Worksheet: The Three Phases of a Customers Path-to-Purchase

What is it like to visit your store or eat at your restaurant? Asking this seemingly simple question can surprise operators – first of all, the answer is often far more complicated than they expect, and secondly, if you really investigate what the experience is like for your customers, what you learn is invaluable.

In this white paper, we explore the three phases of the path-to-purchase in detail and ask key questions operators should consider when mapping their customer journey.


The majority of purchase decisions are emotionally driven, and given the complexity of choice for consumers, understanding their path-to purchase can have a significant impact on the performance of a brand. It can take mere seconds for consumers to initiate purchase decisions, no matter how large or small. Whether buying a house, a car, or a pack of gum at the grocery store, engaging customers quickly and effectively can determine whether or not they buy a product. However, this decision can be influenced by understanding each step in the purchase process, from when consumers identify a need to well after purchasing the product. Operators have numerous tools at their disposal to map the customer journey and identify where along the path they need to improve the experience for their patrons. In this worksheet, we take you through our process of defining the ideal customer experience for your brand. 

A billboard with enticing photos of the newest product or service: the Attract, Pre-Purchase Moment. A consumer enters the store and makes a purchase: the Transact, At-Purchase-Moment. Finally, a customer receives points towards their next visit and is asked to rate their experience on social media: the Retain, Post-Purchase Moment. Attract, Transact and Retain: this is a process that guides the consumer along the path-to-purchase journey during which, at the key moments of truth, one brand is chosen over another. These core principles have driven SLD to create strategic design solutions for our clients, differentiating us from our competitors and successfully targeting our clients’ customers at these critical moments. The following is a detailed account of these principles – a means to help brands win the purchase moments. 

path to purchase


The pre-purchase moments are when consumers consider where they want to shop or what they want to purchase. For example, a consumer views an advertisement on TV or YouTube, overhears a friend talking about their last great meal, or notices a Facebook post from an acquaintance. These are the moments in which brands have an opportunity to attract the attention of a target consumer. Consumers have a short list of preferred brands, and to win, marketers need to ensure their offerings are on the list. 

Without gaining visibility and being included in the consideration set, brands have a very low likelihood of being selected by customers. Marketers need to identify the role of digital and physical experience in driving the pre-purchase moments. Where do customers research their options, how important is promotions and price comparisons, and how involved is the decision-making process within the category are all critical questions to explore.


The at-purchase moments are the critical instances when a consumer makes a financial commitment to a given brand. For example, entering a foodcourt, viewing the various options, getting into a line and ordering a meal. There are numerous external factors affecting these moments. For instance, was the signage clear and differentiated? Was the ordering process quick and the counter-person friendly and helpful? Did the meal match the imagery presented in the pre-purchase moments? Was the experience seamless and fast, or was it disjointed and slow? These are all elements that contribute to the at-purchase moments, the moments when consumers make decisions on whether or not to buy a product or service. 

Marketers need to consider the importance of shop ability, visibility in addition to variety differentiation during the at-purchase moment to ensure their brand stands out. It is located at the correct eye level. In addition, it’s essential to take into consideration the role of in-store merchandising, secondary display initiatives in addition to pricing strategies. With the advent of AR-enabled smartphones, the lines are also blurring between the physical and digital shopping experiences. The at-purchase moment may have also migrated online, where customers are exposed to a broader range of options, bringing a new level of complexity.


The post-purchase moments make up the final phase along the path to purchase. These moments validate users’ expectations of products or services they have purchased, dictating whether or not the brands will increase or decrease their retention rates. This can relate to how good the product/service was and to the consumer’s experience with the brand regularly. For marketers, much investment is spent on rewards and loyalty programs to ensure a high level of post-purchase repeat business.

With the rise of social marketing and purchasing, marketers need to consider the role of reviews and endorsements in addition to customer social sharing. How are customers commenting on their purchases, the performance of the brand in meeting expectations in addition to crowdsourcing of new product ideas are just a few of the retention strategies brands should explore.


The growing complexity of choice and pressure by retailers to reduce the number of SKUs to drive better returns are just a few of the challenges brands need to consider as they align their activities to the customer’s path to purchase. With the growth of online, marketers need to consider how the journey may start and end online versus those that started online and culminated in a physical store.

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