No matter what your products or services are, tapping into the way your customers think is central to any marketing campaign.
Attracting their attention, encouraging their efforts to make a purchase, developing trust between consumers and your brand. These are all goals to hit along the customer journey as we know it.
But where does digital marketing fit into all of this? Before we answer that question, let’s have a look at how customers interact with brands today.
The Changing Face of the Customer Journey
Going back to the 1960s, brands aimed to help their customers through the ‘purchase funnel’. This idea was a development of the AIDA model put forward by the US advertising legend E. St. Elmo Lewis, around the turn of the 20th century. It proposed four stages along the customer journey – Attention (or awareness), Interest, Desire and Action.
The ‘funnel’ element is intended to reflect the fact that potential customers will drop off at each stage of the journey, leaving a smaller number for you to connect with.
In other words, not everyone who is aware of your brand will be interested, not everyone who is interested in your products will choose your brand over your competitors and even then, not everyone will make that final leap to opening their wallet.
A slightly blunter explanation of the AIDA concept was memorably (and swearily) given by Alec Baldwin’s character Blake in the 1992 film Glengarry Glen Ross.
Of course, the funnel metaphor invites the question of what happens once a consumer reaches the end of the line. How do you get them to come back and purchase again? This brings us to the more modern, circular outlook on the customer journey.
Consumer Decision Journey
There are many variations on this, but let’s consider the ‘consumer decision journey’ outlined by McKinsey & Company in 2009.
While the more traditional idea of the customer journey by no means ignores loyalty, this model seeks to determine the moment where a customer’s embedded attitude towards your brand can affect their future purchasing decisions.
As you can see, giving customers a positive Post-Purchase Experience will increase the likelihood that they remain loyal to your brand. This means your work doesn’t stop once money has changed hands. If you want that customer to keep coming back for more, you have to make sure you stay one step ahead of your competitors.
There are many ways you can do this, but let’s focus on the role digital marketing can play in ensuring you create a profitable consumer decision journey.
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The Role of Digital Marketing
The campaigns we work on are all geared towards conversions, and a considered approach to digital marketing can help you achieve your targets.
Let’s take a look at the work we do.
We know that potential customers are researching you, so it makes sense for you to research them. As we’ve already said, you can’t hope to attract your customers without first knowing who they are and what makes them tick. That’s why investing time and resources into a fair chunk of research is a wise way to get your campaign underway.
Of course it can be tempting to sprint on ahead and start writing, tweeting and so forth, but by getting plenty of qualitative data first, you will have a much clearer idea of where you’re going.
Our Discovery phase might include:
- Google Analytics – Looking at the key pages on your site, identifying any potential areas for improvement. Which pages inspire the most conversions? Which pages aren’t quite pushing the customer into the Purchase stage?
- Competitor analysis – There are other brands fighting for a share of your market, and inevitably some of them will be doing this rather well. The Discovery phase is the time to find out why customers are opting for your competitors during their Active Evaluation, and what you can do to change that.
- User testing – Getting people to use your site is one of the best ways to find out where it's selling itself short. Bring in some volunteers and get them to carry out actions on your site, such as making a purchase. They will then be able to give you honest, impartial feedback about what was positive and negative about the process.
- Focus groups/surveys – Talking to people is a good way to get an idea of how your brand is perceived. You may well find potential reasons why people aren’t choosing your brand, and this may be occurring as early as the Initial Consideration without you even realising. Focus groups are also a good platform for floating new ideas and gauging the potential audience response.
Let’s face it, people can be impatient, and this can be one of the main obstacles stopping you from converting Initial Consideration into Closure.
A potential customer’s Research could well include checking who has the fastest, most easily navigable site, while search engines will give greater prominence to sites that provide the most positive overall experience, of which site . We want that to be you.
Extensive technical audits will highlight any areas where you could improve, from sorting out your site architecture and HTML to checking and augmenting page speeds.
We have even created our own page speed tester for mobile sites, so why not check your performance right now?
It’s important to keep track of all this stuff on a regular basis as well. You shouldn’t assume that a customer’s positive Post-Purchase Experience will last forever. The last thing you want is for customers to have a bad experience in future and feel like their loyalty was misplaced.
Your content will ultimately make or break the customer journey. During the Initial Consideration and Active Evaluation stages, consumers are comparing your content with that of your competitors, so you should make every effort to ensure yours is the best.
The Discovery phase should give you an idea of where to begin, the kind of content you should be creating and what you should be doing with it. This can be everything from improving the text content on a page to creating vibrant, exciting infographics that influential people in your industry will want to share and talk about.
Data can help keep you in tune with what your audience wants and give them the positive Initial Consideration experience they need to explore your brand further. For example, if you have found that people are looking at your products but not moving into the Purchase stage, it’s probably worth looking at these pages again.
Many people will shop around, so it’s normal to expect them to go and look elsewhere before potentially returning to you. But if you’re getting the traffic without seeing the conversions, you have a conundrum that needs to be solved. What is the call-to-action (CTA) here, and is it obvious to the reader what they should do next?
In addition to directly selling your products and services, cultivating a well-maintained, unique and engaging blog will be a good way to connect with that audience. If you’re still reading this, you’ve just proved that point.
Conversion Rate Optimisation
As the saying goes, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. While we obviously don’t condone that kind of thing at theEword, there may be times when you are unsure which way to go with your site, and that’s something we can definitely help with using Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO).
You might be torn between two or three different designs for your online payment forms, or unsure where on the page to include your CTAs. It could even be something as simple as wanting to choose between two different colours for your ‘Buy Now’ button.
What CRO will do is test these ideas to see which one your visitors respond to best. Both versions of your idea are tested simultaneously, with half your visitors seeing a page featuring one version and the other half presented with the alternative option.
Over a period of around six months, you can yield enough information to make an informed decision as to which option you should settle on. This is called A/B testing.
Essentially, if your site receives plenty of traffic but its conversion rate is low, CRO aims to improve the user experience to the point where you start to see people converting their Active Evaluation into a Purchase.
With paid search, you can ensure that once people have highlighted your brand during the Active Evaluation stage, you have a well-positioned, visible ad that is tailored to what your audience is looking for.
A well-structured campaign will help ensure your ads achieve the quality score necessary to get your ads seen by consumers, while the knowledge gained during Discovery will influence the information you push to the forefront in your ads.
By the time you come to create your ads, you should have a fair idea of what your audience will respond to best, as well as what your competitors are up to. For example, do you offer free shipping on your products? If your competitors don’t, this is an ideal opportunity to gain the upper hand.
Of course, two key considerations during the Discovery are when and where your target audience will be looking for your products. Be realistic here, you may wish to focus your energy on locations where you have fewer, or less well established competitors. It may be that you need to grow your brand gradually before taking on the big guns.
It’s also important to know when your target audience will be searching for your products, and you can let a combination of data and intuition be your guide. For instance, if your target audience is primarily students, history tells us that you probably won’t gain as much from pushing your ads out during the morning as you would during the afternoon.
In addition to persuasive text, ad extensions can also be used to good effect here. Consider what you want the audience to do (buy your products/services) and what your audience might want to do (look at their options and choose the best one).
A simple ‘call now’ button could tempt consumers for whom speed is a key factor, while including location info could reel in those who would prefer to visit your stores in person. Adding positive reviews and ratings from previous customers to your ad gives readers another chance to compare you favourably against competitors who perhaps haven’t bothered to highlight their own positive feedback – or didn’t have any to begin with.
These are just a few examples. The point is that by paying attention to your paid ads, you have a great chance to position yourself at the forefront of consumers’ minds as they consider all their options.
There’s so much to be said about the importance of social for retailers that we’ve already written about it, including how you can identify the best channels for your brand. However, let’s now consider social media in the context of how it can help you capitalise on the consumer decision journey.
Social provides you with another window to attract customers in the Initial Consideration stage.
Now is your chance to create a tone of voice that people can really engage with. There are numerous success stories of companies using humour, compassion and personality to inspire loyalty in their customers and give themselves an edge when consumers are deciding which company to choose.
Plenty of brands have even succeeded in doing this when dealing with a complaint. For example, last month the shoe retailer Clarks accidentally sold dad John Hinder two right-footed shoes for his son, Sam. On the face of it, a poor Post-Purchase Experience.
However, Mr Hinder posted a picture of the shoes on Clarks’ Facebook page and jokingly insisted that a drawing of Optimus Prime was the only way to cheer Sam up. The store swiftly responded with a new pair of shoes, the requested artwork and a letter from Optimus Prime himself.
The story was picked up by the national press, and this all stemmed from one quick response on a social media channel.
Of course, in addition to interacting with current and potential customers, social media is your platform to shout about all the great content you’ve put together, and this is an area we know all about.
Plenty of companies, including your competitors, will be writing and creating high quality, entertaining content. But this isn’t enough. It needs to be promoted, or you run the risk of slipping under the radar and wasting your efforts.
You never know, by posting something useful, original, witty or clever on a regular basis, you may even be able to trigger the Initial Consideration phase in someone who didn’t even know they wanted your product in the first place. Now that’s power.
If you’ve found this useful and would like to know more, why not come along to one of our Digital Marketing training sessions? As well as listening to us talk about what we do best, you can also bring questions for our experts, who will be only too pleased to answer you.
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