Just when you think you know the customer journey, think again. In the digital age, new paths to purchase are forged at the tap of a touch screen. According to a Think with Google report, “How intent is redefining the marketing funnel,” as people turn to their devices for immediate answers, no two customer journeys are exactly alike. Even within the same category (say, a search for “best washing machine sales”), customer journeys take multiple shapes.
“Today, people are no longer following a linear path from awareness to consideration to purchase,” according to Google. “They are narrowing and broadening their consideration set in unique and unpredictable moments.”
Today’s customer journey is paved with personalization and multiple searches. Before a purchasing decision is made, today’s empowered consumer may zigzag from researching “best washer brands” as well as the entire category, e.g., “front loader vs. top loader,” to gathering specific details on multiple washers, to finding product reviews and searching “washer sales near me.” And these searches are in no particular order!
Navigating the tangled customer journey is like a Visa commercial: “It’s everywhere you want to be.” In “RE:MARKET: New digital techniques independent retailers can use now to compete better, grow faster and work smarter” (RWS, 2017), we explored the distinction between multichannel and omnichannel marketing:
While multichannel marketing is simply all the channels, or touchpoints, in which a consumer comes in contact with your store, i.e., your mobile site, Google Display and Facebook advertising, landing pages, in-store visits and more; an omnichannel approach, when implemented effectively, merges the multiple marketing channels by creating consistent experiences every time a consumer comes in contact with your store, virtually and physically.
This “merging of marketing channels” through consistency of your store’s brand and message is key to guiding consumers along their journeys, rather than trying to keep up with all the twists and turns they may take. And when done right, it’s an opportunity of discovery for independent retailers despite consumers’ labyrinth to purchase. To get started, here are five ways consumers’ many paths to purchase can lead to discovery of your store—and turn them into customers:
- 1. Leverage national manufacturer promotions. If you’re not already doing so, tap into these professionally produced, seasonal and product-specific campaigns to reach consumers along their journeys and lead them to your store. By leveraging manufacturer promotions, your store is sure to show up where potential customers are looking—Google searches, apps and social media on mobile devices and more.
- 2. Build your online ad inventory. Online advertising such as Google Search, Display and Facebook ads, is an effective way to get noticed along potential customers’ journeys as you build brand awareness and convey compelling messaging. In addition to manufacturer promotions, consider creating an inventory of “evergreen” ads with calls to action and corresponding landing pages that run year around to remain top of mind and tell consumers why they should choose your store over the competition.
- 3. Seize organic opportunities. While an online ad strategy is essential to reaching the consumer along their journey, don’t miss the opportunity to connect with and influence consumers naturally, i.e., through non-sponsored, organic impressions. Organic content is now tied to brand searches, trending topics and image searches on Google and social platforms such as Facebook. Intelligent software follows the consumer path through their searches and displays relevant Google text results organically as well as displays product placement on the homepage of a site visited.
- 4. Optimize before expanding. Many retailers think better marketing is accomplished by doing more things: running more ads, writing more blog posts, etc. Before adding to your activities, make sure what you’re already doing is done as well as possible. For example, if you haven’t yet made sure your website indicates which products are on display in your store, a modest amount of time invested in making this improvement will earn you return by itself, as well as multiply your return from any future advertising you do that increases more prospects to your site.
- 5. Send prospects to a quality destination. All digital marketing activities are designed to get more prospects to your website and your store. Nothing impacts conversion more than the quality of the destination. Insist on the highest standards. Make sure every click takes prospects to a landing page that’s directly related to what they clicked on, visually similar and includes all pertinent details. Also, it must provide clear paths such as participating products they can click to learn more and add to a cart.
Ultimately, each digital touchpoint along the customer journey is an opportunity of discovery for your store. And as paths to purchase continue to branch out, consistency and relevance will remain the keys to the castle.