Why Brands Need to Understand the Customer Journey

“If marketing has one goal, it’s to reach consumers at the moments that most influence their decisions.” – McKinsey & Co.

The traditional purchase funnel has changed dramatically. In its place is a ‘consumer decision journey’ that incorporates customer experience and brand advocacy.

It’s critical for brands to understand how journey mapping – or the consumer buying process – has evolved to effectively influence consumers at the moments that matter.

How digital has exploded the funnel

Digital advancements have transformed the old-school funnel into a far more complex cycle.

This is because consumers are continually more fragmented across channels, devices and platforms than they’ve ever been.

And with instant access to a wealth of information at the touch of a button, consumers will consider a greater number of brands and products at the start of their journey than in the pre-digital era.

This gives brands far more opportunities to consider alongside competitors, with a greater number of specific touchpoints to engage their target audience.

Our latest statistics show that buying online is a mobile-first activity – with over half (57%) of PC shoppers using mobiles to buy items online.

Just under half (47%) of mobile shoppers are also doing so on PCs/laptops.

The decision to purchase a car, for example, typically involves months of research spreading across countless touchpoints – each playing a vital role in the final decision.

study by Luth Research tracked the car-buying journey of a 32-year-old mother of two. The study revealed her research included over 900 digital interactions across a range of different channels, including manufacturer websites, dealer websites, review websites, Google, and YouTube.

This shows just how much the buying process has splintered, and why it’s so essential for today’s brands to have ready access to granular insight.

How data has made a difference

But while digital has disrupted the traditional funnel, it has also enabled brands to gather unprecedented levels of insight that traditional methods of research such as call center surverys and focus groups could not.

This includes insight into the many ways consumers interact online, and what prompts their decisions, giving marketers a much deeper understanding of the customers buying behaviors and even customer emotions.

Brands can apply this intelligence to their marketing activity to reach people with the right information, at the right time.

Using deep consumer data to understand when to deliver a timely video tutorial to those researching a product, for example, can help guide consumers from research to consideration.

Equally, those in the consideration phase of the customer’s journey might benefit from a retargeting campaign on their preferred social platform, prompting them to make a purchase. These are real-time strategies that can result in conversions.

Knowing the purchase drivers that matter

Knowing the purchase drivers that matter most to your audience is essential to appeal to their interests and guide them from one phase to another to meet specific goals.

On a global scale, our panel of 22m consumers in our customer journey research pieces revealed the following are among those that top the list.

1. Search Engines

When actively looking for more information about brands, products or services, internet users are most likely to turn to search engines.

2. Free Delivery

When asked about which factors would increase their likelihood of purchasing a product online, 60% of internet users are most likely to choose free delivery.

3. Online Reviews

In terms of customer feedback, 44% of internet users post reviews of a product or brand online each month. 37% are also using consumer reviews to research brands and products utilizing other customers’ experiences and points of view as a part of the process.

The online purchase journey across generations

However, there are stark variations across generations.

While younger age groups veer more towards social media, older groups attach more importance to convenience, financial rewards and free delivery.

Knowing which drivers apply directly to your target groups will ensure you’re using the right marketing tactics.

Our top market research findings reveal the most important factors impacting every stage, proving the need for a different approach for each:

  • 71% of baby boomers think free delivery is important.
  • 59% of millennials will seek expert opinion before making a purchase.
  • 47% of Gen Z turn to social media to research brands.
  • 63% of Gen X stick to the brand they like.
  • 71% of Gen Z discover brands through celebrity networkers.

Understanding the role of social media

Social media is playing a key role in every part of the purchase journey, from awareness right through to purchase.

Knowing where to communicate your message depends on your audience, their needs, and their position on the path to purchase.

Our latest social report reveals almost 4 in 10 internet users follow their favorite brands on social media –  a quarter of whom follow brands from which they’re thinking of making a purchase.

This presents untold opportunities to engage consumers on a more personal level.

Catering to the right phase

Understanding how consumers behave on different social platforms is essential to deliver what they need at each stage.

Our data shows 1 in 4 have watched a consumer review last month on YouTube, while almost 4 in 10 have watched a tutorial.

This shows how YouTube is a popular channel for product research, reviews and education.

GoPro took this insight on board with its VR products.

As VR is still a nascent market, its video content is designed to show off the possibilities of VR rather than to make a hard sell.

GoPro’s For the Love of Lions video, for example, posted in August 2017, provides an intimate insight into the world of a ‘lion whisperer’ and two rescued lionesses, filmed in 360-degree spherical.

The footage, which garnered over 685,000 views, doesn’t overtly promote the brand or product – it’s firmly positioned in the consideration phase.

Don’t get complacent at the purchase stage

Relevant data can also drive timely messages to be delivered during the purchase phase.

Consumers might fail to complete a sale because they’re deterred by a clunky user interface, for example, sky-high postage costs or an unwelcoming returns policy. Monitoring customer touchpoints and each step of their journey can help meeting customer needs and increase sales.

A survey by Baymard Institute in July 2017 revealed 61% of shoppers abandon their carts because of the extra costs for shipping, taxes, or other fees. Research methods such as these can help improve customer satisfaction and improve the retail experience.

Understanding this type of customer behavior gives brands an opportunity to rectify the pain points and increase conversions at optimal time. Asics, for example, reiterates the benefits of its free shipping policy in its cart abandonment email to drive conversions.

Data is king when it comes to understanding and influencing modern consumer buying behaviors.

Each stage of the journey mapping research cycle presents several opportunities to apply key insights.

This kind of intelligence is helping brands maximize their return and foster customer loyalty along an increasingly complex path.

Don’t get left behind.