How to adapt to the ever-evolving customer journey

loriwagoner
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Inbound Junction
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The customer journey, or buyer’s journey, is a fascinating concept. While the basic elements have remained more or less the same for hundreds of years, the details that businesses can capitalize on seemingly change by the hour.

For those who don’t know, the customer journey is typically made up of three core components: awareness, consideration, and purchase.

sales funnel

This cycle defines the way people have bought goods and services since the caveman first bartered a couple of firestones with the hunter for five pounds of deer. The current consumer landscape dictates how marketing and sales strategies are refined over time. Consumers are fully aware of brand messaging and sales tactics; therefore, finding the ideal formula to recognize their intent and eliminate their pain points is no easy task.

While there is certainly no one-size-fits-all approach, there are a handful of strategies that typically bode well across the board. Let’s discuss.

Place a heavy focus on educating before selling

We can’t ignore the constant change in brand-customer dynamics due to people being constantly exposed to brand messaging (for which we can thank the internet). In fact, the number of ads the average consumer is exposed to every day is estimated to be in the range of 4,000 to 10,000!

So it’s a safe bet to assume that most people have become quite numb to blatant sales tactics and getting promotions thrown in their face. In the marketing world, this is perhaps the biggest changing of tides in the past 20 years. If you want your brand messaging to actually resonate today, you need to place a focus on building valuable relationships and educating potential customers before you pile on the flashy deals and sales lingo.

The key ingredient to this is making it clear you are an expert source of information. Over time, this leads to trust. Trust leads to sales.

With this in mind, you need to devote a significant amount of your effort to the awareness and consideration stage. This type of content typically includes blog posts, educational videos, how-to guides, case studies, etc.

In the tech industry, such instances are easy to find. We know how Apple has spawned a large ecosystem around its iPhone, iPad, and iMac devices. Blogs that revolve around the features and tech that goes into these devices create all sorts of high value educational content on how to manage and navigate Apple products. For example, in one of their recent posts, iGeeksBlog provides detailed steps of what to do if your iPhone 6 or 6 Plus goes unresponsive.

iphone unresponsive

There is nothing promotional about this post, it’s purely geared to educate. The name of the game in this stage is user-friendliness. When you are aiming to educate, do your best to create content in simple terms, which the average consumer can understand and quickly put to use. Just like in any other relationship; if you get too complex too fast, you will surely lose their interest.

Prepare for mass takeover of voice search

Another one of the biggest changes in the modern customer journey is simply the way people find content online. Right now, we are in the midst of one of the most significant shifts the digital marketing world has ever seen: the vast adoption of voice search.

A ComScore study referred to in this article on Campaign found that as much as half of all online searches will be voice by 2020. If you want people to find and engage with your business online, you need to adapt your strategy accordingly.

Fortunately, there are a lot of advantages to this phenomenon. For one, you can learn a lot more about your potential customers from voice search. Let’s say you run an appliance store in San Jose, California. A typical text search for this type of business would probably look something like; “appliance stores San Jose.” This is too broad.

A voice search, on the other hand, will be very specific, like “Where can I buy a new Kenmore refrigerator in San Jose for under $2,000?” This gives you way more information on what kinds of queries people are searching for relevant to your business. With this information, you can optimize your site to answer these types of questions and target a segmented audience.

The task of adjusting your content for voice search isn’t simple. But that’s because the concept is so new. However, there are several strategies you can start with. For one, you need to make your web copy more conversational and natural sounding. Next, you need to target “long-tail keywords.” Voice searches are obviously much longer than text searches (and studies have found that the average voice search answer is 29 words).

Additionally, be sure to use microdata (schema markup) wisely. This helps search bots understand your content better and recognize “entities” within it. Consequently, the search engine will find better and more detailed answers to voice queries on your site.

Voice search is here to stay and will continue to carve out its place in the customer journey. The longer you wait to adjust your strategy, the further behind you will fall.

Provide instant customer support

One of the forgotten (yet most important) parts of the customer journey is gaining loyalty. Everyone has heard the numbers for how much more expensive it is to gain a new customer compared to keeping an old one. However, businesses often make the mistake of overlooking this aspect.

In terms of keeping people coming back after they’ve made the decision, the best thing you can do is be available when they need questions answered. One of the biggest side effects of the internet and the era of being constantly connected is an increasing lack of patience. When a customer has an issue, the last thing they want to do is sit on the phone and listen to excruciating elevator music while they navigate through recordings.

According to a study by LiveChat, demand for instantaneous communication features on websites grew by 8.3% last year. As you surely know by now, AI chatbots are all the rage in customer support. They provide prompt service 24/7, can answer FAQs, and can even make sales!

However, getting the bot to do all these effectively is not a simple task. They need to be properly trained, implemented and consistently refined in response to incoming customer data. Further, they must stay natural in the way they communicate with people. Chatbot providers like Dialogflow, for instance, use collated domain knowledge and natural language processing to match user inquiries with the appropriate context. As the chatbot undergoes more and more interactions, it picks up on social graces to better understand user intent.

dialogflow

While AI and machine learning can do amazing things in this regard, you need to make it a point to keep a close eye on how your chatbots are actually interacting with customers – and how your customers are reacting – and keep tweaking your service model accordingly. Quick and effective support is easily the top driver of customer loyalty.

Over to you

The customer journey is in a perpetual state of refinement. While the details will vary for different businesses, you need to be constantly aware of the latest trends and happenings in their industry, as well as the digital landscape as a whole. Most of all, you need to stay on top of changing consumer behavior and purchase habits. That will guarantee you a shot at success that’s as good as any other in business.

About loriwagoner

Lori Wagoner

Lori Wagoner is an independent content strategist who gives online marketing advice to small businesses. Lori has blogged at Tweak Your Biz, Customer Think and many other business and tech blogs. You can reach her @LoriDWagoner on Twitter.

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