Understanding the nature of the buyer's journey is central to conducting sound marketing and sales efforts. Without a solid pulse on how consumers discover, consider, and ultimately decide to purchase products and services like yours, you're bound to sell both departments short.
To help you avoid those potential pitfalls, we've leveraged data from HubSpot's 2022 State of Consumer Trends Report to show what the modern buyer's journey looks like for consumers, provide some insight into how the buyer's journey differs by age, make informed predictions about how the buyer's journey could change, and offer actionable suggestions for how sales departments can keep up with their buyers.
Let's dive in.
What the Buyer's Journey Looks Like for Consumers in 2023
Modern buyer's journey's awareness stage mostly revolves around digital media — particularly among consumers aged 18 to 24. Internet search is the most popular forum for product discovery in 2022. 58% of consumers say they've discovered at least one new product by searching the internet in 2022, and 44% say they've done so in the past three months.
Social media is the next most popular resource for product discovery. 57% of our respondents said they use social media to discover new products. That trend is particularly prominent among consumers aged 18 to 24. 71% of those respondents say they discover new products via social media — 15% more than through Youtube ads, the next most popular method among that demographic.
That's not to say that more conventional media has no place in the modern buyer's journey. 42% of respondents said they discover new products through retail stores, and 56% say they do so via television ads.
In 2022, consumers generally use the same resources to research products as they do to discover them. Internet search was the most popular method for learning about new products among consumers — with 36% of respondents saying they leverage it for self-education on products.
As it was with product discovery, more traditional media is still definitely in play when it comes to product education — retail stores (36%), television ads (25%), and word of mouth (23%) were the next most popular product education methods among general consumers.
But that trend doesn't hold up with younger consumers quite as strongly. Social media (28%), internet search (27%), YouTube ads (23%), and unboxing or product explanation videos (20%) were the most popular product education methods among respondents aged 18 to 24.
So, what does this tell us? Well, on one hand, you shouldn't write off traditional media as an effective resource for consumers' consideration phase in the interim — particularly if your buyer personas are on the older side.
On the other, if you want to see sustainable, long-term success with younger consumers as they get older and gain more purchasing power, you need to stay on top of your digital presence when it comes to product education.
In 2022, brick and mortar stores still hold a lot of weight when it comes to consumer purchase decisions — with roughly 73% of our survey respondents citing in-store shopping as a preferred location for purchase.
Online shopping, specifically through outlets that sell a variety of brands, was also popular among general consumers — as 53% of our respondents say they like to purchase products through sites like Amazon.
Direct purchases through a company's website (34%) and directly from a company's mobile app (18%) were other popular choices — and the tiering of those options mostly held true for consumers aged 18 to 24.
In-store shopping was the most popular method for purchasing products among that younger base — with 55% of those consumers citing it as a preferred method. Buying from online retailers like Amazon (50%) was the second most popular resource listed among respondents aged 18 to 24.
Buying directly from a company's website (37%), through a social media app (23%), and directly from a company's mobile app (22%) were the next most popular purchasing methods among those younger consumers.
Our survey also pointed to some interesting trends beyond the ones detailed here. Here's some insight into how the buyer's journey might change going forward — along with some ways your sales org can adjust for them.
How the Buyer's Journey Could Change
Influencers will play a larger role than ever.
Our survey indicates that influencer recommendations have become woven into the buyer's journey for several consumers. In many — if not most — cases, they've even come to hold more weight than input from people consumers know personally.
30% of our respondents say recommendations from influencers are one of the most important factors in shaping purchase decisions — compared to 27% who say the same about friends and family.
This trend is particularly prominent among younger consumers — with 55% of respondents aged 18 to 24 citing the importance of influencer recommendations when making purchasing decisions, compared to 24% who referenced input from friends and family.
How to Keep Up with Your Buyers
A big part of capitalizing on this trend is thoroughly understanding your buyer personas — essentially working up from the bottom of the funnel and leveraging sales data to shape more thoughtful, calculated marketing efforts. If you're going to start and sustain productive influencer relationships, you need to know who you're trying to appeal to.
You can't cultivate awareness through influencer marketing if you're connecting with personalities who don't resonate with your buyers. You need to understand your target prospects inside and out. Have a pulse on the demographic and psychographic traits that define them, and use that insight to help identify the influencers they'll be most receptive to.
This is an instance where sales and marketing alignment starts with sales. The data you accrue from your sales efforts informs your understanding of who you're targeting — which lets you structure archetypes of your ideal customers. Those pictures will help reveal the right influencers to connect with, allowing you to capitalize on the power of effective influencer marketing.
Product reviews will continue to become increasingly essential.
Having visible, sound, positive product reviews is becoming a crucial component of seeing success during the consideration stage of the buyer's journey. Our survey found that product reviews are the third most considered factor in purchase decisions among consumers — after price and quality — with 46% of respondents citing it as one of the most important factors when making a purchase decision.
How to Keep Up with Your Buyers
Gathering and projecting positive customer reviews is a matter of trust — and that concept manifests itself in two main ways. For one, consumers trust existing customers more than they do businesses. Secondly, existing consumers are more inclined to trust businesses that care about them.
Sales departments can help with the second of the two.
Sales teams should play some role in keeping in touch with the prospects they convert to customers — ensuring previous buyers are enjoying and getting productive use out of the products or services they've purchased.
By checking in with customers to ensure they're seeing success with your offering, referring them to customer support when needed, and letting them know you care in general, you can create and sustain the kind of relationships that translate to positive product reviews.
Maintaining a solid company culture will go a long way.
According to our survey, consumers put a lot of stake in the soundness of a company's internal culture — meaning the way a business treats its employees has significant pull when prospects are deciding to buy a product or service.
Our research found that 78% of people are more likely to buy from companies that treat employees well, and 72% say companies should actively try to improve the well-being of their employees — both figures remained fairly consistent across all age groups.
How to Keep Up with Your Buyers
Adjusting for this trend isn't necessarily sales-specific — naturally, improving company culture requires a company-wide effort. Still, sales leadership needs to do its part in helping their businesses get there.
Management needs to prioritize their reps' mental, physical, and professional well-being. That starts with creating an environment where salespeople feel safe and supported enough to air their ideas without fear of reproach or judgment — giving employees the space and security to offer their input and be heard.
Sales leadership also needs to do what it can to minimize burnout, putting together schedules that reconcile productivity with appropriate self-care. Taking those strides — among others tailored to keep sales reps happy and healthy — will help create a company culture that consumers can get behind.
A sound, helpful company culture positively impacts both employees' productivity and a business's reputation — two factors that have an immediate bearing on an organization's external appeal and internal performance.
As I mentioned at the start of this article, having a pulse on the nature of the buyer's journey is central to the success of both sales and marketing departments alike. So naturally, maintaining an understanding of its current state and where it might be heading is in every company's best interest.
Consumer preferences are constantly shifting. The ways people prefer to discover, research, and ultimately purchase products and services are rarely stagnant — particularly across age groups.
Still, if you want to put your business in the best possible position to thrive right now, you need a picture of what the buyer's journey looks like in 2022. Hopefully, this article and the rest of our consumer trends report can give you a solid starting point for structuring your sales and marketing efforts to meet your consumers where they are and consistently earn their business.