Keeping consumer attention for long enough to spark interest has always been a challenge. However, the always-on culture of the digital age means brands are competing to stand out in saturated markets and meet the demands of savvy, yet fickle customers.
Consumers are now met with brand messages at every turn. Although, however easy it is to find these messages, it’s just as easy to click away from them. That’s why understanding the journey buyers go through is more important now more than ever, particularly because businesses need to think about selling online and offline since the pandemic.
If you want your business to create awareness, capture attention and provide a smooth journey to conversion, read on to discover what you need to know about the customer journey.
Firstly, let’s start by clarifying what the ‘customer journey’ refers to. The customer journey is the typical process that a consumer goes through as they decide whether they will purchase and then what they will purchase. This considers the thought processes they go through and the steps they take as they move through what is called the sales funnel. It’s vital to address that this is the customer’s journey, and not your business’ particular sales journey, but you can take steps to understand and support this journey.
There are 5 stages to the Buyer’s Journey:
It all begins with awareness. This is when the buyer will realise that they have a problem, issue, need or desire that they want to address. Depending on the industry or their needs, this stage will likely involve deliberation over whether this need is a priority, and preliminary research of what’s available to support them. Generally, people are looking for a solution. The buyer is likely to ask what their issue is, what product or service will help them and what they should do before moving ahead with a decision to purchase.
At this point in the journey, your business should aim to be accessible and seek to communicate its value in the area or ability to address the issue. Start by considering what needs customers might be seeking to address and how they might find out about your business’ products and services.
For example, when the pandemic hit and all we could do was browse the internet at home, the demand for hygiene supplies and DIY products rose dramatically. Brands had to act quickly on the needs of the population and create rapid awareness of popular products such as face masks, testing kits etc. You can help to create awareness of your expertise by sharing content highlighting your knowledge in the field.
Making people aware of your expertise whether that be via a blog, an award etc… is more reassuring than any brand awareness campaign. Other points to consider at this stage are ensuring your search engine optimisation (SEO) is up to date to help your business rank against key search terms/phrases that potential buyers would be searching for. For example, ‘triple protection face masks’ is an example of what people would have been searching for throughout the pandemic. At this point you’re not engaging in hard sales but trying to make consumers aware of your business to try and build a potential relationship.
This is the next stage of the sales funnel. When a user types what they are looking for into a search engine they are met with a whole host of businesses offering the same product/service. They will then begin to educate themselves on each business’ message. This is where it is important to make sure you showcase your expertise in your field. Give statistics on how your product/service has benefited others, explain any key points of the product and how it differs from that of your competitors.
For example, if you are selling skincare, back up the claims with scientific evidence. You have probably seen the following in this type of product advertising - ‘Scientifically proven to….’ Also, highlighting any accreditations at this point is crucial. Has your product/service won any awards for example? This really aids in educating your potential customers about your business and what they can come to expect.
As a buyer progresses through the journey, they will now fully understand what their needs are and will begin considering their options. They are likely to have determined that they want to make a purchase but are now weighing up what’s available. During this consideration period they will look into different providers or brands, review price points and features and any offers that may be present. They will also address key information that will help them to decide on their preferred product, service, or brand. They will also look for reassurance in terms of reviews/testimonials from other consumers.
This stage is one of the most important for businesses as it is when you need to give clear information about what you offer and, crucially, how it stands out against competitors. This is the time for your brand to communicate information that will help the buyer choose you and ensure you’re in the prime locations where consumers will be searching.
Consider what you’re sharing on social media and how consistent you are with sharing content, how you rank in search engines, and how effective your advertising messages are. You should be making it as easy as possible for these interested buyers to find your business and explore your products and services. Aim to be informative, helpful, engaging, and inspiring rather than sales-led.
Once the buyer has made it through the first two stages, they will finally come to the decision stage. This is the time when they will decide to purchase after considering all their options or finding the perfect product or service through research – and hopefully this will be with your business!
Now is the time to ensure your buyer feels valued. It’s important that you consider the buyer throughout, before and after their journey with your business. You can also take this time to consider how the buyer found and evaluated your business. Ask yourself what criteria they used to find your business, why did they choose your business over competitors and how long did it take them to come to their final decision?
By the time the buyer has reached this step in their journey, you will hopefully have begun developing a relationship with them. This doesn’t stop here. Your communication, education, engagement, and customer care should continue to ensure you become a first port of call for customers who are looking for support with a particular issue or need.
The most important thing to remember when developing your marketing messages and activities is that the customer journey is not just about the decision to purchase. There are two key steps prior to this that will be influential at this crucial stage. Your marketing activities should focus on the awareness and consideration stages. Get these right and the decision stage should follow suit.
This is the last stage of the sales funnel for your potential customer. It is important to remember that consumers can be indecisive right up until the final hurdle. For example, a potential customer could add your product to their basket and then simply not check out. This could be for a number of reasons. These could include an offer code not working, the calculation of the delivery cost or that they simply can’t afford it at this present time. It is important to plan for all scenarios.
If for example, you don’t have an incentive for first-time customers, set up a tool such as Google Tag Manager to send an automatic email on abandonment of cart. The consumer may have entered all of their details such as email address, but then simply got distracted and didn’t follow through on the purchase. A simple reminder email letting them know you are aware of their decision to not purchase at that time and offering an incentive could make all the difference to the final outcome.