Today’s consumers make a multitude of touchpoints along their paths to purchase. This much you know. But what does it really mean for retailers and manufacturing brands? How do you create a solid multichannel strategy to keep up with it all?
To help break things down, let’s jump into a consumer’s shoes during his path to purchase. Sellers, meet Eric. His wife’s birthday is next week, but Eric hasn’t bought a gift yet. And like many consumers, he’s always on the go and doesn’t have time to browse in stores. Below, we follow the digital touchpoints Eric makes in a single day that lead him to purchasing the perfect gift.
Digital Touchpoint #1: Amazon
8:24 a.m. While getting off the elevator, Eric spots a scarf on a woman and thinks, “Hmm…maybe a scarf would make a great birthday gift for my wife.”
8:37 a.m. Eric searches Amazon for ‘women’s scarves’. Scarf Market appears across the top of the page, with appealing photos of several different types of scarves.
While Google used to be the first port of call for product search, consumer behaviour is shifting. In the US, more than half (56%) of shoppers start their product searches in Amazon. In Australia, we see that the starting point for product search is facing a change-up. You want your products to show up when and where your Eric starts looking. By incorporating some essentials into your Amazon marketplace strategy, you can grow your shopper base exponentially.
- Leverage Amazon advertising. If you’re not already prioritising Sponsored Products or Headline Search Ads, these are excellent tools for boosting visibility and drawing attention to your product listings.
- Assess your product data. The better the content, the more likely a listing is to rise to the top of results. Check the quality of your titles, descriptions, bullet points and images to ensure you’re positioned to own the Amazon search results page.
For some consumers, the journey may be close to ending here. But not Eric. His search is far from over.
Digital Touchpoint #2: Channel Diversification
8:38 a.m. Eric clicks on a Scarf Market search result and is immediately impressed with the array of choices and compelling imagery. He clicks through several listings until a red polka dot scarf catches his eye. But when he notices a little box with ‘offers from other sellers’, he decides to poke around to compare offers and prices.
It doesn’t take long for consumers to start exploring options for purchasing the same product from different sellers. To remain competitive, diversification is key.
- Expand to new sales channels. From eBay to Catch to Google Shopping, plus dozens of other channels, scaling to new marketplaces and platforms helps ensure your products stay in front of purchase-ready consumers.
- Optimise product content across channels. As you expand to new sales channels, check your data feeds to ensure your product titles, descriptions and keywords match the requirements and best practices for each individual marketplace or sales engine.
- Use large, high-resolution images with multiple angles. If possible, include rotate and zoom options for images. These rich media features allow customers to see all sides of a product, which reduces doubt and answers questions about a product’s appearance.
- Keep pricing competitive. Wherever possible, set product prices to be automatically adjusted based on the competition and sales velocity. Tools such as algorithmic repricers and profitability-based pricing can greatly help increase your chances of securing the sale.
Digital Touchpoint #3: Customer Service
9:15 a.m. While getting coffee, Eric runs into a co-worker and asks her opinion on Scarf Market. She replies, “Oh yes, Scarf Market is known for being affordable and reliable. Great customer service!”
Referrals from loyal customers are one of your most valuable assets. It goes without saying that consumers trust peer recommendations over advertising. And to earn that trust, you need to provide consistently exceptional customer experiences and services.
- Don’t let the personal element slip from your retail strategy. Technology makes it easy to automate processes, but at the end of the day, consumers like creating meaningful connections with other humans.
- Be consistent. Make sure that all customer-facing staff in your contact centres, retail outlets and order-processing departments understand and comply with your company’s customer service standards. Policies such as returns, delivery charges and shipment-tracking options should be consistent across all channels.
Digital Touchpoint #4: Reviews and Ratings
9:22 Fueled by this new knowledge of Scarf Market’s impeccable customer service, Eric starts to think a little more seriously about making a purchase. He navigates back to the red polka dot scarf. But this time, it’s the row of yellow stars that catches his eye.
Ratings and reviews play an integral role in the shopping process. Research shows that 90% of surveyed consumers are in the habit of reading reviews before visiting a business and 72% of consumers will take action after reading a positive review. In fact, it’s been said that 88% of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. They’re a must if you want to remain competitive.
- Enable and encourage reviews. Whether it’s on your own webstore or a marketplace, inviting shoppers to rate and review products after purchase is always a good idea. Many sellers have success requesting this type of feedback through email campaigns.
- Monitor. Questions and issues around customer service, fulfilment and other aspects of a transaction will often arise in customer reviews. By regularly monitoring feedback, you can stay tuned in to areas where improvements may be needed.
- Respond. It’s not just what your customers are saying, but how you respond to their feedback that matters. Customers listen to other customers, and that affects your bottom line. Keep a close eye on your reviews and ensure that you’re dealing with requests quickly and efficiently.
Digital Touchpoint #5: Social Media
10:57 a.m. By late morning, Eric is taking a break from work to scroll through his Facebook and Instagram feeds when, lo and behold, there’s an ad for 15% off your first order at Scarf Market! He clicks his way to the online checkout and enters the promotion code. But when there’s a knock on his office door, he leaves before completing the transaction.
Social media is often your best bet for connecting with consumers, especially if they’ve already interacted with your brand. This channel allows you to:
- Use dynamic ads to retarget. Facebook and Instagram dynamic ads allow you to automatically promote personalised product selections on social media to people who have already expressed interest elsewhere. This method is a great way to entice consumers to reconsider a purchase through specialised pricing and promotions.
- Position yourself as an industry thought leader. Providing helpful content or industry information can quickly elevate your reputation with your customers. Try sharing current trends or discussing the release of upcoming products. Sometimes, just providing helpful tips can endear you with your followers.
- Provide customer service. Whether you like it or not, when you create a social media profile, you’re effectively adding another service channel. Listen and offer solutions to customers — even the ones leaving negative feedback. It’s important to reply to inquiries or posts on the same day you receive them.
Digital Touchpoint #6: Intentional Channels of Demand
5:31 pm. On his way out the office door, Eric suddenly remembers he never did complete that purchase. So he does a quick search for “Scarf Market women’s red polka dot” on his smartphone and clicks on the first Product Listing Ad (PLA), returning him to Scarf Market’s site where his earlier quick choices are still awaiting checkout. Satisfied to know he can easily complete the transaction later, he heads home.
This explicit search for a product — by consumers who have made a purchase decision, or will be making one soon — is known as intentional demand. During this critical stage, these types of shoppers may be more receptive to advertising and products being placed in front of them. It’s crucial to remain visible at this point in the process.
- Paid Search Ads target consumers who are actively looking for something you’re selling. You can experiment with keywords and phrases — from broad terms to highly targeted, long tail keywords.
- Product Ads, such as those leveraged with Google Shopping, include richer product information and are an effective way to reach customers looking for specific products.
Digital Touchpoint #7: Latent Channels of Demand
7:33 p.m. While sitting on the sofa, his wife in another room, Eric purchases the perfect scarf while watching TV. But first, he adds two additional items to his order that he’s now convinced his wife will love.
Did you know that 69% of us use a smartphone and watch television simultaneously, using an average of three different screen combinations every day and that 63% of us start shopping on one device and continue on another?
Consumers are learning to use multiple devices — smartphones, tablets, PCs, televisions, smart speakers, wearables and more — to achieve their goals.
This is why retargeting is even more essential in your overall strategy. Consumers now have a comprehensive roadmap of social suggestions, product reviews, price comparisons and more — all to be accessed anywhere, any time inspiration strikes. And on any number of different devices. Making retargeting an essential part of your digital marketing strategy will ensure you’re moving right alongside them.
Digital Touchpoint #8: Fulfilment Experience
For the next two days, Eric tracks the progress of his delivery through emails and texts. He’s happy to see the package on his doorstep right on time, and well in advance of his wife’s birthday. That’s not all: His wife loves the gift so much that she decides to check out Scarf Market herself.
Once an order is placed, your fulfilment experience will directly influence customer satisfaction, repeat purchases and loyalty. In fact, this may just be one of the most mission-critical touchpoints of all. On average, loyal customers are worth up to ten times as much as their first purchase and increasing customer retention rates by just 5% can boost profits as much as 95%.
- Automate your fulfilment by getting processes in place that allow you to quickly identify fast, low-cost options and route each order to the most cost-effective carrier. Automated fulfilment is one of the best ways to protect your margins while meeting consumer expectations for fast delivery times.
- Shipment tracking should be both intuitive and timely. Use a system that notifies the buyer each time a transition occurs, but be careful not to set the frequency too high or send regular updates regardless of where the package is. (After all, seeing that an order hasn’t yet been moved from a mail centre will only frustrate your customer.)
- Don’t overlook returns. An equally thorough, meticulous returns process can be your ticket to more customer connections and sales.
Bottom Line: The multi-step path to purchase is the norm for today’s consumers. And a multichannel, multifaceted strategy will ensure your brand is accounting for all digital touchpoints in the shopper’s purchasing process. From browsing and buying to delivery and returns, you can have a big impact on consumers at every stage.
For more insight into developing the right strategy for your business, download our free eBook, Future-Proofing Your Customer’s Online Experience.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in February of 2015 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.