The Consumer Journey | Digital marketing for digital dinosaurs.
A visual representation of every experience your clients and prospects go through as they interact with your brand and product from awareness, to consideration, to purchase through digital touch-points and signals.
To understand the Journey, let’s start from something familiar to traditional marketing, especially in FMCG: The path to purchase
In old school marketing we learned that our activities are aimed at influencing people behaviours. We also learned that those behaviours are the result of a decision process that happens somewhere in our head.
We realise we have a problem, we need something and our brain starts searching for solutions to this problem evaluating different possible alternatives as well as searching for information. Once we have a decision, we act upon it, like for example by purchasing a product or service. We then have an experience with this decision, and we form an opinion which we might share with others.
As marketers we want to influence the final behaviour but we need to understand what is the decision process that leads our consumers there.
One of the traditional tools we used is called Path to purchase that is an attempt to map this decision process.
I won’t go in details here but I want to stress how we traditionally used this tool.
Path to purchase helps us dissecting the decision process in phases. In each stage something happens that characterise it.
The first stage is when we realise that we need something (example we just finished a product or we’re not happy with the one we have)
Once realised this, in the second stage we started gathering information on how to solve this problem. now, for certain categories of products (like FMCG ) this phase doesn’t really take place, but for some others high involvement categories (buying a car, selecting a mortgage) this stage can take months.
Once we narrow down alternatives, we make a decision based on key factors that are relevant for us (we discussed before about triggers and barriers)
So we have formed an opinion, we then transform this opinion in a real act. We buy, use and experience a product or service.
And then…we reflect upon this decision, was it a good decision or not? Should we repeat it? Will we suggest a friend to take the same decision or we will end up ranting online against that product / brand?
This tool is simple and for many doesn’t reflect reality that’s a lot more confused that this linear process. However the tool still gives us some valid and precious information
First point: we learn to map the process and see what happens in a typical journey
Secondly, we see the relative importance of different stages and this leads to more focus
Lastly, at each stage there are different influencers and different touchpoint that are relevant.
Now, if we bring this logic to the digital landscape, we see how certain concepts come familiar.
THE DIGITAL JOURNEY
When we are online, consciously or unconsciously we are on a mission.
This mission can be pure entertainment as well as solving some practical problem, learning something or buying a product.
Now we focus on the latter as FMCG marketers.
How do we get to buy something online? Well, here we can see how the logic underneath the offline path to purchase is actually the same as the one underlying the digital journey.
If we could dissect this journey (and i want to remind everyone here, this is a tool that tries to simplify reality, not reality itself as in reality this process is more complex and intricate) - if we could dissect it we could see there are 4 basic stages:
a stage where we become aware that something exist - this stage is called awareness
a stage where we run some research to get more info about it - this stage is called consideration
a stage where we take action example we buy a product or subscribe to a service - this stage is called conversion
and a final stage where, after having evaluated the action we took in the previous stage, we decide to repeat our behaviour and whether to become advocates or not. This phase is called loyalty or advocacy
Now, as mentioned before, this in real life is hardly a linear process. Most of times is a complicated and confused process that goes back and forth especially in two stages: the consideration stage and the loyalty / advocacy
In order to bring to life this journey I would like us to look at a real life example.
I will discuss this journey looking at it from two distinct point of views, the first is people and the second is the marketer. In specific, though the lenses of people I will try to describe what happens at each stage, and through the second, the lenses of marketers, I will discuss what we can do with marketing activities to influence consumers at that stage
Let’s start, so here my simplistic example. I have two kids and we have a lovely nanny who helps us. She’s from the Philippines and of course she misses home. Best time to go back is over Christmas but flights tend to be quite expensive during that time (well they used to be before this COVID )
One day, me and my wife started seeing the same advertising for promotions to fly to the Philippines so we decided to buy her a Christmas gift in the form of a plane ticket back home.
Why this advertising from Philippines airlines started popping up in our Facebook page is not clear but most probably we must have left some signal through some previous activities online.
Here you can see what we saw.
It was the awareness stage of our journey. This is the stage when me as consumer, start realise i want or i need something because i become aware of it
Now, let’s wear the hat of marketers and let’s analyse what happens at this stage.
At this stage, consumers either they don’t need our product yet or don’t know they need our product. The point here is: Make them aware of our product and the benefits that it offers.
Our objective at this stage, also called top of the funnel, is to create awareness and visibility of our product so users are encouraged to move next phase down the funnel to the “think” stage, where the first signs of purchase intent surface. Two main digital marketing strategies work better than the others—social media and PPC display ads.
- Social media channels—specifically Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube—are prime touchpoint to generate awareness because there’s where your audience goes to “see” and discover things.
- PPC display ads. Display network reaches over 90% of global internet users expanding across 2 million sites.
At the end of these efforts should start seeing brand recognition.
Back to our example, once having seen the promotion in the ad, we clicked to get more information and see if there was flight availability for Xmas.
We of course compared different sources and different websites.
My wife is particularly picky, she also ended up checking reviews on the airline. Even though we realised that reviews were not super favourable, we still thought it would have been a good value if the price to fly during Xmas was attractive enough.
We were in the middle of the “consideration” phase. The phase were we think
What happens here:
Once our target audience is aware of their needs and they know our company, they move into the “think” stage. This is where the majority of consumer research happens, and the research and discovery loop takes them back and forth through different media and platforms. During this stage, it’s crucial to build authority and get the target audience onto our website when available.
This is also called middle of the funnel. The best digital marketing strategies here are all focussed around driving people to our owned resources by giving them what they want, information.
SEO (search engine optimization) is the number one source of organic web traffic and leads, and arguably serves most stages of the buyer’s journey. Through SEO our website will show up on page one of search results—and 93% of consumers begin their research phase with a search engine.
Reviews - 92% of online consumers read them, and 88% of them trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
Video marketing because four times as many customers would rather watch a video about a product than read about it, and almost 50% of internet users look for videos related to a product or service before visiting a store.
PPC search ads ads that show up at the top of the search results when someone Googles something
Email marketing - Email is the easiest way to wave at someone right there in their inbox. Because they opted-in, they actually expect to see valuable information from your company!
Back to our example
after having gone back and forth a few times, we realised that, yes, it was a good option and yes, there were seats available for the dates we selected we had some pressure on, put especially by the advertisement we decided to had to act fast and we felt more safe in booking directly on the airline website.
That’s how we closed the deal; the user experience in the website wasn’t one of the best to be honest but again, the price deal was good enough
This is the conversion phase.
The phase where consumers act
It is the bottom of the funnel where the buyer actually converts from a prospect into a customer.
Here, from the perspective of the brand, the biggest challenge is to produce content that triggers a user into action. Like in our case it was the time pressure to buy the ticket before the expiry of the promotion or before seats run out (have you noticed that pop ups bubbles telling us how many people are looking at the same item as us in many booking websites, that’s exactly their purpose
At this point we need to be able to provide a potential customer with the information they need most at that moment in their journey. This could be done with content and PPC ads for example:
Create personalised content
Advertise case studies
Advertise free trials of your product or service
Advertise white papers or other marketing collateral that shows off the effectiveness of your product or service
Advertise live demos and Q&As
And back to our example, finally she flew back home.
It was a great experience and she came back super happy.
The travel experience turned out being good and she had no problem with the airline.
She boasted in her social media and the brand got visibility
She even decided to get the mileage program to see if she can get some incentives or promotion in the future.
We entered the last part of the funnel, the loyalty / advocacy stage.
This is where we need to manage our reputation as well as establishing a long term relationship with our customers
this stage is definitely more crucial for certain businesses, think restaurants or hotels. But definitively important for everyone nowadays give then possibility to build or destroy brands and people reputation online with just a bad review.
In fact, generally speaking, any business owner knows that it’s easier to keep an existing customer than it is to generate brand new ones. Hopefully, after your new customer made a purchase, they start their journey all over again with another one of your products. Or, even better, they become a brand advocate and start selling your product or service for you in the form of recommendations.
There are many approaches to do this effectively from reaching out and ask for reviews to offering a special discount for loyal customers. Give them something for free on their birthday. Give them advice for free.
More importantly it is crucial to manage reviews of your service online as neglecting them or, even worse, mismanage could lead to real problems.
Now, we finally arrived to the end of the journey.
Key take outs:
The digital journey helps us figuring out what happens online from the moment people realise they want or need something, up to the moment they actually buy it, use it and form an opinion that they might share with others.
this journey is a tool to describe reality, not reality itself. However it is fundamental, because it help us structuring different marketing activities for different users, that might be in different stages of the journey. Ultimately we are trying to drive them to the purchase stage and become loyal users. By creating meaningful marketing activities, we dramatically improve the chances to be successful.
Please stay in touch! Hope all this makes sense for you and it is helping understand better.