Consumer journey


Consumer journey

We all know that the way people buy brands and products these days is complex. We also know that decision-making is often irrational, with device-laden consumers having access to information 24/7, and that peer influence is increasingly important. With many different factors influencing choice, newsbrands do have a role to play here, but before we look at the influence of newsbrands across the purchase journey it’s worth taking a broader perspective.


Dynamics of a consumer journey


Findings from our study ‘How people buy’ highlight that we, as consumers, are always on a journey to purchasing something, constantly storing ideas and brands in our minds, much akin to a Pinterest board. Passive absorption of brand associations before a decision journey is a powerful method of influencing purchases. As a result of this passive absorption, people tend to have a brand in mind right at the start of their consumer journey. Most consumer journeys consist of an assumed front runner, which will be cross examined through various touchpoints across the process to ensure its purchase won’t be regretted.

Of potential car buyers have only 1 brand in mind
Do not even look to test drive another car

For example, two thirds of people who embark on a journey to buy a new car are choosing between two brands, with 31% of potential car buyers having only one brand in mind at the start of their quest. Of these people with one car brand in mind, brand preference is so strong that 7/10 do not even look to test drive another brand.

It’s important to highlight here that there are different types of consumer journey, with different dynamics. In this instance, we have categorised journeys by length:


Short new: an everyday purchase such as grocery retail, where people already buy the product or visit the shop, and the goal is to maintain current penetration levels and encourage greater frequency

Short normal: an everyday purchase, where the goal is to disrupt people’s current purchase patterns and get them to buy either a new brand or to visit a new shop

Medium: A less regular purchase, where the purchase cycle is likely to be every 1-2 years e.g. mobile phone handset

Long: Where the purchase cycle is measured in years, likely to be 5+ e.g. car


This is relevant when acknowledging that the consumer journey is more about eliminating risk and making a “good enough” decision, than it is about making the perfect choice. 

Essentially, the journey is all about reducing worry and the dynamics of journey length come into play here. Particularly when it comes to longer journeys, the worry about making a mistake can be overwhelming to begin with. At the start of a buying journey people are anxious about making a mistake. Confidence only seems to rise towards the end of the decision-making process, at the penultimate stage, when it begins to overtake the worried state of mind.

Going back to the scenario of purchasing a new car, it seems that brand preference provides more confidence. People who have one brand in mind before they start the journey towards a car purchase are less worried at the start of their journey (39% compared with people who have no brand in mind) and are ultimately more confident that they have made the right choice by the end of the purchase journey (63% vs 41% for people who started with no brand in mind).

In navigating this world of choice, consumers’ actions have been shown to be driven far more by the fear of making the wrong decision than the desire to make a good one. Even when consumers strongly desire something they can still be consumed with worry by the potential, however small, that they have missed a crucial piece of information and are making a bad decision.


The roles media play in the consumer journey


Media play a key role in guiding people through the purchase journey and giving them confidence that they are making the right choice.

During the journey itself, we believe that there are seven roles that media brands can and do play in helping people making the decision as to which brand or product to buy. These include:

  • Frame: Shaping perceptions
  • Short cut: Helping people make decisions
  • Awareness: Showing what’s out there and is important
  • Tease: Gentle but persistent reminders
  • Inform: Providing a ‘real world’ perspective
  • Isolate: Providing a moment of clarity
  • Challenge: Stress testing assumptions
  • Confirm: Corroborating assumption


The influence of media doesn’t stop at purchase, there are two further roles that media play post purchase. Given the fact that a significant number of people are still worried once they have made the purchase, the role of media in generating satisfaction and confidence is vital:


  • Share: Comment and advocacy
  • Enjoy: Review satisfactions


The role for newsbrands across the journey

Newsbrands help reinforce values and help people determine what matters and what to spend time thinking about. This is as true of purchase decisions as it is of politics and culture; they provide a lens on the choices that matter and are worth considering. In our ‘How people buy’ study, 85% of respondents agreed that seeing a brand or product in their newsbrand gave them more confidence that it was right for them.

As such, UK newsbrands can be a powerful influence throughout consumer journeys, with both print and digital advertising as well as editorial content coming into play here. The ‘rightness’ inferred by newsbrands provides consumers with increased confidence that choosing brands, products and services within them are not decisions they will come to regret.

Say seeing a brand in their newsbrand gave them confidence it was right for them


Enabling people to semi-consciously absorb information on the products, brands and retailers out there and that are worth paying attention to, in order to create a strong sense of excitement and anticipation about a product or retailer so that it falls within someone’s consideration set. Newsbrands provide a moment of inspiration in the journey that helps isolate and hone in on a specific product or area and tend to be most influential when consumers naturally need to focus on making a choice.

Short cut

Presenting the right option at precisely the moment of need to completely bypass the effort of deliberating or cross-examining decisions. Newsbrands ability to fit within habits and routines throughout the day mean they are well placed to respond to needs as and when they arise.


Raising awareness of relevant new products and offers, often at earlier stages of the journey. Newsbrands are adept at turning something that people are aware of in the background to more immediate attention. They are able to cut through the noise and raise salience by leveraging the perceived trust and assumed relevance of the things they present.


Constantly reminding consumers of a product or brand via repeated exposure through adverts, keeping them middle-of-mind. The habitual nature of newsbrand consumption means they can provide the soft but steady drum beat that tips consumers from deliberation into action.


Providing additional detail and information about products to fill in gaps in knowledge and help make a ‘better’ decision. Newsbrands are trusted to provide more grounded insight into the ‘real life’ experience of a product or brand – sifting through the category jargon to inform consumers of what matters and what doesn’t about a potential product.


A new piece of information or feature that reinforces assumptions and brings a strong sense of clarity and focus to a decision, resulting in sufficient excitement to tip a consumer from a feeling of worry to a feeling of confidence that propels them towards a purchase. The role of newsbrands in this instance is to provide a moment of inspiration in the journey that helps isolate and hone in on a specific product or area. This tends to be most influential when consumers naturally need to focus on making a choice. Newsbrands have the power to amplify the excitement of TV ads and other touch-points through full-bleed / large adverts when a consumer is beginning to fix on a favourite.


Searching for information or ideas that tests assumptions to ensure you are not missing out on anything and won’t regret the decision. Primarily looking for reassurance that a front runner is the best choice; however, in some instances, new ideas are stumbled upon that completely re-draw the parameters of a consideration set. Newsbrands are one of the key means through which assumed consideration sets are thrown up in the air because their trusted status gives consumers confidence to re-think consideration sets.


Looking for information that consolidates a burgeoning belief or assumption and provides confidence in making a decision based on it. Newsbrands’ authority mean they act as a ‘rubber stamp’ to turn an assumption into a fact and eradicate any doubt about the appropriateness of making the purchase.


Experiencing and enjoying the purchase, including getting ideas and support to get the most out of it. We saw in the ‘How people buy’ research that a significant proportion of consumers still did not feel confident of their final choice. Media, including newsbrands can help them in the post-buying stage by making them feel they did the right thing, giving them ammunition to defend a decision and assistance to make the most of their choice.


Sharing or discussing buying choices with others afterwards including reviews, comments, advice, recommendations and questions. Newsbrand readers are more likely to share and recommend brands, based on their experience. In newsbrands, people find things for people like them, talked about by people like them and they make assumptions that people like them would approve of their choices – or at least be interested in their views. This helps seed ideas and filter choices for other potential buyers.

Short vs. long journeys

Due to the different journey dynamics, the role that newsbrands play can be different depending on the type of journey.

Longer journeys

Newsbrands lay the foundations for longer journeys and provide later stage reassurance, shaping the foundations:


  • Framing categories before the journey has consciously started to shape consideration sets
  • Informing of a product’s suitability to real life needs and experiences
  • Challenging and confirming assumptions to provide greater confidence in a decision – sometimes leading to sudden changes in consideration


Generally, these longer journeys involve a single assumed option being cross-examined through various touchpoints to ensure a decision will not be regretted. However, there are a minority of longer journeys which will still follow a classic ‘funnel’ approach to identify a long list of options to whittle down.

Shorter journeys

Newsbrands are well placed to disrupt shorter journeys. The everyday nature of newsbrands mean they can effortlessly:


  • Deliver decision shortcuts at the precise point of need
  • Raise awareness of specific products and offers that build on existing brand associations
  • Isolate or confirm messages received on other platforms and accelerate purchases

Summary of key learnings

Passive absorption of brand associations before a decision journey is a powerful method of influencing purchases. Newsbrands and other media shape the parameters of consumers’ consideration sets before they have even consciously begun a journey.

Most journeys consist of an assumed front-runner choice being cross-examined through various touchpoints to ensure its purchase won’t be regretted. The key need throughout is to find information and alternatives that confirm these initial assumptions.

Purchase cost does not dictate the length or complexity of a journey. Journeys are driven more by an individual’s personality and the extent/lack of differentiation within categories.

Short journeys are different from medium/long journeys. Considerations and risks differed due to the difference between making a decision and the decision.

When it comes to longer journeys, they are not necessarily planned, revealing a door to shortcuts and challenges. In fact, these kinds of purchases could happen at any time. There doesn’t appear to be a strong correlation between size of purchase and the level of planning that goes into it. Even bigger purchases, where thousands of pounds change hands, can be impulsive.

The curated and trusted nature of newsbrand content makes them key channels through which new ideas are serendipitously encountered. Newsbrands are a powerful means of challenging and turning assumptions upside-down.

Different channels work together to produce a ‘double whammy’ that disrupts purchasing habits.

Newsbrands’ role is often to provide the detail that confirms brand and product relevance.

What does this mean for advertisers?

In order for advertisers and brands to disrupt the consumer journey and make a prominent impact on consumers as they move through the purchase funnel, there are a number of principles which we believe you should follow:

  • Frame and set the stage early by seeding ideas on platforms that people trust in order to become the front runner and the brand in mind at the very start of the journey
  • Target messages according to the different needs across the journey for maximum impact
  • Disrupt the usual consideration set by providing short cuts and make buyers aware of new options
  • Tease and affirm throughout to keep confidence high and worry low
How people buy illustration

‘How people buy’ consumer journey planning tool

We know that the purchase decision journey is a complex one, as consumers have more and more ways of finding out about and choosing brands and products. We have created a tool to help media planners navigate this complexity when planning media campaigns.

With it you will be able to determine:

  • which channels are best at influencing different types of purchase
  • which channels have the greatest influence at the different stages of the purchase journey
  • how different media channels help consumers decide which brand/product to buy

The ‘How people buy’ research was commissioned by Newsworks and conducted with Flamingo, Tapestry and Dr Nick Southgate who explored the types of purchase journeys people make, as well as the role newsbrands and other media play in those journey stages. You can find a full overview on the study here.