5 Overlooked Components of Successful Purchase Journey Research

 In Business

Purchase journeys are complex and non-linear.  They typically involve multiple touchpoints, influences, and actions. When attempting to understand how consumers and professionals navigate this process, it’s easy to overlook components that ultimately provide a deep understanding of the “why” behind these actions.

Below we outline 5 often overlooked components of successful purchase journey research:

  • The Trigger Event
  • Emotion
  • Category Needs
  • Post-Purchase Behavior
  • Personas

The Trigger Event

Inertia is a powerful force. It can prevent consumers from acting or lock them into an existing purchase cycle. Therefore, understanding what specifically inspires a person to act is so important when evaluating a journey.

Additionally, understanding the type of trigger event will have important implications for a brand.  For example:

  • A broken or non-working item (e.g., a flat tire, non-working mobile phone) is a trigger which often necessitates near-immediate replacement. This journey will be far different than most others and skip many influential touchpoints that are present in longer journeys.
  • An impulse purchase due to product or service exposure will often result in a narrower set of available touchpoints to influence brand selection.


Understanding emotion and consumer mindset across the journey can have a major impact on the tone of advertising and communications as well as salesperson-purchaser interactions.

We find that positive emotions are predominant in most journeys, across most phases, however this is not always the case.  Some possible examples of negative emotions include:

  • Stress or uncertainty when making a big-ticket or life-altering purchase (e.g., car, home, baby products)
  • Frustration when navigating a wide array of product or service options, trying to identify a solution to a consumer or business need, or due to lack of category knowledge/understanding
  • Anger towards higher-than-expected prices or a lack of transparency from brands or retailers

Each of these examples will require a different approach at a range of touchpoints to ensure success is moving consumers down the purchase funnel.

It’s important to note that emotions will often change throughout the journey – what can start negative often turns positive by the end of the journey, or consumers can experience ups and downs as they navigate the path-to-purchase.

Category Needs

Journey research often solely focuses on why category products or services are purchased rather than understanding the need they fulfill.

Determining needs help to understand the underlying reason for entering the category and the scope of their potential solution set, as certain needs will have solutions that span multiple categories (e.g., transportation solutions can include rental cars, ride-hailing services, or public transportation).

It’s important to note that a specific need may be expressed in a rational or emotional way. When thinking about televisions, an example could be:

  • Rational: Having the latest technology to watch sports with friends
  • Emotional: Not feeling embarrassed with my current TV when friends are over to watch sports

How the need is expressed often requires distinct approaches for marketing and sales.

Ideally, qualitative or other field research can identify the range of needs, then quantitative research can prioritize the needs.


Journey research often stops at the purchase event.  However, what happens after a product or service purchase presents important information that can inform journey touchpoints.  It’s therefore vital to understand what happens post-purchase:

  • If there are required product/service actions such as product assembly, food/item preparation, or B2B service onboarding, how was the experience, both overall and versus incoming expectation?
  • Did the purchaser take any advocacy actions, such as spreading word of mouth, leaving reviews, posting on social channels? Were they positive or negative?
  • Are they likely to buy again? Why or why not?
  • What information do they now wish was available during the path-to-purchase?

Understanding these actions and providing purchasers the tools to spread positive word of mouth can unlock brand growth.


Purchase journeys will often differ based on the goals and needs of purchasers.  Developing personas and journey maps on the persona level will be more actionable for organizations by pinpointing audiences which present the greatest opportunity and can be most effectively targeted.

  • An effective way to develop personas is by segmenting the category based on user needs, with each persona typically exhibiting a range of attitudinal, behavioral, and demographic differences from other personas.
  • Some personas will share common needs, though potentially expressed in different ways (e.g., rational vs. emotional), or addressed in unique ways.
  • Persona-level journey maps can be an invaluable tool for internal stakeholders when developing a brand activation plan.

When understanding each of the five topics outlined above, qualitative exploratory research is an excellent way to identify the universe of trigger events, emotions, needs, and post-purchase actions, while quantitative research will size personas and the prevalence of each individual factor.

Contact us to learn more about our approach to incorporating these key elements in purchase journey research.

Recent Posts