Businesses that focus entirely on "closing the deal" and similar actions will find that rivals are beating them with a more holistic approach. The best way to compete is to understand and apply the framework of the consumer journey. This is because consumers are actively seeking more personalization, engagement, and positive experiences throughout their entire journey with your business.
In fact, Forbes reports that 96% of customers say customer service is important in their choice of loyalty to a brand. Additionally, companies with a consumer experience mindset drive revenue 4-8% higher than the rest of their industries. American consumers will pay 17% more to purchase from a company with a reputation for excellent service.
The statistics say it all — you can't afford to miss out on the competitive advantage understanding and applying consumer journey can give you. Here's what you need to know.
What is the consumer journey?
The consumer journey refers to your customer's entire experience with your company and brand, including learning about your existence, evaluating how you can solve their problem, making a sale, and advocating for your business. Essentially, it is their decision-making process and the key to truly understanding where your consumers are and how to reach them.
There are four steps in the consumer journey you need to know about to properly target your audience in their stages.
The first stage of your consumer's journey is making them aware of your business and encouraging them to consider you as the solution to their problem. They're considering their options and looking around, so you need to attract them to you over the competition. Address problems they seek answers to without being too promotional or pushy.
Make use of:
- Written & video content that established you as an expert.
- Landing pages
You got their attention. Now keep it. To reach this consumer base, you'll want to provide content that explains what you offer and how it will solve their problem. Help them determine goals and challenges while also providing them with ways to overcome those challenges and reach their goals.
- Social media
- Blog posts like how-tos, personal stories, lists, and more.
The key is to keep your brand up for consideration by putting it in front of potential consumer's minds while they're deciding. Position your brand as the topic of conversation on the subject.
This stage is a big one, but by no means your endgame. You've gained their trust as the expert in your industry and became the ideal solution to their problem. It's time to make the sale. Ensure the process is quick, convenient, and easy for your consumer, so the transaction is flawless.
Some of your consumers may have chosen you for the purchase but need that extra 'push' to make the sale. Consider:
- Emails for reminders, sales, and promotions
- Digital advertising - retargeting efforts
- Special Offers (sometimes making items "limited time" can encourage consumers to close on the deal).
"Closing the deal" does not mean you're done. Now you want to strengthen your relationship with each customer, and (hopefully) they will grow into brand loyalists.
Consider freebies, contests, giveaways, discounts, 'bonus' gifts with purchases, and more to encourage word-of-mouth marketing and maintain a good reputation. These tactics could also encourage loyalists to refer to friends and family and "attract" more stage-one potential customers.
Consider staying in touch with:
- Emails with exclusives
- Social Media engagement
- Surveys (on receipts, emails, social media, etc.)
- Special Offers
Why is the consumer journey important?
The consumer journey is essential because not every consumer is in the same stage of their buying journey. In fact, consumers spend the majority of their time in the early stages. Appealing to consumers as if all of them are ready to convert will turn the overwhelming majority off. However, appealing to consumers depending on their place in the consumer journey builds trust, strengthens your relationship, and creates a positive experience over time.
Consumers who start their journey with you are more likely to end their journey with you (i.e., convert and become advocates). By targeting their needs through the first two stages (attract and engage), you encourage the consumer to convert. However, you must understand that conversion is not the end of the consumer journey - there is also advocacy. Ignoring advocacy leaves money on the table and eliminates the limitless possibilities of word-of-mouth referrals, free social media shares, and repeat business.
How does the consumer journey boost business?
When you become a trusted source to consumers, they are more likely to convert. The major component of boosting any business is putting your customer at the heart of your business. After all, you wouldn't be where you are today without them. First and foremost, research shows that 86% of customers are more than happy to pay more for a better customer experience.
Then there are these three additional ways consumer journey boosts business:
- It can catch the attention of many more consumers when you align your content with their stage.
- A more holistic approach to getting consumers means a larger pool of potential consumers than if all content focused on the latter parts of the decision stage.
- Advocates act as free word-of-mouth advertising to draw in more prospects.
The consumer journey is key
It's challenging to get a competitive edge over your competitors and position your brand as the obvious choice for consumers. E-consultancy reported that 50% of organizations have little to no understanding of their consumer journey. This will be your opportunity to gain an advantage over competitors.
The consumer journey is key to understanding how to appeal to potential consumers, no matter how ready they are to purchase your solution. When you appeal to all of the consumer journey stages, you give them what they're actively asking for: a customized, relevant, helpful, and positive experience that strengthens their bond and trust with your brand.