For a long, long time, the purchase journey of a customer remained exactly the same. And truth be told, it didn’t have a whole lot to do with anything store owners were doing.
The old customer journey:
Visit the store → Browse around → Make purchase.
“Shopping” was akin to pressing your nose up against a store’s window and waiting for your brain to say, “I want, or I need, that item,” whereupon you’d waltz into the store and buy it. Other than stocking shelves and operating the tills, store owners didn’t have to do much to get into the mind of their customers.
The first step to delivering the experience your future customers expect is to forget about the old customer journey. I know it’s obvious that retail shopping has changed, but the mentality of the old journey is still something too many businesses are latched onto, even in our increasingly digital world.
Yes – some businesses operate their digital properties similar to the old customer journey, in that they believe that as long as it’s stocked and listed, customers will find their way to what they want and need.
In no uncertain terms, holding onto the old customer journey is a recipe for disaster. Getting rid of this archaic mentality will not only help to satisfy your future customers, it’ll also ensure there are more of them!
The Modern Customer Journey:
Today’s digitally-driven customer journey is, to say the least, much more complex than it used to be. Customers are smarter and willing to do significantly more research to ensure they make the right purchase. This applies to brick-and-mortar purchases and digital ones, with preference shifting to the latter. Here’s what the modern customer journey looks like:
Consider product options → Research brands → Read reviews → Visit website and social profiles → Solicit reviews from friends and family → Make (digital) purchase.
As a quick example, let’s say your brand sells dog food, both in-store and online. Your customers are most likely to follow a close variation of this path on their way to a purchase.
Consider product options, such as normal dog food, a grain-free option, raw or raw organic. → Research brands, different dog food brands and pet stores that sell dog food. → Read reviews. Visit social media profiles and websites of dog food retailers. → Ask family and friends about their brand experiences with dog foods and/or dog food retailers. → Make purchase (in store, or preferably, online).
There are two important things to note about the modern customer journey: it’s complex and it’s digital. And one honest look around our world today tells us digital-first companies are winning and will continue to win and survive. The rest won’t.
Amazon is the biggest company in the world with $900 billion market capital. The introduction and success of such giant online retailers affected some of our biggest brands who misunderstood the importance of a solid online foundation for sales and its significance to maintaining marketshare. The biggest example of this was last year when the former retail giant, Toys-R-U, filed for bankruptcy.
As the great Bob Dylan says, “the times they are a-changin.” The only question is, how can you ensure your business survives and prospers well into the future?
How to Deliver the Experience Your Future Customers Expect
You must first be honest about where your digital activities are falling short. This will involve an audit of your marketing activities and digital assets, such as your website. Have a look at what is working (i.e. what is bringing in revenue) and, more importantly, what isn’t. If that isn’t an easy task, ask for help. Start by clicking our green chatbot in the corner!
Next, do you know who your customers are and, more importantly, who your most profitable customers are? If so, great! Look to them to provide insight as to where they engage with and seek value from you online – from you or from your competitors. What channels are they using to reach out to you? What kinds of questions are they asking? Once you understand the kind of information your potential customers want – and where they go to get it – you can deliver an experience that falls in line with their expectations.
If you don’t know who your audience is, take an important step back and figure that out. Our previous blog goes through a 9-step System for Customer Retention and Growth where we talk about the importance of identifying your ideal customers. It’s a critical step to understanding the customer journey and how it will impact your business structure.
We live in a digital economy full of endlessly evolving technologies. Every time a consumer behaviour evolves into a new digital technology, brands and marketers must explore these new channels to see if they make sense for their business to adopt. The answer may be no, and that’s okay, but the constant evaluation is critical to keep the pace with competing brands. It’s sink or swim, really.
One final thought – the biggest pain point of the businesses we work with is, “there is no time for digital.” Don’t let this be your excuse. Make time to find and define your digital audience and their wants and needs. Or find somebody to help you do it. Because only one thing is certain: businesses that don’t get their digital act together won’t survive.