In today’s connected world, we’re practically drowning in a sea of information. If there’s anything we want to know, we can tap into a wide number of sources to educate and inform ourselves before we make a move. Shoppers are doing this in spades, carefully researching purchases on everything from smaller buys like dog treats to large buys like cars or furniture.

In fact, our Shopper Influence study of more than 6,000 recent purchasers in six product categories found that 76 percent of shoppers want to be as informed as possible before pulling out their wallets. We wanted to find out exactly where they were going to inform themselves, and exactly which sources influenced their final purchase decisions.

As you can imagine, these sources varied widely depending on the product category. However, one trend was consistent: shoppers are consulting multiple sources and they’re weighing the information they gather carefully as they travel down their own unique path to purchase. And this path is anything but linear. Because the information superhighway operates in a completely unrestrained ecosystem, the places shoppers can find content about their potential purchases are nearly endless. Shoppers’ behavior leading up to a purchase is harder than ever to predict.

The ‘Cookie-Pocalypse’ is Coming

So why is it so important to consider these issues right now? Well, the impending elimination of third-party cookies is one. No longer will advertisers be able to connect data with individuals to follow them around with targeted advertising. Other new restrictions, such as Apple’s latest privacy protection layers, further narrow the marketer’s tools. While some technology companies are scrambling to find workarounds, the bottom line is that trends are leading us towards a privacy-first environment and it will be harder to personalize consumer interactions in the digital landscape.

But you still need to capture your shoppers in the right place at the right time. You can’t leave it to chance, and you can’t rely on current technology to completely solve the problem. This is where a good consumer insights strategy can help you understand where to reach your customers. Good research can tell you, first-hand, where to focus your efforts.

Another Way: Better Consumer Research

We already know that your shoppers have vast amounts of information at their fingertips, and they access it before making any kind of purchase decision. You need to know the answers to a few questions to ensure you’re connecting with the right people. Where are they going for that information? How influential do they find it? What opportunities do I have to intersect with my shoppers at the right time?

You don’t want to take a scattershot approach with your precious budget. Therefore, it’s worth it to hone in on the sources that have the most influence over the final decision. Yes, your shoppers may be consulting YouTube, reading customer reviews, viewing online ads, reading the paper, watching TV, and talking to family and friends. But you want to know which one of these interactions puts the money on the proverbial table. This can give you direction on where to put in some significant effort.

Employing a consumer insights strategy that tells you which source shoppers use most and how influential it is can help. We use a formula like this: “Usage + Influence = Value.” The sources that shoppers are using the most and are most influential allow you to determine which are the most valuable, both to them and to your business. This is where to persuade the shopper to choose your product or service — it’s the “sweet spot” where the stakes are high. It’s time to take a different approach to discovering where to meet your potential customers and understand how to influence shopper decisions.