Buying process at a turning point – do you lead your customers through the buyer's journey?
In March, we shed some light on the subject of omnichannel marketing in our blog. Mapping out the customer's digital journey and defining the roles of different marketing channels are some of the most important elements of omnichannel marketing.
This month we'll take a look at the digital buying process. The buyer's journey is a series of contact points that a company has decided to utilize in their communications. A great number of different paths can be taken through these points, which ultimately leads the customer to a purchase decision.
The buyer's journey has been depicted with the AIDA funnel (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action) for decades. However, the customer's buying process hasn't been a funnel in a very long time, but more like a network where the movement happens fluently back and forth and which can be jumped into at every point.
The basic stages of buying have stayed the same, though: attention still first leads to evaluation and then a purchase decision, possibly turning into a loyal customership or recommendations of the products or services of the company.
There is no single right answer to the number of paths. New paths are created in unexpected places which makes monitoring them even more important. It is essential to understand how to offer your target groups options on how to proceed in the different stages of the buying process. It pays off to put effort into the analytics of the path so you'll be able to minimize the bottlenecks and breaking points in the buyer's journey.
Image: In social media advertising it pays off to use content that produces additional value to the target group.
Remember that every touchpoint of the company has to act as a navigator to the customers that want to move to the next stage of the buying process.
Different channels can also have different roles on the path. Newsletters can boost the popularity of a product or a company but at the same time inform existing customers about new products or changes in services. In addition, social media channels can simultaneously work for advertising, as well as customer service purposes.
Image: Liana Technologies' tools on the customer journey. See the interactive version here.
The buyer's journey is nowadays a jungle of technology. Companies can't dictate the channels they're present in anymore, the power has shifted to the customer. Liana Technologies' mission is to provide a product family for marketing professionals that helps serve the customer at every stage of the buyer's journey.
Stage 1: Awareness
When a company is being made known in the digital environment, it is essential to offer content to the target group in a natural channel and in the most suitable way for the channel. For example, on social media the content is concise and easy to digest, when in blogs and newsletters the thoughts sparked up on social media are elaborated on.
Search engine visibility is crucial to a company despite of the industry. Putting it harshly your company doesn't exist if it doesn't appear on the first page of Google's search results. You should also make a note of the fact that searches are made with different devices so your content should also be optimized for mobile devices.
The most important goals of the awareness stage are that a) the customer knows that the company exists and offers certain things and b) remembers it in the future as well.
The most important technologies for increasing awareness:
- Responsive sites with careful search engine optimization
- A platform that enables you to easily create targeted landing pages for product launches and campaigns
- A working and comprehensive service for press release distribution
- A tool for social media and media visibility monitoring
The most important functions for visibility:
- Optimize the search engine visibility of your sites and if possible, be involved in the content your partners offer as well
- Target your content carefully, whether it's a newsletter or a social media ad
- Aim to create content that your network shares forward
- Ensure that your content is technically and visually high quality and that it works on mobile as well
- Make sure that the recipient of your content knows where to find additional information
- Offer value for clicking your ad – guides, discount codes etc. are great solutions
- Consider whether it's wortwhile for the clickers to be directed to a targeted landing page instead of your homepage on social media campaigns
- Don't forget the power of the media and use traditional media to inform about your company's events as well
- Monitor and analyze your visibility on social and other media to find the starting points of a buyer's journey that you didn't anticipate
- Take care of your existing customers – you shouldn't underestimate the power of the grapevine as a booster of your popularity
Stage 2: Evaluation
Every industry and product has their own buying process that varies from impulse purchases to months of consideration. Especially in bigger purchases the decision cannot be made immediately and the marketing contents of a company should always be directed to several branching paths. The invitation to start the buying process immediately has to be in all content but the customer also needs to have time to consider. It's a good idea to offer alternative contents that aim to lead the customer towards the purchase decision.
If you only offer the possibility to buy or not to buy, you often force the customer to make the final decision too soon and a valuable contact is lost when other possibilities besides buying are not offered. The evaluation period is a good moment for your company to shine with your know-how in the shape of high-quality content marketing and convince the customer that you are a professional and reliable partner.
If the customer, for one reason or another, doesn't complete any of the suggested actions and the path is cut short for them, marketing automation helps to identify some of these lost customers and relevant messages can be targeted at them. This way they can be redirected to the path to customership.
The most important goals for your company during the evaluation period are a) convincing the customer that you are the best in your field and b) reinforcing the feeling that the customer needs the product you're offering.
Technologies you should take advantage of in the evaluation stage:
- Email marketing
- A publishing platform that enables you to provide information and expert content
- An automation system that helps you implement triggered messages and shopping cart reminders
- Monitoring and analytics so you can choose the right time to be in contact
During the evaluation period, offer your customers:
- The possibility to subscribe to your newsletter
- A summary of blog contents
- Tips on how to use a product or service that's under evaluation
- The possibility to follow the company on social media channels
- Good service with online and offline working well together
- An RSS feed of the company's news and/or newsletters
- An easy way to ask or search for more info and get quick answers to questions
- References and case examples from your customers
If the customer has expressed interest but the process has been cut short, you can take advantage of different kinds of automated messages like Drip campaigns or webstore marketing automation. The main thing is not to forget the contact.
Stage 3: Purchase decision
During the evaluation period the customer makes analytical comparisons and considers their own needs. The next step towards a purchase is being made. However, the purchase decision can still be backed away from if you don't make the next step easy enough. The buyer's mood might shift if processing the payment is too difficult, there is ambiguity in prices or if the company doesn't react fast enough to the issues that are holding the customer back.
If you hide the actual buying behind too many steps, the buyer might become frustrated and back out of the purchase decision. Therefore, offer a clear buying CTA in all of your content.
The most important goal in refining the buying process is to make your customer journey seem effortless.
The most important technologies for a purchase decision:
- A publishing system that enables you to create a high-quality outlook and guaranteed functionality
- A webstore where paying is easy and that works on mobile as well
- Newsletters for marketing special offers and new products
- An automation system that enables sending offers at the right time to the right target
Integrations between different systems
Raise the odds of a positive purchase decision:
- Put effort into the operational reliability of your webstore
- Make sure you have up-to-date price information and integrate your stock systems into your webstore
- Aim to remove everything that slows down the buying process
- Make sure that you provide all the necessary information on your site and that the details don't change during the buying process
- Answer inquiries and questions promptly
- Use automation to gather data and events that enable you to send timely messages
Stage 4: Loyal customers and recommendations
Your company has in one way or another reached its goal and the customer has made a positive purchase decision. However, the path doesn't end here. High-quality customer service and communication are crucial when it is desired that the customer stays a loyal customer and makes more purchases. The additional value that excellent content marketing brings to existing customers shouldn't be underrated.
The most important goals of the customership stage are creating a) loyal customers that stay with you and continue to make purchases from you and b) people who recommend you and spread the word about your company, creating new paths for new buyers.
Image: Feedback surveys are an important part of customer service development.
The most important technologies for nurturing a customership:
- Multi-channel support services (email, feedback forms, chat and phone, for instance)
- Media and online monitoring in order to answer customer inquiries also in the channels that you initially weren't prepared for
- Newsletters to inform your customers and offer content that has additional value
This is how you keep your customers happy and boost your brand on the grapevine:
- Welcome the customer at the start of the customership
- Notify the customer about changes in services and prices with a frequent newsletter, for example
- Inform your customer about legislative amendments and other important changes in the industry
- Notify about possible service outages
- Offer the possibility to test new products at a reduced price
- Offer support through as many channels as possible
- Make sure that the reaction time of your support doesn't stretch out too long
- Ask for feedback at regular intervals
- Send your loyal customers greetings for Christmas or other seasonal events
Offer an incentive for recommendations
Are you familiar with the buyer's journey that the customers of your own company take? Liana Technologies offers help to everyday challenges with software solutions that cover every step of the buyer's journey. With LianaMailer newsletter tool you can handle your email marketing from event invitations to feedback surveys. With LianaCMS publishing system you publish your content with modern responsive technology that is designed for mobile platforms as well and LianaCommerce is a platform for your webstore. LianaPress press release distribution system brings a vast media database within your reach and with LianaMonitor you are able to monitor your visibility on social and other media, and in web content overall. With LianaCEM automation platform you can gather data from all your marketing channels and develop your communications to be more and more targeted.
Contact us if you need development advice in terms of digital communication!