Mapping the Millennial Path-to-Purchase

September 30, 2016 

Earlier this week we presented some work on the Millennial path-to-purchase at the MRA conference for corporate researchers. We were joined by our client Kelly Bowie, AVP of Marketing and Consumer Insights at Guardian Life Insurance Company. For your reading pleasure, we’ve posted a summary of the key points, and a copy of our presentation below.

w/ credit to Ed Tufte (Beautiful Evidence, 2006) for the content on slide 16.


Understanding the customer’s path-to-purchase is an increasingly important topic in consumer insights. Traditional sales funnels tend to depict the customer’s journey as an orderly process—discrete steps, one happening after another. The problem is that these models are focused on actions taken by the company, rather than the experiences of the customer. They tend to oversimplify the nuances and variation in an actual purchase experience, which limits their usefulness to marketing and sales strategy.

Alec Baldwin in his role as a sales executive in the film Glengarry Glenross

There’s a gap between the conventional model of a sales funnel and real behavior.

When we allow customers to depict the journey on their own terms we learn that the process is more messy and improvisational than we assume. In real life people get confused, make mistakes, and cope with incomplete information. It’s really more like an ecosystem than an orderly path.

Graphic depicting factors influencing the customer's purchase journey

Studying the path-to-purchase allows marketers to empathize with customers, identify pain points during, and offer more relevant solutions. In our presentation we provide a set of tools for qualitative researchers that can be used to map out the path to purchase. Our examples are drawn from a study of the purchase process for Millennials buying individual life and disability insurance, but the same techniques can be applied to any category.

Feel free to get in touch with us if you have any questions about the research, or our presentation. Thanks again to everyone who joined us on Wednesday at CRC 2016!