You can't lead the consumer; you have to let them lead you

By Ben Cooper

Consumers are setting their own purchasing rules. The rigid and linear processes that once dominated the path to conversion are now outdated and redundant. Shoppers adopt leading edge technologies as fast as they’re released.  Peer reviews, easy-to-access manufacturer information, and multichannel shopping are empowering them to reach their final decision anywhere, anytime.

Marketers can no longer predict a shopper’s purchase journey and brands must work hard to understand the varied needs of the modern-day consumer to stay relevant and connected. The brands that are winning are doing so by a considerable amount, while others are struggling to keep up in an increasingly competitive environment. It is important for companies to identify audience behaviour of iterative browsing, discovery, and considering, and build lasting, valuable relationships that influence short-term and future purchasing decisions.

Yet with so many competitors vying for the attention of the increasingly distracted consumer, how can brands cut through the noise and ensure their message is heard – and remembered?

Understand the audience to target efficiently

It is important for businesses to identify the most impactful touchpoints in the shopper journey so they can better understand their target audience and respond appropriately. By using attribution to accurately analyse buyer activity, brands can uncover their audience’s preferences and behaviours, and ensure the right consumer is targeted at the right time.

Access to valuable insight can help ascertain the buying habits of today’s complex consumer. Apparel shoppers, for example, are more likely to continue shopping after finding the item they are looking for, with just 29 percent immediately proceeding to the checkout – compared to 41 percent of average shoppers. Armed with this knowledge, retailers can suggest further relevant items at the optimum moment in the purchase journey, or risk missing out on additional sales. Offering shoppers the chance to purchase complementary products, carefully chosen according to their individual needs, interests and even previous purchasing behaviour, will ensure they feel valued and encourage further interaction with the brand.

By forging these emotional relationships with consumers, brands can unlock the true value of a shopping basket and the lifetime value of a customer. For example, a shopper who chooses a specific branded cooking pot on their wedding registry are likely to remain loyal to the brand for life – assuming they are happy with the initial product. The same can be true for all products, including consumer electronics, baby items, and personal care, so brands must consider the lasting effects of building a positive relationship.

Offline interaction cannot be neglected with 70 percent of consumers claiming that their offline sales are influenced by online research.  A high quality experience, encompassing both online and offline touchpoints, is vital for retailers to maximise the potential of these multichannel shoppers. Interactions need to be personalised in every aspect – whether that’s loyalty schemes or customer service – ensuring the shopping experience is seamless across channels, convenient, and enjoyable to repeat.

Tell a story to engage consumers

On average, consumers visit 2.7 websites each time they shop, so it is paramount a brand is noticed above its competitors across multiple retailer sites, not just one. Marketers must tell a consistent and compelling story across different channels and websites to pique and maintain interest, and lead consumers towards conversion.

While direct manufacturer websites are fundamental in establishing a brand story and displaying trusted product information, uncompetitive prices often prevent consumers purchasing directly from the site.

For example, a consumer researching a vacuum cleaner may initially visit a brand website to ascertain product specifications, but then shop around for the best deal. It is less likely that they will actually make a purchase directly with the manufacturer, however the website still plays a vital role in their purchase journey. Brands must be mindful of allocating marketing budgets effectively across multiple retailers to create consistent messaging where there are genuine opportunities for purchase, rather than diverting too much spend to their own website where sales will be limited. 

Be seen

To attain the elusive goal of being ever-present, brands must be visible in the space where their consumers are browsing. With 73 percent of shoppers preferring to ‘showroom’ – view products in store and then purchase online – becoming digitally minded is now a necessity, even for those retailers whose speciality is in-store service.

Additionally, more than half of consumers use their mobile phones in-store, whether to check prices or reviews, or get further product details. By having a digital strategy that allows brands to connect with consumers when they’re seeking information, whenever or wherever that is, marketers can create an enhanced and seamless experience for shoppers.

Consumer behaviour dictates the path to purchase, and brands must listen and respond accordingly. Full attribution and data analysis allows marketers to join the dots between on and offline touchpoints, and gain a better overall picture of the purchase journey. By allowing consumers to lead the way and providing the personalised shopping experience they desire, brands can ultimately increase engagement and drive sales, now and in the future.

The author: Ben Cooper is Managing Director, Europe at HookLogic


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