Advertising and the customer journey: Three important considerations

7th Jul 2014

For the modern consumer, the online path to purchase is rarely straightforward. Before any purchase is even made, consumers would have carried out research on the product to find the best value available and if the product or brand is one that is trustworthy. As a result, modern marketers have to understand every aspect of the customer’s purchasing route online in order to ensure that their marketing efforts are effective at every stage of the customer’s journey.

Businesses from all types of sectors, such as banking, car and the health industry will benefit from having deep insight into a customer’s online purchasing behaviour and the interlacing journey customers undertake before committing to a sale. With this insight, businesses are able to greatly improve the ROI from their online advertising. In order to have this insight, there are three key aspects of the customer journey that marketers and brands should consider.

The customer journey is complex

The customer’s journey is one that is anything but linear: it starts online but often ends off line. This is apparent in the health industry; a highly competitive market with the highest quality products. Initially, customers will go online to carry out research into your product or service, sometimes visiting your website several times before deciding on whether to find out more or make a purchase. Each time, their visit may be for different reasons. The purchase process could have been triggered for instance by a display ad in a social forum, continued with organic search for the second visit or a paid search ad on the third visit where the customer may have been researching alternatives. The intention to purchase grows for every single visit. The more personal you can make the user experience, the higher probability that the consumer end up buying.

If your business is in the automotive industry, consumers often choose to talk to service providers for accessories like tyres and car windows but also for any car purchase, as the product is complex and requires personal consultation. A car purchase often starts with a test drive that was booked by a consumer calling the local dealership. This conversation is an offline event and is not visible in the different digital dashboards that marketers trust in their decision-making. If this event is not visible, the dealership and the car brand will not be able to understand the value of the marketing campaign, and they will not be able to improve audience targeting by understanding which ads that lead to test drives and finally to car purchases. Question the user journey data you look at in the traditional dashboard tools like Google Analytics, maybe these tools are not capturing most of your transaction events as they take place offline, over phone or in your store.

How to build loyalty and consumer trust

Trust is a critical factor for customers in their decision to purchase from your company. Giving consumers the option to speak to a company or brand is crucial for businesses that wish to build a relationship with their customers and give them the confidence to invest in their goods. Your sales people are one of your biggest assets in making sure consumers get a personal experience and become brand advocates. Make sure it’s easy for your online audience and your sales team to get connected, in written conversations like email and chat, as well as real time voice conversations. A consumer that chooses to call you, instead of using your contact form, often has 500% higher probability to buy. They have already made their decision; they want to buy here and now. Hence, they choose the only real time communication tool we have, a phone call.

Turn visitors into customers, and customers into great customers

As long as visitors stay online, as marketers we are spoiled with the opportunities to collect user data. As soon as the visitor choose to share their email with you, the user data that has been collected can be used to create automated email messaging with a personal touch. If the user started the procedure to make an application online for a car insurance, but dropped off, automated email tools start to send personal messages to the user, to nurture the lead and move them forward in the sales cycle. These tools for personalised messaging are highly effective, but unfortunately they also loose track of any user that jumps offline, just like the dashboard tools like Google Analytics. As a majority of the consumers, in most industry verticals, jumps offline sometimes in their decision process, the personalised messaging ends which in contrast has a highly negative effect on your conversion rates. The next generation of user journey tools that are now reaching the market, also collect the offline events like the phone calls, and make them an integral part of your messaging flow, making sure you never miss the opportunity to turn visitors into customers, and your customers into great customers.

There are many different ways to approach your online marketing strategy but what is important is to plan for all eventualities. You should always bear in mind how your customers will choose to find your product and service and ultimately, choose to make a purchase and not rely on just online forms and your webshop when you think online advertising. The online path-to-purchase often ends with a visitor talking to your sales representative to complete the purchase. If you do not cover the entire path-to-purchase, you may have big gaping holes in your data when you make decisions and automate your marketing.

Carl Holmquist is CEO and founder of Freespee.

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