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    Hero Shape

    What Drives the Consumer Purchase Decision Process?

    9 minute read
    What Drives the Consumer Purchase Decision Process?

    In Joseph Campbell’s 1949 seminal work, “The Hero With a Thousand Faces,” the writer and academic (best known for his work in comparative mythology) presents a bold thesis: mythological narratives, across time, cultures, and distances, frequently share a common fundamental structure. 

    Campbell broke down these similarities to develop what he called the monomyth, or “hero’s journey” — essentially, a rough plotting blueprint that applies to a wide range of different myths throughout history. And while the concept has its share of critics, the hero’s journey might have a familiar ring to marketers’ ears.

    Indeed, the consumer purchase decision process involves your shoppers going on a little “Hero’s Journey” of their own: embarking on a voyage (discovery of a brand or product), facing challenges (evaluating choices), achieving a goal (making a purchase), and returning home a transformed person (post-purchase experience).

    Here’s a closer look at the findings of Salsify’s recent “2024 Consumer Research” report — a survey of 2,700 respondents across generation groups in the U.S. and U.K. — detailing what factors drive customers along their hero’s journey and how to leverage those preferences best to secure a happy ending with your customers.

    The First Step in the Buying Journey: Awareness

    Unlike the linear narrative path we find in stories, your customer has all kinds of different approaches available at their disposal while bravely venturing into the “unknown.” 

    Today, the consumer purchase decision process begins amid a vast digital landscape, featuring a litany of different channels with the potential to inform and inspire one’s journey.

    Salsify’s latest consumer research says that consumers consult a diverse range of sources when discovering new products and brands: This includes physical retail stores (57%), search engines like Google (49%), online marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay (47%), and social media platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube (43%).

    Amid all of this noise, it’s important to make sure that your touch points can make an enduring, actionable impression on your (would-be) shoppers. High-quality product content is no longer a “luxury” but a must-have necessity when captivating and engaging your shoppers.

    Vivid descriptions, engaging images and videos, informative comparison charts, and clear shipping details are all great examples of the kind of high-quality content customers crave. 

    Most importantly, though, Salsify research reinforces that visual appeal remains one of the most important elements of a successful customer journey.  

    A whopping 76% of shoppers emphasize the importance of high-quality product images in their decision to explore a product further — reaffirming the eternal truth that, with some things, first impressions are everything. 

    Research Time: Consideration

    As shoppers proceed deeper into their journey, they enter the consideration phase — an important second step, in which research and personal preferences shape their path forward. 

    More than simply attracting the consumer, effective campaigns at this stage provide the customer with all the tools and information they need to make an informed choice.

    Customers know they have endless options at their fingertips and can be quite meticulous when exploring deals, options, and other purchase considerations.

    Salsify consumer research found that 33% of shoppers spend between 10 to 30 minutes researching a new purchase, while 28% allocate 30 minutes to an hour evaluating their options.

    That’s partly why it’s so important to ensure your product images and descriptions are vivid and thorough and address any barriers to purchase the customer may be facing. This kind of content was rated “extremely” or “very” important by 78% of survey respondents.

    Additionally, highlighted customer ratings and reviews were valued by 72%, and user-generated content (UGC) by 40%. These elements underscore just how crucial it is for brands to provide comprehensive, engaging, and trustworthy product information.

    However, just as misleading maps can send a hero astray, inaccurate or low-quality product content can also drive customers elsewhere — make sure your information is clear, accurate, and up-to-date. Notably, 45% of shoppers said they’ve returned items in the past over such issues. 

    The Thrilling Conclusion: Making a Purchase

    The customer hero’s journey now reaches its peak during the purchase phase — the final, climactic act that brings us to the culmination of the consumer purchase decision process thus far. 

    At this critical juncture, customers become more wallet-conscious than at any other point in their journey. As such, the appeal of competitive pricing and promotional discounts still wields considerable sway, with 79% of surveyed shoppers citing these factors as a pivotal element of their decision-making process. 

    However, the battle isn't always won by price alone: For more expensive products, 34% of consumers say they can be convinced by perceived higher quality, while 18% are influenced by positive customer ratings and reviews. 

    The purchase phase is a complex interplay of factors, in which all your preparation throughout the customer journey finally pays off — that’s why it’s so important to make the process as smooth as possible for your customers

    Coming Back For More? Post-Purchase

    If you thought the purchase phase was exciting, consider this: Skillful management of the post-purchase stage can transform a single transaction into a lasting customer relationship, allowing you to chase that feeling over, and over, and over again. 

    While most marketers recognize the tremendous power of customer loyalty, the post-purchase stage remains an often overlooked segment of the customer journey. According to Salsify consumer research, a few major factors come into play when customers determine their level of loyalty to a brand. 

    Perhaps not surprisingly, product quality reigned supreme among respondents, with 73% identifying it as a crucial factor to win their loyalty. Another 52% say they stay loyal to brands that offer good value for their money, emphasizing the balance between cost and quality. 

    Nearly half of the shoppers (49%) stress the importance of good customer service, while 44% cite the reputation and trustworthiness of the brand image. Finally, 41% note that the ease of their shopping experience is a factor, underscoring the importance of user-friendly experiences throughout the journey to purchase. 

    Focus on developing lasting connections with your customers, and they’ll reward you for it. 

    Mastering the Consumer Purchase Decision Process

    While a largely fitting metaphor, there’s one main difference between the buying decision process and Campbell’s hero’s journey: There’s no need for your customers to endure a Homeric odyssey, fraught with frustrations and hurdles, on their path to purchase

    Providing frictionless, informative, and consistent brand experiences from touch point to touch point is crucial to expanding your customer base and upscaling your conversion rates. 

    Don’t make your customers slay a dragon — give them a nice, paved, and gently guided path to purchase, and you’ll both walk away with the gold. 


    Featured images -  Consumer Research 20244

    2024 Consumer Research Report

    Looking for deeper insights? Check out our consumer research for a detailed look at the forces and preferences driving consumer behavior in 2024.


    Written by: Chris Caesar

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