How to Influence Rather than React to Your Customer’s Journey

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Jul 01 2015, Posted by Lisa Cramer

In retail, we often think of the “zero moment of truth” or the point at which the customer is purchasing as the only point of influence along the customer’s buying cycle. However, according to new research from Deloitte and others, this focus on where customers are purchasing rather than the journey that got them there is leading marketers astray.

We all know that customers are now going through a non-linear, complex path to purchase thanks to advances in digital and mobile technologies. The 4 main phases include: pre-purchase, purchase, pick-up and post purchase. According to Cisco, there are actually over 800 possible journeys across these phases. And, it’s your customers, not you, who are actually directing and defining these chosen journeys.

Consumer use of online, mobile, and physical retail are all intertwined, some occurring simultaneously, i.e. checking out a product in store and using my mobile device to compare prices at the same time. According to Deloitte, digital is already influencing $1.70 Trillion of the $4.4 Trillion spent in store. And, this number is projected to grow to 64 percent of in-store sales by the end of 2015. This means that thinking about channel-specific strategies is no longer appropriate… Influencing the customer along their path to purchase goes beyond the concept of omnichannel. The opportunity isn’t in optimizing where consumers buy; it’s in finding and optimizing the key points of influence that drive purchasing decisions throughout the journey so the consumer will make that purchase later. The reality is, you can no longer wait until the point of purchase—by then it’s too late.

So, what’s the next step if you’re a brand or retailer and want to put together a strategy to influence your customer along the path to purchase?

  1. Start by understanding your specific customer’s path to purchase. Do research while customers are looking to buy your product or service. And make sure they don’t know it’s your brand; otherwise you’ll skew the results. This can be supported with mobile research services. This helps you to understand why a customer makes the decisions they make, what are their pain points, who are they (demographic information) and what they are doing.
  2. Gather in-store analytics. Find out where customers go, how long they spend there, where they don’t go. This can be done with cameras, sensors, footpath mapping and digital displays. Currently there is a huge black hole with in-store analytics yet it’s the place where consumers are spending the most money—94 percent of all retail sales (U.S. Census Bureau).
  3. Create a customer journey map with all the findings. Map what your customers do, where they struggle/have pain points, why they do it, how they feel along the path and more. And, document their touchpoints along the journey—everything (people, process, things) that they interact with. Understand as much as you can—that is key to understanding where you can influence their path.
  4. For each touchpoint, evaluate if this can be a point of influence for your brand or store. This doesn’t have to be a direct point of influence, i.e. advertising or the in-store brand experience, it can be indirect, i.e. social media or reviews and have a greater influence on the customer. According to Deloitte, 70 percent of customers are now becoming aware of products through means outside of brand/retailer advertising. So, it’s critical to determine what points will best influence your customers. Whether it’s the in-store experience, the post-purchase feelings of customers, social influencers, evaluating your strategy in terms of the entire journey will have a tremendous impact.

Times have changed dramatically and will continue to change. Just when we thought omnichannel was the end game to fulfilling your customer’s desires, it no longer suffices. Today, it’s about understanding and influencing your customer at points throughout their buying journey/path to purchase. Taking this approach will move you away from simply reacting to what your customers are doing, and towards predicting and influencing where they’ll be next.

Image Copyright: christianchan / 123RF Stock Photo

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