Remember when buying something was as simple as seeing an ad, going to the store, talking to the store employee, comparing the different options, and making a purchasing decision?
Now we make online purchases, and before we do, we undergo a whole process that may take several days before culminating in a purchasing decision. During this time, we engage with brands through multiple channels.
Knowing at which point of the decision process a potential customer engages with your brand through a given channel gives you the advantage of being able to tailor that channel’s message to the consumer’s mindset at that moment. What better way to nurture the would-be customer’s desire for your product and help it grow into a purchasing decision?
The retail purchase funnel
The following graph depicts the point along the consumer journey at which each channel is accessed in the field of retail:
Keep reading to find out how to profit from that graph.
The customer journey
The channels accessed along the journey are divided into two categories: those that assist the customer in the decision-making process by building awareness, consideration and intent, and those that are accessed just prior to the purchase, helping the customer finalize the decision.
The channel’s position on the chart
The channel’s position on the chart and accompanying number are indications of the ratio at which a channel is accessed as an assisting interaction tool versus a last interaction tool. Those channels with a ratio greater than one indicate channels that serve as assisting interactions, while those with a ratio below one indicate channels that serve as last interactions.
The role of each channel and how to take advantage of it to boost online retail sales
Step 1: Awareness
Email and display click generally come into play early on in the customer journey to online purchase, building awareness for the brand and for the product.
Use emails and landing pages linked to your display ads to capture the consumer’s interest. Provide information about your product, and help the consumer along to the next step in the purchase funnel by making your product seem intriguing, useful and desirable.
Step 2: Consideration
Social channels are accessed a little further along the journey, helping the consumer consider the product and think of purchasing it.
Social media is a great opportunity to use pictures and videos showing the product in use. These visual cues will push consumers to envision themselves using the product, which is only one step removed from picturing buying the product. Use funny, witty or informative visual content to encourage reposting by your audience and hold contests where those who repost have a chance of winning something. Seeing a product endorsed by a friend, co-worker or family member will make it even more enticing.
Step 3: Intent
Paid search (green dot on the graph) and referrals (pink dot on the graph; also called “Paid search”) drive the customer’s intent to purchase the product.
Invest in paid search ads for keywords that indicate that customers are already inclined to purchase a given product, as this is when they are most likely to interact with a brand through paid search. For example, if a consumer performs a search for “buy vacuum online,” quite likely they have already decided to purchase a vacuum and are considering different brands and different models.
Advertising your vacuum for this keyword phrase helps you target already interested consumers. Direct them towards your vacuums by having yours show up at the top of the search results page.
Step 4: Decision
Other paid referrals, organic search and direct interaction are accessed late in the decision-making process. By now consumers have a pretty good idea that they want to buy the product, and you want to convince them that they want to buy it from you.
This is where kick-ass digital marketing and stellar web design are your friends. Actually, these are always your friends, but now customers are ready to buy and digital marketing will bring them to your website and excellent web design will keep them there, interacting directly with your brand.
Target all potential buyers: nuance your message
As we have covered, social sources, display clicks and email are strongly associated with the assisting phases of the purchasing journey, and direct contact is mainly used as a last interaction before making a decision. However, as you can see from the chart below, organic search, paid search, other paid methods and referrals tend to fall in the middle of the assisting interaction/last interaction continuum, meaning they can be used by consumers at any stage of the purchasing process.
Don’t shortchange yourself by focusing a channel’s message exclusively on one type of customer at the expense of others, but do optimize your reach by targeting customers according to where they are likely to be in the purchasing journey.
For example, accessing your website (direct interaction) tends to be a last interaction before making the purchasing decision, but a customer may also access your website in the earlier stages of their decision process. You should target those who already know what they want to buy while also providing information for those who are just browsing.
But you can use your knowledge of where your customer is likely to be in their purchasing process by giving prominence on your homepage to the information for more decided customers, while having the more informative content on landing pages accessed through email links and display ads for those who are still building an awareness for your product.
You can’t be everything to everyone but you can nuance your message to target the right people without leaving anyone behind — especially when you know where your customers probably are in their purchasing journey when they access a particular channel.