The Path to Purchase used to be a bumpy dirt road with lots of switchbacks and dead ends. Advertisers and consumers expected their branding—the awareness and perception—to exist in one space, and their shopper marketing—the call to action in the aisle—in another.

Today, the Path to Purchase is a six-lane superhighway where brand advertising and shopper marketing co-exist in the utopia of our personal technology devices such as laptops, tablets and smartphones.

Consumers expect to engage with their brands whether they’re on the couch, in the car or at the mall. Even staid mediums such as outdoor advertising should benefit from the 24/7 connectedness of today’s consumer if they would only hit the accelerator and join the newer mediums in the fast lane.

Brand advertisers have been searching for a way to connect with the consumer via new mediums for some time. First there was the still ubiquitous “visit for more information,” then for a time we thought  QR codes were the future of digital engagement in display advertising and now we’re seeing some interesting attempts at engagement with things like augmented reality. But all of these attempts at shopper engagement by brand advertisers are destined to fail because it requires the consumer to move from platform to platform.

In order to maintain the shopper’s speed on the new Path to Purchase, marketers need to consider a digital network that is synonymous with shopping. We’ve seen some of the big social networks such as Facebook and Pinterest try to retrofit their purpose for shopping, but despite their tremendous audience size, they were created for consumer-generated content and don’t handle product feeds and branded marketing well. Google is trying to become a shopping network, too…but search isn’t shopping—it’s merely a step in the process.

Marketers need a network that is purpose-built for shopping; a network that has an audience ready and eager to engage instead of swapping recipes or connecting with high school sweethearts. We need a network that serves as the de facto layer between brand advertising and actionable in-aisle shopper marketing – instead of sending consumers to disparate places with disparate platforms to attempt engagement.

Consumers are always on the Path to Purchase these days, and in keeping with the roadway theme, marketers have made plenty of capital improvements to keep it running smoothly. But we’re ready for one more: a shopping network layer that keeps brands in the same lane as shoppers. There is no longer a break between brand advertising and shopper marketing; their confluence is better handled in a fluid manner where the shopper is not asked to do things over and over again as they are passed to different platforms.