Posted by Marc Williams
The Open Road: A true story of a path to purchase
We have been spending a lot of time recently looking at how and why people buy. We have been digging deep and dissecting what goes into the consideration and subsequent purchase. You may have seen our prior postings on the Mobius Cycle™ . It’s a non-sequential purchase cycle. This non-linear consumer journey, as I’m often telling people, is not something we dreamed up here at Williams Helde; it’s something that’s out there, happening, right now, with your consumers. We’ve just coined the terminology to define and explain it, so that we can help you devise a strategy to thrive in this, the new reality.
To illustrate just how complex and difficult marketing has become and how accurately Mobius Cycle™ describes the lifecycle of a considered purchase in the current environment, allow us to present you with a case study, a true story: (we changed the names to protect the innocent)
Mike, Nicole, and the Open Road
Middle-aged, suburban, married couple Mike and Nicole had a bad vacation. The airline experience was terrible, the hotel was worse, guided tours were a disappointment. They came home wishing they’d stayed home. Actually, this wasn’t their first bad vacation but it was their worst one and, as it turns out, something of a tipping point. That is, it prompted the segment of the Mobius Cycle we call conception: they knew, as a result of this ultimate bad trip, that they wanted to do something else with their vacation time. Mike, even before this moment of conception, had been in a state of (relatively vague) consideration. That is, he’d been remembering his childhood, the trips he’d taken in his uncle’s RV, and he’d thought, more than once during disappointing vacations, how comparatively hassle free it would be to travel that way again. The various manufacturers had their brands/products out there and influencers created by them. (Those things, brand/product and influencers, are always happening, with any product, including yours.)
Over dinner, he mentioned the idea to Nicole. He’d told her about the childhood trips for years and she’d been, if not exactly enthusiastic, at least receptive. With some bad air travel and worse hotel experiences under her belt, she became even more so. This, perhaps, was the true conception moment; they knew not just that they were out of the air travel/hotel market but that they were in the RV market. From here, consideration went from relatively vague to very active, almost obsessive. This was going to be a major purchase and both of them were going to do research.
They went online, checking out manufacturers’ websites. They read customer reviews. They asked around with friends, colleagues, and acquaintances, looking for recommendations. They visited RV dealers, talked to salespeople, test drove and took home brochures. They went back online, found sites and forums dedicated to RV-ing. They read and joined the discussions, asking questions of complete strangers. They had, at their fingertips, more research tools, more information, more sources, more options, more opinions—in Mobius terminology, more influencers —than consumers in any other era. This was good for them.
But how was it for the marketers of those RV’s? It was difficult, but with the possibility of great reward. The companies that worked hard and, above all, worked smart with a comprehensive strategy for marketing their brand/product, the companies that were as obsessive about managing influencers as Mike and Nicole were about accumulating them, those companies stayed in the running.
Next, finally, came the purchase. Mike and Nicole actually bought an RV. Here again, in this segment, the diligent marketers, the ones with the best point of sale and the best purchase drivers, were ultimately successful.
But they weren’t finished. Mobius never ends. The cycle is never over, not even when the RV is in the driveway. This is when the post-purchase segment begins. Mike and Nicole are not done collecting influencers. The way the brand/product performs, post-sale interactions with both the dealer and the manufacturer, the reactions of friends and neighbors, all of these are part of this segment, all of these contribute to Mike’s and Nicole’s continuing purchase cycle. They may write reviews, participate in online forums, certainly they’ll share opinions with friends; in other words, they’ll contribute to the influence of other customers, entering into their Mobius cycles.