The Interest Stage of the Consumer Decison Journey

The interest stage of the consumer decision journey is the time that your potential customer is actively researching options to solve their problem or fill their need. The interest stage is, therefore, your primary opportunity to reach out and influence their purchase decision. For over 100 years, researchers have attempted to make sense of the consumer’s decision process to effectively influence the ultimate buying decision. In our previous post we referenced the McKinsey white paper which concluded that consumers fall back on brands that have made it through the “wilderness of messages.” Last year, Google seemed to underscore this comment when they published a detailed 98-page white paper called Decoding Decisions – The Messy Middle of Purchase Behavior.

During the research process to update 100 years of theory, the Google researchers observed 310 purchase journeys across 31 business categories. At the end of the process, they tried to diagram what they had observed. At the top of the diagram was Trigger and at the bottom of the diagram was Purchase. The image below was their drawing of the observed process on a Post-It Note:

Google Research Post-It Note of Consumer Decision Journey

 “In between those two points there is a winding, scrawled squiggle, which seemed a reasonable way to represent our first significant discovery: There are no typical journeys. Instead, there is a confusing web of touchpoints that we likened to spaghetti, not least because it was clear that this would be a real mess to clean up. The different sites and touchpoints visited by the shoppers who took part in the shopping observations included, but weren’t limited to, the items listed in the image below.”

Google Shopping Touchpoints Observed

The Google researchers further commented that as the internet has grown, it has transformed from a tool for comparing prices to a tool for comparing everything. They ultimately produced this diagram to express the complicated and utterly non-linear decision journey unique to each individual shopper.

Google Consumer Decision Journey Map – The Messy Middle

Ultimately the Google team had three recommendations for companies wishing to influence the purchase decision.

  1. Show up at key moments of exploration and evaluation to win or protect your share of consumer preference.
  2. Apply behavioral biases to give shoppers the information and reassurance they need to exit the messy middle and complete a purchase.
  3. Optimize site speed, user experience, and onsite messaging to shorten the distance between trigger and purchase.

In looking at these in reverse order, we recommend that a simple, easy to navigate website act as an anchor for all online activity. Use a well-reviewed platform with properly sized images to facilitate site speed. Have one page per major product or service with enough information on each page to help the purchaser understand your unique selling proposition (USP) for each product. This should explain clearly why they should buy from you instead of someone else.

Finally, showing up in key moments of exploration and evaluation is why the online presence of your business needs to be spread over many channels. At the interest stage, AKA “Messy Middle,” these channels include:

  • Google, Bing search
  • Facebook, Instagram, Yelp, LinkedIn, and other social media (find out where your best customers hang out)
  • Targeted and retargeted display to reinforce messages, increase frequency and therefore increase the likelihood of customers choosing to buy from you. This can be done through Google Display Network, Facebook, and third-party companies such as
  • Targeted and retargeted video explaining why you are unique. Video channels include YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok.
  • Shopping sites including Amazon, Shopify, Goggle Shopping
  • Broadcast TV, radio and their digital close cousins, OTT, CTV, podcasts to stream audio and video messages. These can be short-form commercial spots or long-form storytelling.

Below is our diagram example which charts how an omni-channel approach increases your chance to attract, engage and influence a consumer to make the decision to purchase from you.