Editor's note: Joe Beier is executive vice president on the consumer and shopper insights team at research firm GfK. Jason Boyd is vice president of consumer and shopper insights at GfK.

It’s not just that some purchase journeys have become more complex – this goes without saying, given all the devices and touchpoints that influence buying decisions. But today’s journeys are also much more diverse; in many cases, for example, consumers still want to buy things in the quickest ways possible – one reason that Amazon has become such a retail powerhouse.

This diversity of journeys makes it more essential than ever for marketers to home in on the evolving purchase paths for their categories. Simply knowing the steps – from desire to active shopping to buying – is Job 1 for every purchase journey program.

At the same time, the need to understand clearly which elements of a journey really moved the needle toward purchase has never been greater. With so many places where marketers can invest – social media, in-banner ads, in-store promos, traditional media campaigns – knowing which ones really make a difference for a given category is core information.

Today, it is up to researchers and their clients to take the search for purchase journey insights to a new level. Simply relying on tried-and-true sources is not enough; there are no cookie-cutter solutions anymore. Insights leaders need to become active seekers, to begin their own journeys toward truly differentiated data and learning.

We all know that researchers and marketers have more data about consumer purchase journeys than ever before. From online searches to loyalty card records to media use, information about consumer behavior has never been more abundant. But that data is often from diverse sources and combining data sets is not something that most researchers have mastered. In the past there was never a reason nor the material to work ...