It’s been a decade since smart digital agencies expanded their tactics beyond the awareness phase and adopted AIDA. Now the unprecedented marketing challenges of our time call for a more detailed view of purchase journeys.
Once upon a time, a digital agency’s role in the customer journey was limited to a very brief window, usually centered on capturing an acquisition from paid or organic search. What came afterwards was of less concern, as was what came before – as long as the sale came.
As digital matured and absorbed more of the best practices that had served traditional marketing for decades, smart agencies moved the focus onto the customer, and started to prioritise understanding their motivations and behaviours – the things that drive people online in the first place. This facilitated the adoption of AIDA and other models that sought to make clearer the digital buying journey.
But this is 2020, a year of unique challenges, as well as the usual growth in competition that comes with every passing 12 months. Simplified models such as AIDA no longer offer the depth of nuance or detail required to really tackle your company’s specific marketing challenges, or drive the level of growth needed.
It’s time to go deeper. But first, a recap.
What is AIDA?
AIDA is a hierarchical model that shows the stages a customer moves through when making a purchasing decision. The stages proposed by the AIDA model are AWARENESS, INTEREST, DESIRE and ACTION.
As an acknowledgement that most purchases require a degree of consideration, the AIDA model does a good job of broadening marketers’ views of their customers’ decision-making process.
Where it has been known to fall down is in the level of detail the model offers, particularly on the nuances between the stages and between different parts of the same stage. This is a hindrance to marketers because it tends to suggest gains can be made by applying a catch-all ‘attention stage’ tactic, rather than acknowledging that a variety of different ones will be useful depending on where someone is within the attention stage.
While it follows that traction can be gained by tailoring marketing efforts to different stages of the customer purchase journey, the effect is so much more powerful when marketers take a more detailed approach, mapping ideas and tactics onto individual moments.
What needs to be done?
The good news is we don’t need to rip AIDA up and start again. There’s nothing inherently wrong with hierarchical marketing models, but we can make them better.
The first thing we need to do is be more aware of intra-stage movement by customers. This refers not to movement between separate stages, but to movement within one of the stages. Contemporaneous and sequential customer actions are possible – likely, even – in each of the stages of AIDA, so let’s acknowledge this.
We also need to apply a level of experience and expertise, not just to the fleshing out of a more detailed purchase journey, but to making decisions as to what stage(s) of the journey provide(s) the best opportunities for capturing awareness, consideration and sales from customers. This isn’t easy, as it’s something that is based on years of experience in a particular sector, but the impact of the exercise is huge.
Finally, we should combine the above two things and appreciate the fact that if we take a more nuances and detailed approach to planning messaging, content and other tactics – plotting all of the right things in all of the right places – we’ll reap the benefits that come from going beyond a one-size-fits-all approach to marketing across stages.
- Acknowledge intra-stage movement within AIDA
- Use experience to identify warmest parts of journey
- Insert compelling content and tactics at the right stages
We’ve distilled our four-step approach to solving specific marketing problems and boosting campaigns and shared it with you below.
Following these steps will help you shed more light on your customers’ purchase journeys, identify where the challenges and opportunities are, and come up with ideas that are super-relevant to your customers’ needs at any given moment.
Break down the purchase journey
The first thing to do is to take your typical customer journey and ZOOM IN. Go beyond just the four stages and ask yourself what each of those stages themselves comprise. How many, and what type of, moments might appear in the attention stage, for example? Look at property marketing for a house purchase. Researching mortgages and Help to Buy, exploring areas in which to live, affordability and budgeting checks; all of these feature in the early stages of the process, during which developers and agents can begin to capture buyers, and, treated differently, each of these moments offers a solid opportunity to bring someone into the pipeline with content that relates directly to where they are in the journey, and their needs at that point. Try to break each stage of your current process down into three or four smaller stages, noting what actions the customer is undertaking at that point. By doing this you can quickly turn a basic, four-stage journey into a more detailed 16-step process, giving loads more insight into the actual process your customers go through.
Score each stage of the process
For each stage of the newly expanded purchase journey, assign two scores out of 10: an awareness score (how likely that moment is to result in someone becoming aware of the brand) and a conversion score (how likely that moment is to result in a conversion) and then add the two together for a total out of 20. This will give you a really clear idea of where the opportunities exist in each area and will even highlight the part of your customer journey that is warmest (the stage with the highest score out of 20, so in theory having higher awareness and conversion scores than others) overall. You can use this insight for a more targeted solution to problem-solving (attacking part of the funnel where you currently have an issue) or for more general growth. For property sales, one of the warmest moments in the whole process is around the engagement of estate agents, so enhanced marketing visibility around this time will be beneficial to those looking to get front-of-mind with a highly engaged and motivated audience.
Identify in-market interests and affinities
While you’re busy breaking down each stage of the purchase journey as above, make a note too of the motivations, barriers, interests and affinities influencing customers during each part. You can use tools like Google Analytics to get a more detailed view of customers’ in-market interests, meaning the products and services they also look at while looking at yours, using this information to create marketing content that is more likely to get noticed, as well as being perceived as relevant and timely. Why is this useful? It helps you to build up a list of secondary and tertiary interests that are relevant to your audience across different stages of the journey. So while their primary motivation for being on your site might be to look at a property, the user might be looking at mortgage lender websites, government sites, advice guides and forums at the same time. Is there an opportunity there for your brand to be more visible in that space?
Enhance your marketing plan
The answer is, of course, yes. Time for an ideas session – grab as many people as you can and start to come up with as many ideas for useful or interesting content as you can, for each stage of the customer journey. Sticking with the house purchase example, if you know that mortgage affordability checks are a key part of the journey, advice in that area could be a key content pillar. You could even develop a widget (eg mortgage calculator) to further enhance stickiness and shareability. The more you understand about the actions and influences that form your customer purchase journey, the more you enhance your ability to insert your brand into that process through content. Also, remember where your challenges and opportunities are: focus on generating ideas that tackle the former, and place them in the moments that offer the warmest chance to capture a customer.
AIDA is a great model for segmenting and visualising the different stages of your customers’ buying journey, which can help with mapping tactics onto appropriate moments. But, with only four stages, the AIDA model doesn’t necessarily provide the level of detail you need to solve specific marketing problems, nor does it account for the many smaller milestones that make up the journey and its phases. By drilling deeper and expanding your view of the buying cycle, you can learn more about your customers’ motivations, interests and challenges at each stage – and respond accordingly in your marketing.
Here’s a recap of our four-step approach:
Expand your AIDA model by breaking down the purchase journey
Start by chunking AIDA down into smaller sections, based on the actions your customers undertake as part of the purchase process. Include as many as you need, but try not to get too granular or hung up on minutiae.
Score each stage of the journey for prospect warmth
Assign scores for how likely a customer is to consider, and how likely they are to convert, at each stage of the newly expanded journey. Look for the ‘warmest’ moments, those at which consideration and conversion have scored highly – these represent your best chance to capture leads or sales.
Discover the interests and affinities of your audience
For each stage of the journey, find out what other in-market interests and affinities your customers have (this means other products/services they may need, or be interested in, while researching yours). This will help with generating ideas for media placements, content marketing opportunities and more.
Enhance your marketing plan with more targeted ideas
Using your more detailed view of the purchase journey, map appropriate pieces of content, and advertising formats, onto stages at which they are likely to have the best effect. Think about your tactics as being like tools you are equipping your customers with to help them progress to the next stage of their journey.
As the competition for winning customers becomes evermore fierce, brands with a more detailed view of their buyers’ motivations and barriers, who are able to market effectively to those personal triggers, will be the ones that stand to benefit.