How Your Audience Shops Beyond the Straight and Narrow
In the beginning there was ‘the product’. WHAT you had to sell, your goods or service, was the hero of every advertising piece, and this was enough. In time, marketing 1.0 evolved and the golden word became ‘customer’: getting to grips with WHO is buying what you have to offer, knowing their need state, what makes them tick and what they have for breakfast!
Today, one of the many ways in which online has changed the world of marketing, is getting to grips with HOW your customer interacts with your brand: identifying the different opportunities you have, through a myriad of channels, to influence your audience.
Truly understanding this whole new path to purchase is the difference between making your product a ‘nice to have’, or top of the shopping list.
The bottom line is, we’re shopping differently! In the retail space, there were several traditional ways in which we could influence shoppers to select our products or services. In-store touch points, shelving, displays, interactions with staff and signage, could all be used to steer customers in the right direction. Added to this, was the influence of brand perception, based on advertising.
One of the key reasons for this model was that brands controlled their image and reputation – targeting key consumers via carefully-crafted messages. The brands owned the road… and the journey was depicted as a simple linear process.
“Touch points were understood through the metaphor of a “funnel”—consumers start with a number of potential brands in mind (the wide end of the funnel), marketing is then directed at them as they methodically reduce that number and move through the funnel, and at the end they emerge with the one brand they chose to purchase.” www.mckinsey.com
The sheer proliferation of product choices and the number of digital channels – added to the fact that today’s customer is more discerning and well-informed than ever before – means that this linear path to purchase simply no longer applies.
Social is the new marketplace
The internet, social media, and mobile has changed how consumers connect with brands and source what they want to buy. Whereas before image advertising shaped what customers felt about products, today social conversations heavily influence brand perception. The old ‘shop floor’ where browsing would happen, has been replaced by social channels – Instagram, Facebook, Youtube and Twitter. Where shoppers would once ask floor staff for advice, they now interact via likes and shares and read customer reviews.
Think of the way a consumer might typically book an air flight. More and more, shoppers have taken control of the process, to gather and draw the information they need, when it suits them. In studies done by McKinsey & Co, two-thirds of the touch-points during a shopper’s information-gathering can involve consumer-driven activities – including reading internet reviews, word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and family, as well as online interactions and recollections of past experiences. Only one third involves active company-driven marketing. That’s a massive turn-around from the old days!
In other words, it’s less about ‘path to purchase’, and more about a journey of decision-making. The knock-on effect is that today’s brands have far more available channels and opportunities to connect with customers: embracing websites, mobile devices, traditional media channels, and retail stores. More chances to make moments of magic – all managed as part of a measurable, quantifiable journey. Done well – the result is not just sales, but strong and loyal customer-brand relationships.
Capitalise where it counts
A typical shopper decision journey can extend over several hours or days, with the most influential periods of exposure being pre- and post-purchase, where a consumer is considering, evaluating, and building expectations for products, brands and services.
The secret lies in intelligent, creative commerce marketing that uses consumer insights and learnings to understand how people are shopping and why – and developing solutions that have the right conversations, at the right time and in the right place. All with a view to influencing shopper behaviour and drive sales. And as with most good things in life – success is defined not only by the destination, but by the journey.