The ultimate goal of marketing is to reach the right audience, engage with them at the right time, and eventually convert them. As such, marketers are investing a lot of time and effort in finding the ideal touchpoints to push out the right message to impact the consumer’s purchase decision. With the array of touchpoints including digital websites, TV and radio commercials, street billboards, and many more, all of them have one main purpose, which is to direct consumers to the same destination; to any one point that is in business’s marketing funnel.
Note on the above mentioned focus to bring consumers into any one point of the funnel; this is because the marketing funnel, unlike years before the digitalization of marketing, is no longer linear. It is now a 360 pathway that is interlinked with multiple entries and exit points. It is exactly because of this evolution of the impact of marketing to purchase process that has made the study of consumer buyers journey and the alignment of your marking strategies even more important in today’s competitive world.
The Evolution of the Consumer Buyer Journey
Consumers today are bombarded with numerous product choices and information in the form of word of mouth reviews, customer testimonials, marketing campaigns, and promotional content. They are exposed to brand content whether they are ready to receive them or not. These content could come subtly via paid “advocates” who unassumingly pushes the product to you, it could also come in an extremely direct, “in your face” way of sponsored ads, billboards where the content spells out loud that they are here to sell.
Gone are the days where a brand would reach out to consumers who are their highest converting ones, and maybe occasionally throwing in a carrot or two to highly effective influencers that surrounds the main paymaster. Even further gone were the days where the brand just has to be at the right place when a consumer is ready to start consideration or purchase, where it’s almost like a “‘first come first serve sales process” where brands who get to the consumer first would almost certainly be the one they would choose to buy.
In today’s business market, we will find that more often than not, even before we know we want a product, we would already have a few names in mind by the time we are ready to start our consideration process. These names may come from conversations with friends, exposure to advertisements, in-store displays, or maybe somewhere along our Facebook feeds. Brands are faced with not just the problem of converting actual customers, but also impacting their community so that the overall brand appeal is positive, and hopefully much more positive than the competition.
Adding more complexity to the already elaborated consumer conversion rules is the compulsory need to build a community. A brand community. While in the past, having good reviews and word of mouth is deemed as a good to have, something that will help ease your marketing in time to come as it builds brand goodwill and referral; in today’s world, such communities cannot be done without. In this modern social media-driven society, brands that excel in the show and tell contest will eventually be the ones that hold the most loyal market share.
How to customize along with the change
Entrepreneurs and marketers of today will need to catch up with the change and get ahead of the game to succeed. There is a need for constant discovery and learning to ensure that all consumer engagement impacts are maximized.
Build strong brand awareness
Consumers are faced with plenty of product and brand choices since businesses are no longer restricted by physical barriers with the globalization of services (the internet, courier and shipping services, …etc) and the popularisation of E-commerce. As such, the best way to fight competition both local and alien is to ensure strong brand awareness and advocation. It is vital at this stage to ensure brand presence in as many touchpoints as possible, after all, it takes at least 5-7 times of engagement before a consumer converts. This is why both online and offline channels have to be taken into consideration. While digital is good for a wide range of reach, and also for a more cost-friendly engagement, it is often distracting and seen as a negative disruption for consumers. Offline on the other hand, although expensive, still works the best in terms of bringing out brand awareness impact.
Information, reviews, testimonials, social proof matters
After consumers are either aware of the brand or starting to have a need, the next steps would be to leave bread crumbs that will lead them to conversion. While there are many available channels to search for information, many today seek recommendations from peers, reviews, and neutral sites. How then do we influence consumers’ decision at this stage? A full array of information, reviews, ratings, presence in comparison sites and promotions are some of the must-have items.
The ultimate goal is to build an ecosystem that will be “self-sustainable’. To build a network of loyal advocates who will then help churn interest for your business. This is made very possible, and convenient with today’s social media-friendly market. Most users turn to social sharing after product consumption and this can easily go both ways, depending on their experience. It is important for brands to remember the power of post-purchase impact, and ensures that they do their best to keep it positive.
Wrapping it up
Understanding how consumers behave at each stage in the consumer decision journey allows marketers to logically tailor their marketing efforts and influence consumers at touch points in which they are most likely to be influenced. As complicated as it may seem, the change in the consumer decision journey brings about more opportunities for marketers to engage with their consumers and provide them the information needed to make purchase decisions.
One key element that marketers must keep in mind is that there is no sure way to success. While the study of consumer behavior guides the strategy, there still has to be some A/B testing done to ensure that the best method and message is utilized. It is vital to build an effective content management system to support all your advertising and creative content so that you can easily work around and change the formats, or customize tweaks to the content whenever necessary. While content flexibility is important, it is just as important to use channels that support flexibility. Tools like LinkedIn, Airvert, Facebook are some mediums which you can use to create cool campaigns that are flexible enough for optimization.
David C. Ederman (2010). HBR 10 Must Reads: On Strategic Marketing, Harvard Business Review.