How Understanding the Customer’s Journey Can Benefit Your Small Business

Carl HolmquistCarl Holmquist discusses why the customer journey is not what you think it is and how to maximise the effectiveness of your small business marketing.

The future of marketing lies in the understanding of the customer journey. As consumers, we constantly engage with brands through various marketing channels, such as emails, display ads, paid search ads, social media, and direct website visits – but we don’t make purchasing decisions on all marketing channels.

The decision-making process usually starts by the consumer becoming aware of a need and considering if this is a true need, leading to an intention to buy, and finally making a purchasing decision. Display ads and social media act as awareness builders. When we progress in our decision-making process and have an intention to buy, we usually research the item or service of interest on the internet. Once we have made our decision, we visit the website of the vendor we have chosen.

What social media can and can’t do for your small business

Various experiments have been conducted to create a shortcut in the consumer decision-making process, including being able to buy directly on Facebook, which is in the awareness-building stages but it rarely works.

Creating social footprints using Facebook and Twitter raises awareness, but ultimately no purchasing decisions are made on these channels. Facebook is currently very successful at raising awareness using retargeting technology whereby consumers who have shown an intention to buy a product but dropped off are retargeted with messages related to this purchasing intention. Retargeting is successful everywhere, regardless of which website the consumer is on however Facebook is a particularly effective retargeting channel as people spend so much time on the social network.

Customer purchasing occurs outside of the web as well

Google released a report based on data from Google Analytics accounts mapping the customer journey and showing where various marketing channels sit in the typical online path-to-purchase. However, what this report doesn’t tell you is that online consumers complete transactions beyond the internet as well, including over the phone. This number is growing in direct correlation with the amount of time spent on our smartphones (a native voice communications device), which is quickly overtaking the amount of time we spend researching on the computer. When using a computer, the opportunity to talk to someone would require you to pick-up a separate device to be able to talk to somebody.

Here are some interesting facts that businesses shouldn’t ignore when using analytics tools:

■      The online path-to-purchase ends with either an online transaction – or a serviced transaction over the phone.

■      More than 50% of ecommerce transactions for non-commodity selling verticals such as finance, insurance, automotive, healthcare, and travel are serviced over the phone.

Being data-driven in your marketing comes with the responsibility of being interested in data, constantly questioning the data model, and the ability to effectively collect data about user activities from marketing tools that you trust. It’s not rocket science. You can start by modelling customer journeys on a white board. While doing so, ensure you do not limit yourself by using only your existing analytics tools as input.

What’s the best option for your small business?

It’s quite easy to spot the marketers who’ve done their homework on data. When you visit websites that give the consumer two very distinct ways of buying (either through the online store or by speaking to a sales representative), you know that they have built a data-driven UX system. Both transitions are considered online sales as they come from online consumers using the web to research a business, as well as for decision making.

Despite this, there are many more websites where there is still work to be done. Every day I see websites of major brands (that I know manage some of the best sales teams in the market) and their website makes it almost impossible for me to talk to them if necessary. That’s not a data-driven UX system. Its UX based on what can be tracked with legacy analytics tools, not based on how consumers choose to transact with you.

The decision-making process usually starts by the consumer becoming aware of a product/service and considering if they really need it, more information/advertising leads to an intention to buy, and then finally the purchase – and this is usually online or via the phone. By concentrating purely on web analytics your small business will stand still so make sure to cover both.

This article was written by Carl Holmquist, founding CEO at Freespee

1 Comment

  1. Well, Social Media was never about actually making a direct sale. It works for some niches such as fashion, jewellery, diy and crafts, but for something as serious as finance or business, social media has another function – generate traffic.

    Facebook, Linked In and other social media websites work great to distribute engaging content to a broad audience. The pipeline is as follows:
    Your team creates something THEY KNOW that people are looking for and are interested in. How do they know ? We’ll they research topics online. Buzz Sumo is a great too to find out what gets popular on social media for a given topic or keyword. Google Trends and Google Keyword planner shows exceptional data for what people search for in Google.
    After carefully crafting an informational piece or a tool which people will want to read or use. Social media advertising is amazing to reach out high number of people with interests that fall in your topic.
    When people find your content, and they like it, they will most likely follow through your website to learn about your company (if they haven’t already).
    The best way to introduce your services and products is to introduce them to people who are already intrigued and delighted by your brand. If you’ve managed to answer their question or help them complete a task, you have a great chance to make a successful sales pitch.

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