A buyer’s unique needs dictate their path to purchase. Social and economic status, education, preferred influencers, and a slew of other factors influence the purchases we, as consumers, make every day. The more that brands can understand consumer context, the more effective their engagement strategies will be.

With that in mind, Valassis worked with Kantar to conduct a survey examining the factors that influence consumer shopping behaviors across five product categories: cleaning supplies, groceries, skin care products, small electronics, and restaurants. Our research landed on a few significant takeaways, including just how valuable it is to understand the consumer’s context during each stage of the buying journey.

The more context you have, the more relevant your brand will be, leading to higher engagement throughout all stages of the customer buying journey.

Using Context to Boost the Customer Purchase Journey

We uncovered several ways brands can use context to build a more personalized customer purchase journey. Here are four of our main takeaways:

1.Tailor advertising to consumer needs. Consumers encounter messaging at every step of the customer purchase journey, but relevant messaging feels more palatable while leading to more informed purchasing decisions.

Dynamic context surrounds consumer needs. The more that brands can appeal to buyers’ unique needs, values, and lifestyles, the more unique their customer buying journeys become. Our findings reveal that 50% of consumers (66% of millennials) crave advertisements that speak more to their current needs.

That figure jumps to 67% for the electronics category, though it still matters to 44% of consumers buying cleaning supplies and 42% buying groceries (42%).

2. Attach relevant advertising to personal need searches. Advertising can seem intrusive if it appears to be random. But when the ad speaks to what a consumer needs at a given moment in time, it is an essential attention-grabber. About 47% of respondents to our survey said ads relevant to what they’re researching at a particular time are welcome disruptions of their buying journeys.

Timing is crucial. An advertisement that says the right thing at the right time (that is, contextually relevant to a consumer’s needs at that instant) moves from being an ad to being useful information. These timely and relevant ads pack the most punch with electronics shoppers (62%), but 42% of grocery shoppers and 43% of restaurant-goers also find them appealing.

A closer analysis finds that shoppers conduct extensive product research before making a purchase and respond to brands that take the time to provide resources that help simplify their shopping experience. Much of what makes a customer buy a product comes down to timing — your ads need to make the most of theirs.

3. Offer more personalized products. Industry saturation hasn’t stopped consumers from wanting more customized offerings and services. The more customized a product is, the more pleasant the associated customer buying journey.

According to our research, 43% of shoppers wish more products and services were customized to their needs. This is a reflection of the dissatisfaction that sometimes occurs during the customer purchase journey, when buyers decide to settle and accept products that check a few boxes instead of them all.

Brands have a wealth of information and feedback at their disposal that can apply context to product offerings and simplify the path to purchase. About 67% of electronics consumers want more personalized products — as do nearly 40% of cleaning products consumers and about one-third of grocery shoppers.

4. Integrate data for more personalized ads. Data collection should never be a one-sided affair. Although customers detest the misuse of their data, they’re more than happy to share their information if it’s used for advertisements that speak directly to them. Our survey found that 34% of respondents appreciate when brands develop personalized ads to help them make more informed consumer purchasing decisions.

These personalized ads can be influenced by traditional methods of insight gathering — or through buyers’ brick-and-mortar engagements, social media impressions, and other touchpoints. Digital natives such as millennials prefer personalized ads (62%), while 25% of grocery and restaurant patrons are each drawn to personalized ads.

An understanding of consumer context is critical for brands to understand what motivates purchases. Marketers that apply their knowledge of consumers’ unique needs will be more relevant throughout their customer buying journey, empowering shoppers to make informed purchase decisions that result in positive experiences with a brand.

For more shopper insights and information on ways to improve the consumer journey, download our report, “The Future of How People Shop.”