The traditional consumer journey has evolved dramatically over the years, with eCommerce fundamentally changing the way consumers purchase products.
While we have often heard the phrase that “consumer is king”, it’s truer now more than ever. With brands competing to win larger customer shares, consumers can make a choice from thousands of brands for similar products.
Around 20 to 30 years back, the consumer journey would start by either identifying a need or seeing an ad on billboards, newspapers, radio and or TV. Consumers would learn about the products and go to purchase it in store. However, it is no longer a single journey but rather an amalgamation of many small journeys that lead to a purchase.
What is the consumer journey?
The consumer journey is a detailed representation of the process someone goes through to become a customer. It sets out all every interaction they have with your brand – from awareness, to research and even advocacy.
In the world of eCommerce, the consumer journey includes all the digital touchpoints that your brand has with a customer. These could take place across websites, social media, online marketplaces, search engines, apps or other channels as shoppers use their desktop, mobile or other smart device.
Creating a customer journey map allows businesses to understand the experiences and needs of their target audience. These insights also empower marketers to target consumers with tailored content and remove any barriers to conversion.
Evolving digital touchpoints
The Moment of Truth (MoT) was a concept introduced by Jan Carlzon in 1981 and later modified by P&G.
The first moment of truth is when the customer is looking at the product whether in-store or online, and the second MoT is when the customer buys the product and uses it.
The third Moment of Truth is similar to advocacy when consumer share whether they liked the product or not.
Google coined the term Zero Moment of Truth of (ZMOT), with the internet being widely accessible, consumers increasingly begin to research products before purchasing them. It is based on the findings from a study that showed that 50% of shoppers researched the product on search engines, 38% compared the prices and review, and 31% read the online recommendations.
The brand is responsible to give the consumers the right information at the right time, using the different channels that consumer interact with. If content is the king, context is the queen.
This is also of key importance for strategic planning and attributing budgets based on the best performing channels.
Consumers may discover the brands through various channels, whether it be a search display network, social media or in-store. The search for products conducted via voice search, smartphones and or via desktops.
Consumers will closely check the reviews and ratings before buying products online, and the purchase itself can be through different channels, including in-store, from marketplaces or from the online shop. Modern day consumers even want various options when it comes to delivery of the product. This is why omni-channel marketing for brands is so important.
How has the consumer journey changed?
Today, citizens across the UK and parts of Europe have access to an average of nine connected devices. In the US, this figure is even higher at around ten. With a world of content at our fingertips, the customer journey has evolved and expanded significantly bringing new channels, pathways and advertising opportunities into the mix.
The consumer journey begins with the awareness stage, so you need to make it easy for people to find your brand’s products.
Traditionally, consumers first became aware of a product from advertisements or PR presented through television, radio, newspapers and magazines. Then they could buy it in-store after consulting with friends, family or store clerks.
With the rise of the internet, the way consumers hear about, research and buy products has changed completely. There are many more channels to discover and research products, including search engines, social media and review sites to name just a few. There are more ways to purchase products online too.
Digital path to purchase
The modern consumer journey is less linear than the traditional consumer journey of the pre-digital age. Customers are now much more likely to discover new brands during the research or consideration stage of their journey.
For example, someone who considers buying an Apple iPhone may discover a whole host of alternatives while researching on Google, Amazon or a tech blog.
In the past, consumers would usually narrow down their options at this stage of the journey, but now there are many more digital paths to purchase that influence conversion.
Another unique feature of the digital consumer journey is that communications now go both ways. With just a couple of clicks, consumers can find the answer to any question about your industry, brand, or products. They can also read or share reviews, ratings and FAQs on websites, social media or marketplace listings.
Different stages of the modern consumer journey
Shoppers are more proactive than ever before and this has influenced each step of the digital consumer journey:
At this early stage, consumers have a need, but they may not even realize it yet. They are not actively looking for a product, but are still receptive to advertisements.
You can use videos, blogs, FAQs, social media content, and OTT ads to capture consumers’ attention at this stage in the journey. You can also use tracking pixels, newsletter sign ups and social media to stay front of mind with them until they are ready to convert.
In the traditional customer journey, this where billboards and large scale above-the-line advertising campaigns would have been the strategy.
At this point in the journey, consumers know they need a product or solution and the vast majority of them turn to the internet to do their research.
At this point, you need to let people know how your product can help using case studies, testimonials, reviews, product comparisons, demos and fine-tuned product listings. Consider the digital shelf as your virtual store front – it needs to show off your product in all its glory!
Conversion is one of the most challenging stages in the modern customer journey, with shopping cart abandonment rate at an eye watering 69.8%.
You need to ensure you make the digital path to purchase as smooth and seamless as possible to avoid losing customers at this late stage.
Think about the different payment options you provide, the layout and copy of your checkout page, and how easy you make it for customers to sail through the process.
Many digital shoppers are more comfortable buying products on marketplaces such as Amazon than a direct-to-consumer store. By providing the option for consumers to purchase where-ever they like, a ‘Where to Buy‘ solution can help boost brands’ success as the conversion stage in the customer journey.
In the digital consumer journey, engagement continues after shoppers have made a purchase.
In the advocacy stage, shoppers may share their experience of your product by posting user generated content online. This can include reviews, ratings, product questions, pictures, and more. If you’ve provided a first-class journey, you will see the pay off as your happy customers will help you to convert more buyers.
Research shows that post-purchase consumers are receptive to ads for complementary products too. Depending on what you’re selling, you could dramatically increase the customer lifetime value of your buyers.
Modern consumers and cross channel marketing
So, you may be wondering how your brand can adapt to the modern consumer? Here are some pointers that brand marketers should adhere to in 2021.
Deliver the right message at the right time
New pathways and online channels in the modern consumer journey make tracking and analytics more complex. But the detailed data available today also means marketers can reach prospects with carefully tailored messages at critical moments in the digital customer journey.
For example, when someone who is ready to make a purchase searches ‘football boots’ on Amazon, Adidas can present them with a sponsored ad.
On Google, when someone searches ‘Buy protein powder’, they’ll see a series of relevant ads along with lots of organic search results. If someone reads Braun’s blog post on ‘How to cut your hair’, they can then be retargeted with ads for the brand’s hair clippers.
Be smart about your online presence
Ensure that you have your brand’s presence on multiple channels such as website, marketplaces and social media and outline the different objectives these channels are going to solve for. Your brand strategy should be focused on exploring and improving the retail footprint.
Consider whether it is vital for you to have presence at a retailer level or not. For example, Bose decided to close all of its stores in Japan, US, Europe, and Australia. They will now sell online and via retailers only in an effort to adapt to the change in consumer needs. It is not always necessary to have a physical presence, especially if a brand has very strong brand awareness in the market already.
Never stop measuring the consumer journey
Being familiar with the consumer journey allows marketers to identify which touchpoints are most important and where there are problems that may prevent conversion. It helps you to make informed decisions, which boost performance while also improving marketing ROI.
On top of this, monitoring the customer journey has been shown to improve overall business performance. After all, you can’t optimize what you don’t know!
How ChannelSight helps you understand the consumer journey
As the digital consumer journey evolves, it can be difficult to keep track of every online interaction. Website analytics and UTM tracking can help, but ChannelSight provides an unprecedented level of product and basket level data. With this data, you can learn from every sale and streamline every path to purchase.