digital marketing

The key to digital marketing? The (buyer’s) journey, not the destination

by Kim Georgeton

Building a thoughtful, reactive relationship with your customers is tricky business. But it’s worth the effort. Studies show that today’s consumers want (and expect) companies to understand their needs and offer solutions that meet their expectations–all of the time. Salesforce’s Fifth Edition State of Marketing study found that 80 percent of customers say the customer experience a company provides is as important as the actual product or services. And 84 percent of online customers expect to be treated like a person, not a number, for them to consider doing business with a company. 

Digital marketing isn’t about you. It’s all about them. 

Staying competitive in this digital space requires more than promoting a product. It’s about creating a culture around your brand. In most cases, your online presence is an extension of your company’s work culture. So as you work to maintain a positive, supportive, receptive work culture, those practices will help you identify and market toward the buyer’s journey to create the ideal customer experience. 

Much like your work environment, a trusting work relationship thrives on sharing information, positive reinforcement, transparency, honest feedback, etc. That is how employees learn to trust their managers. It’s an ongoing process, rewarded with loyalty. A similar practice holds true in your digital space. High-performing marketers understand that the customer relationship doesn’t begin at the time of sale. Instead, it starts long before the customer even knew they needed your product. 

Generally, a buyer’s journey consists of three phases: awareness, consideration of product or service options, and the actual purchase. In other words, we recognize and identify the problem (we hear you), we understand the need and built a company around it (we get you), and so we have the solution for you. 

Let’s discuss marketing strategies for each phase: 

 

We hear you.

Hey, we are all a little anxious to get our product out there and close the deal. But customers can’t build trust in you until they learn more about what you do and why that should matter to them. In fact, one study found that 73 percent of customers are often willing to pay more for a product or service from a company with more transparency than its competitors. 

Customers who venture into this initial phase are gathering information about a need and researching brands that offer expertise. They are also delving into what matters to YOU–not just your product. Use blogs, articles, infographics, videos, etc., with a focus on your brand culture, why you exist in this industry, and why your product or service should be of value to them.  

 

We get you.

While the awareness phase focused on sharing information, this phase shares reasons why your company is the best fit for the customer. According to Salesforce, 69 percent of buyers expect personalized recommendations as part of the buying experience. There’s a reason why using Netflix and Amazon provides easy-to-use, pleasant customer experiences. It’s because both companies pay attention to what you like. You don’t have to scroll through all the movies in the Netflix library or every product Amazon sells because they’ve done it for you and have gathered recommendations. That is precisely the experience your customers want.

“Fifty-one percent of consumers expect that by 2020 companies will anticipate their needs and make relevant suggestions before they make contact,” said Devon McGinnis, senior manager at Salesforce. Email marketing campaigns and product-specific content are ideal platforms for connecting your brand with the buyer’s need. Trust us. We understand what you are going through, and we have the solution. 

 

We have the solution for you. 

The decision to purchase may be the final stage in the buyer’s journey, but it is also what determines whether or not you have a loyal customer. “The two primary touchpoints that create the customer experience are people and product,” explained Hubspot’s Jason Bordeaux. “Are you blown away by the performance of the product? Are you delighted by the attention a customer support rep gives you to help solve your problem? These are some general examples of what factors are at play when creating a great customer experience.” Call-to-action strategies, such as limited trial offers, discount codes, ebook downloads, etc., are effective ways to foster that trust and finalize the purchase. 

But customer loyalty depends on how well your company handles the transaction. You have one shot to ensure this purchase runs smoothly, so don’t leave the success of this essential step to chance. As customers evolve and your company grows, so does the need to automate key components of the buyer’s journey. “Connected customers want to be heard, understood, remembered, and respected. Ultimately, they want to be treated like people — and smarter applications of customer data can help companies deliver experiences with a human touch, at scale,” said McGinnis. 

For instance, many eCommerce platforms use a combination of Salesforce Commerce Cloud’s Einstein recommendations paired with Marketing Cloud’s Personalization Builder. “This combination allows businesses to provide storefront product recommendations for any given customer as well as follow-up with targeted email campaigns featuring dynamic messaging based on customer behavior,” explained Ginger Rolfs, eCommerce Solutions Strategist at Simplus. “Product recommendations have been found to increase AOV an average of 26 percent. It’s a win-win for both the end consumer (regardless of generation) and the merchant.”

I’m not sure who coined the phrase, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” But they probably worked in marketing. That directive is the foundation of an effective online marketing strategy, and it reminds us of our ultimate goal: It’s not just about the product; It’s about following a process that promotes your company’s culture and purpose, reinforces the value you bring to your industry, and assures the customer that your product or service is the right fit for them now and for many years to come. 

 

Kim GeorgetonKim is Simplus’ Managing Director of Commerce and Marketing Cloud. She leads a team of 24 architects, developers, designers, administrators, and specialists on all things Commerce and Marketing Cloud. She has over 20 years of experience working in retail eCommerce, marketing, and merchandising. Kim is an expert on digitally scaling businesses of all sizes and industries.

[email protected]

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