that sells high-quality sunglasses. From a search engine perspective, the brand should focus on ranking on the first page of search engine results. They can achieve this with search engine optimization (SEO) keywords such as “where to buy good sunglasses” or “high-quality sunglasses online.” 


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