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Want to fully understand your customers?

The famous saying goes, “You can’t really understand another person’s experience until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.” As marketers, before we put on our marketing shoes and go out promoting our products, we need to first put ourselves in the place of our customers. By understanding the Consumer Journey we see things from their perspective in order to improve our marketing effectiveness, efficiency, and obtain a competitive advantage.

The Consumer Journey details the process by which the consumer interacts with your brand. This starts the moment they are introduced to your particular product or service and covers the steps they follow to reach the purchase decision. By comprehending this experience you can visualize how the consumer moves through the process whereby highlighting areas you need to focus on to maximize your marketing investment. Throughout the journey you will find “interaction points” that will help in evaluating your plan. By analyzing these points you can determine if “gaps” exist between what you expect and what the customer expects. These “gaps” will guide you to the areas that need improvement. The following are the steps in the Consumer Journey: Introduction, Inquiry, Research, Purchase, Use, and Feedback.

We have the GPS that will let you navigate through the Consumer Journey.

1. Introduction
Consumers are introduced to brands on a daily basis and the majority of those introductions occur at a point when the customer isn’t in the market for that particular product or service. At this point, the goal of a brand is to stick with consumers in order to be top-of-mind when the need arises for the specific product or service. Many times consumers may be asked about certain products or services they don’t even use but yet they know certain brands associated with that segment. That is due to a positive brand introduction. A brand can be introduced in various ways; the method you chose can be as simple as an email blast or it can be as elaborate as a full launch event, the secret lies in determining which activity is the most appropriate for your brand’s positioning, target market, goals, budget, and other criteria.

2. Inquiry
The inquiry stage of the journey is where consumers realize they have a need. They may start by questioning if they actually need to purchase the product or service. Is it a necessity? Is it a luxury?     Can they find an alternate solution without making a purchase? These are just a few of the questions consumers make. If a purchase is warranted then the process continues. Consumers will start building their database of information. They may ask friends, read reviews/articles, and even start doing some “window shopping” to see what’s available. Depending on the product or service the main selection factors could be: features, price point, quality, availability, compatibility, look, feel, brand, etc. Here you should be providing those consumers the information they need and presenting your brand’s benefits in a clear and concise manner. You want your brand to be among the top three being considered because if your brand isn’t among the top three it is less likely the consumer will select yours.

3. Research
Once the consumer determines they need the product or service, they will enter the research stage with a list of about three options they are considering. Consumers will start to put those options to the test by compiling recommendations, comparative reviews, online feedback from other users or feedback from friends, as well as information from other sources. Again, depending on the specific product or service it may be appropriate to hire paid or unpaid reviewers, launch social media campaigns, send email blasts, send your product to bloggers, publish advertorials, share success stories, etc. By the end of this stage consumers should have their decision made.

4. Purchase
This step is the culmination of several stages in the process. Some see this as the most important step while others see it as a simple transaction. The truth is that this step is very important and it cannot be overlooked or taken lightly. If you are selling a service, some pre-purchase coordination or post-sales installation may be required. This process has to be clear, simple, and efficient for the consumer because if something goes wrong at this stage you can still lose the customer. If a product is being sold then there are other factors like availability, selection, discounts, seasonality, etc. The main point is to ensure that consumers have the most positive purchase experience possible. This will ensure that they will want to purchase your product again in the future.

5. Use
Once the purchase has been completed many companies shift gears to another product or the next sale. The reality is that after the purchase has been made that is when the real one-to-one relationship between the consumer and the product or service begins. If you are dealing with a product, the unboxing is very important. Do the consumers get the feeling they made a good purchase? Are all the items that are required included? Does the item work as advertised? Even if there are issues with an item you can still win over a customer by offering them excellent customer service. As a sales/marketing professional I’ve been involved in several situations where there were product issues but thanks to exceptional customer service the situations were resolved and the majority of those customers remained loyal to the brand.

6. Feedback
We have seen how consumers identify their needs, look for options, arrive at a selection, and ultimately make a purchase. Although you might think the journey is over the fact is that the journey never ends. Once the consumer makes the purchase they become an influencer of others. Their first-hand experience can become the input other new consumer use to make their own purchase decision. It is important for a brand to stay in contact with customers either through email, social media or other channels in order to obtain information regarding the product or service. Current users are the best source of feedback for product improvements, new products features, or product deficiencies or problems. This information is invaluable for any brand.

Now that you have seen an overview of the Consumer Journey the final phase is to show you how to benefit from it. For each step in the journey you should identify a few goals for both the brand and the consumer. In order for this process to work the goals must be specific and measurable. The more specific they are the more meaningful your results will be. After you have identified the goals for each step, analyze the outcomes to identify any “gaps”. The “gaps” will be areas that show a disconnect between the goals of the brand and of the consumer. Once these “gaps” have been determined you should adjust your activities accordingly. Through this, your marketing efforts should be greatly improved. The secret to the Consumer Journey is that it isn’t something that you do just once and forget it. Instead, it is a dynamic process that has to be revisited time and time again in order to ensure every stage is working well. As you continue to eliminate any “gaps” you will continue to optimize your marketing investment.

Albert Del Rio
albert@squaredraft.com
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