Behavioural myth busters: Consumer touchpoints

12 Feb 2019  |  William Hanmer-Lloyd 
Behavioural myth busters: Consumer touchpoints

It's a mistake to assume that data drawn from across all touchpoints accurately represents the majority of customer journeys, writes William Hanmer-Lloyd

In the past decade, there has been growing research and talk about how digital has transformed the consumer journey/ the sales funnel. It is no longer a funnel but a fish, or it is as unique as each consumer (thanks Google). According to some, it is dead altogether – so fragmented and complex has the ecosystem become.

This is generally built on the view that consumers now have so many touchpoints on their way to buying a product that brands need to build a multi-touchpoint strategy to ensure they cover the consumer at every point during their extensive research and purchase journey.

But there are two problems with this. Firstly, the blurring between strategy and tactics, which means we are making ever more complicated funnels to capture the increasing tactics we have at our disposal. However, from a strategic point of view they all still generally fall into the traditional sales funnel (as argued by Mark Ritson).

The second problem is that marketers are assuming that all of the touchpoints we can measure represent all consumer journeys, or the most important consumers. In fact, they often represent a small proportion of consumers, and the ones who are most difficult to influence with advertising.

This can be explained through the concept of maximisers and satisficers, first put forward by economist Herbert Simon in the 1950s. This identifies two key types of decision makers.

Maximisers want to fully research a product before they buy it. They will make multiple searches, read reviews, visit websites, use stores as part of their consumer journey, and are more likely to then post reviews or write about their purchase on social.

Messaging in ads often focuses on maximisers talking about smaller and smaller USPs or product benefits trying to appeal to the sub section of maximising consumers that really care about getting certain fruit extracts in their shampoo, or how well a car can park itself, or that their web page will load 0.1 seconds faster, rather than reassuring a mass audience that if they buy the product it will fulfil its purpose reliably and consistently.

The problem with this is that in most markets the majority of consumers are not maximisers. They are satisficers. They want a product that will do the job reasonably well, and to avoid the risk of buying the wrong thing. They also wish to sidestep the time and stress of lots of research: both the simple stress of actually researching, and the cognitive stress of trying to make a decision as they learn more about the opportunity cost of whatever they decide.

This is true for high research products as well; many people still go to their local Currys and ask what a good laptop is for their budget.

These consumers will have very few touchpoints and are most influenced by brand advertising through mass market channels that communicate reassuring guarantees of reasonable quality.

But too often they are ignored for the maximisers whose data marketers can see, analyse and develop complex plans around.

This is a mistake. Not just because it means ignoring a large proportion of your audience, but because satisficers are often easier to influence.

It is easier to influence someone when you are not competing against the 30 other touchpoints a maximiser will come across. Our ad is unlikely to be more persuasive than lots of reviews, what peoples friends think, or detailed product research. But it is more likely to influence someone who is going to make a relatively instinctive decision.

It is important that as marketers we realise that many consumers don’t care about researching to get the best products. They care about saving time, avoiding risk, and getting something good enough.

And we shouldn’t become obsessed with the data signals maximisers provide to the extent that we forget nearly every market has a sizable pool of more easily influenced satisficers.


William Hanmer-Lloyd is Total Media's head of behavioural planning. He contributes monthly to Mediatel News, examining the ways behavioural science radically challenges some of the historic approaches of the ad industry.

Part one: Why is behavioural science important to advertising?

Part two: Self-reported data

Part three: Audience decision making

Part four: There are no universal rules for influencing people

Part five: Research and perception change

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18 Apr 2019 

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