No, we create one.
The path to purchase is actually not much of a well trodden path followed by people as it is the unique set of activities taken by an individual. Given the interactive nature of the digital age, it is only a path when we look in the rear view mirror.
From search to purchase to evangelism there are numerous stages and both Forrester and McKinsey have described the journey. However, not all steps are necessarily involved. I may or may not do feature comparison or price shopping, even though it seems rational to do so. In fact if you can get me from discovery to purchase without the intervening steps so much the better.
It is likely that if we documented the path a person takes it would make perfect sense to her and quite possibly to no one else. This suggests:
- Each potential activity merely has a probability of occurring rather than a certainty; our marketing plans must count on consumers skipping steps.
- While the steps taken may be sequential in time; they have no order and do not adhere to a calendar. I can research after I decide.
- The path doesn't really have a final destination as my recommendations can play a role long after disposal.
If we are indeed creating paths, then the key planning questions for designing the content for a touch point seem to be: Why are you here now? Where have you been and where would you like to go?