Five stages of your customers' buying journey
- 06 January 2016
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In an era of change, how can you sum up the process by which today’s consumer hears about your organisation, chooses a product and purchases it?
Industry experts have drawn up a whole selection of plans in an attempt to nail down the customer buying journey, making it easier to understand the process in order to improve it.
Here are the five stages that are most commonly mentioned:
- Awareness: the consumer becomes familiar with the brand through channels, including advertising and word-of-mouth.
- Consideration: realising that they have a need that must be met, the consumer actively considers whether or not to buy the product or service on offer.
- Purchase: the consumer makes the purchase.
- Retention: the customer uses the product, sometimes seeking guidance from provider or a user community, and perhaps being contacted by the provider to encourage brand loyalty.
- Advocacy: the customer spreads the word about the product – whether their opinion is positive or negative.
So far, so simple. Working out a way to deliver quality services for all these steps is nothing that a switched-on marketer can’t handle – except that customers are more demanding than ever, and undertaking their buying journeys in new and increasingly complex ways.
Multiple channels and devices mean that you have more methods to reach customers – but that they expect to be able to use their preferred methods at each stage, and at any time. Half of all online purchases in the US are now made on mobile devices, but 75% of in-store shoppers are using their mobile device while in store – the journey becomes more complex all the time.
Customers also increasingly want the journey to be truly personalised, built around their individual needs. That includes different purchasing options and more convenient customer service. They also want authenticity. That doesn’t mean your products have to be all-natural or hand-crafted – just that customers expect to have a human-level relationship with the business rather than pre-recorded and automated messages.
And, with so many different advocacy platforms that influence consumer behaviour, from Twitter and Amazon to dedicated review sites such as TripAdvisor, it is difficult for brands to control the message that consumers receive about their brand and respond to criticism.
To address these issues, here are some practical points to consider when designing each stage of the journey:
- Awareness: Boosting customer awareness depends on who your customers are – but the common theme is that reaching them at the right moment, and on the right platform, is critical. You can ask your customers via survey where they spend their time, but there are also tools to help you target your social media outreach by locating them. Alternatively, you can follow the tried and tested method of placing your own advertising in the same place as a more well-known competitor.
- Consideration: When so many Millennials won’t buy anything without consumer input it’s very important to prominently feature testimonials in your outlets. However, this doesn’t have to stop at posting people’s opinions – adding your own commentary on how your organisation helped them can give other customers an insight into your business, helping them to feel more involved with an authentic organisation run by real people.
- Purchase: Payment methods have become more diverse. However, you might not need to offer every method from cash to card to mobile payment – better to consider your customers and discover which they prefer so that you can offer a targeted range of useful options. Email/offline/social media surveys could help here or – if you have the budget – a focus group.
- Retention: Offering customers a wide variety of ways to interact with your organisation post-purchase can pay dividends – that means you shouldn’t hide the company phone number on the website just because it’s more convenient for you. Offering and advertising cross-platform digital, social media, telephone and in-person interaction will cover all the bases. It also helps if your front-line staff are able to make quick decisions. Customers will soon become frustrated if your service team don’t have access to the data they need and don’t have the flexibility to help. Customer Experience Insights recommends flipping the script – your service agents should need permission from a supervisor to say no to a customer request, rather than to say yes.
- Advocacy: Advocacy strategies should include proactive ways to deal with criticism and showcase praise. If a negative review starts trending on social media, for example, are you agile enough to contact that customer, assess the situation accurately and resolve their issue in a positive way? Can you actively seek out positive messages from key influencers and reward those people for their brand loyalty? Finding comments about your brand is the first step – through a free service such as Google Alerts, or perhaps a more advanced pay service.
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