The new customer buying journey
Editorial

The new customer buying journey

Brands face the challenge of understanding a fragmented digital customer journey. How can marketers convey trust to consumers at each stage of the process, encouraging them to move on to the next?

For consumers in today’s digital world, there is no single route to purchase. Long gone are the days in which shopping meant walking into a store and paying with cash at the till. However, marketers who understand this buying journey can use it as a roadmap for winning and keeping customer trust.

Each customer’s journey is different, and they approach it with different levels of knowledge, often from different directions. As such, a sales funnel is no longer linear. However, some elements have remained consistent despite changing times:

Attention – ‘Build trust from the start’

Years ago, marketers would often grab the attention of customers with an eye-catching commercial or bill-board advertising a new product or service. Today, it’s accepted that consumers are often searching for what they need, and marketing must assist, rather than take charge.

Whichever way round it is, this stage represents ‘first contact’ between brand/product and the customer. Of course, customers often have a strong pre-existing association (be it positive or negative) with a brand, even though they haven’t yet become a customer.

Brands can build trust at this stage by displaying prices clearly, including any additional charges in the total. There’s nothing worse for a customer than being confronted with hidden costs further down the line. This comes across as disingenuous – a major red flag – and causes customer trust to plummet.

Interest – ‘Deal with negative feedback’

At this stage, customers may conduct research into the product or business, by browsing the brand’s website, and, increasingly, reading reviews and customer feedback. During this phase, customers will be looking for any reasons not to progress with their purchase. Negative feedback left on forums, review sites, or social media acts as a powerful disincentive. Although some criticism is inevitable, marketers should have systems in place for responding to dissatisfied customers, to publicly demonstrate that the brand is responsive, and is trying to resolve the problem. Silence appears, at best, aloof – at worst, suspicious.

Consideration – ‘The purchase as package’

Consumers at this stage are essentially convinced your product is right for them. Now, focus shifts to practical considerations, for example, delivery and returns. Most customers have high expectations these days, and anticipate being able to get a complete refund, even if there’s nothing wrong with the item. A limited or restrictive returns period may be seen as ‘sneaky’ and undermine their trust in your business. Many businesses don’t fully understand consumers’ legal rights in regards to returns, therefore, marketers should refresh their knowledge in this area.

For maximum transparency and clarity, it’s best to advertise your returns policy as early as possible in the buying journey to build customer trust.

Purchase – ‘Compliance and security’

When it comes to taking a payment from the customer, ensure your e-commerce platform adheres to best practice around encryption and security. Anything unprofessional-looking at this stage is bound to cause second thoughts from your potential customer. 

Also, it may be tempting to harvest the customers personal information for use in retargeting. Be extremely cautious to stay legal and compliant with GDPR; for example, newsletter checkboxes must be opt-in, rather than opt out with pre-ticked boxes.

Retention – ‘Think beyond conversion’ 

When the customer completes a purchase, the ‘sales’ aspect of the journey is complete. However, a crucial part of the ‘trust cycle’ has only just begun. If the product is not delivered on time; if it arrives damaged; if customer services fail to respond promptly; if the product doesn’t meet the customer’s expectations or develops faults; then the customer will undoubtedly lose trust in the brand.

Regardless of whether they receive a refund, the customer is then far less likely to make a repeat purchase. An opportunity to build brand loyalty has been lost, probably forever. However, if the order is fulfilled satisfactorily, then the brand can reasonably expect a customer to shop with them again.

As the infographic shows, marketers should consider each station on the purchase journey as an opportunity to instil faith in the customer and build trust in your business.

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