The customer journey begins when she becomes aware of your existence and never ends, though it is at its most fruitful when she places an order and subsequent orders.
Previously we discussed the folly of looking at “Last Click” as the beginning of this purchase journey, the reality is that it began some time in the past when she stumbled on your business either through a friends, in a blog, or via a search or advertisement. In reality every purchase is generally precluded to a greater or lesser degree by a process of discovery, comparison, discussions, eavesdropping, information gathering, price comparison and leading finally to an order being placed.
Whether and when that order is placed will be contingent and whether she found sufficient information to support a decision, what information she found, what advice she got, what her peer group are doing whether she is in front of her favoured device for ordering, whether she has the cash available yet and a probably many more issues. For example it matters little that she made her mind up on day one, if she wont have the cash until her salary clears in three weeks. It wont matter how good a deal you offer her if all her friends are advising against your product and so forth.
It is never possible to know all of these inputs and be aware of the state of play, but at least being aware of what it takes to sell an item is very important in determining what steps you take to improve that user journey in a way that is profitable. Below are some examples of information you may collect and use to improve the user experience and deliver revenue upside. This will of course vary from one situation to another.
- It begins with being found. You must know where the hungry crowd are going and make sure your food stand is right in their path. Being there when they are hungry is just as important as part of serving your customer as it is to your revenue targets. How to do this is a little off topic for today.
- Making sure that the gossip they hear and the advice they receive is unlikely to be negative is critically important. The means of promoting positive vibes in social media are well documented and to a lesser degree we know of business that can help deal with negative comment when it occurs.
- Making the right first impression is critical. The expectation you set is a key metric against which your performance will be measured.
- Becoming memorable and easy to find again is now a key goal. Any way of beginning a relationship that allows you to communicate further is great, getting the customer to download something that will act as a reminder for them is also very valuable. E.G. a useful app for their phone.
- Storing a cookie that helps you track their consequent visits and actions will make it much easer to judge their likely needs at any time.
- Running multivariate tests allows you to not just find out which inputs drive the most orders, which combinations pf inputs are most successful. This drives very accurate views of customer behavior and allows you to optimise everything.
- Once you understand the average customer journey you can provide content and services that help the customer at key junctures while updating your understanding of where they are at with their buying process.
- Understanding a little more about the type of product they shortlisted and what they rejected may also help you to understand their needs and preferences.
- Knowing the times of week, day, month, or year when they are most likely to make a purchase may help you in selecting an irresistible offer.
- Knowing which devices they use for purchase may help you to time your offer better
Here is a simplified example.
My company sells widgets to consumers and the customers come form all walks of life. They purchase from the ecommerce channel. There is a lot of competition online and customers tend to switch suppliers regularly as offers change. Price is important, but its not the whole picture.
We use advertising via keywords to drive customers to landing pages where they find information on exactly what they searched for. They can also follow links to the main site where they can learn more
Our best customer is Mrs Jones. She uses search engines a lot but not just for finding products but also searching the news and gossip sites. She talks to a lot of people on forums and uses them extensively for advice before purchasing. Mrs Jones enjoys the purchasing process so she does not mind seeing plenty of offers, but she is rarely swayed from her initial choice. Often she decides what she wants and then goes looking for proof that she is right.
After she first selects a product, we know she is giving it strong consideration because she then visits our comparison charts and follows links to some of our competitors.
We think she trusts us because we are not hiding from our competitors and we give her honest comparison. We also help her out with the evidence she is looking for.
We have her email in an opted-in list and we know when to send her a little extra information if she goes quiet. We have a clickstream that identifies a quest (product she searched for) and the different types of investigation she did so far, so we can guess where she is in the purchasing journey.
Sometimes, when she goes quiet, it means she has bought elsewhere, but often she is just waiting to get paid or some other reason, so we keep in touch, but we are careful not to upset her. We rely on her to visit again and to recommend us. On average she makes five visit before purchase.
She is very influenced by social media so we spend a lot of effort on maintaining a good reputation.
Our content is tagged to match the different stages in the quest such as price comparison, features comparison, evidence gathering etc. These tags help us to develop the clickstream that places her on a purchase journey. Because she has purchased before, she is able to purchase with a single click.
She visits an exhibition where she sees our stand and meets a polite person who gives her a free pen.
She searches google for comments and finds a positive attitude towards us and our products
She spends some time reading the general information, downloads a calculator tool and leaves via our comparator to go to a competitor site.
Still collecting information
The following week our advertising network presents her a little reminder advert while she is on a competitor site and she returns to ours. This tells us she is still actively and seriously searching and we are high on her list
She returns at the weekend and spends some time on the cost of ownership calculator using her tablet.
We know that she likes to purchase using her PC and she might still feel like this. We also believe that price is the only thing now influencing her.
We email her a very hot offer that needs a response before Tuesday and we give her a special hotline for telephone advice promising no switchboard and 12 hours a day of service.
Finally an order
She immediately calls our sales staff explaining a slight issue she has yet not resolved. The sales staff are able to put her mind at rest and she places a n order there and then. It is completed in seconds and she has an email confirmation
Delivery and service continues
Delivery occurs on Wednesday and our service staff phone her unexpectedly to talk her through getting started seeing that she expressed concerns. She expresses her delight with the service.
On Thursday our sales staff call to make sure she is OK and ask her if she would be happy to recommend us on a social network, she agrees readily and goes public with her satisfaction. This has three important implications:
1. We are committed to keeping Mrs Jones happy.
2. Mrs Jones has publicly praised us and it would be extra hard for her to ever contradict this. She will make allowances if ever called on to do so.
3. Others who see her comments will be encouraged to do business with us
We have not just sold a product, we have bought a supporter and gained valuable advertising of the best kind. If we worked out the Cost of Goods Sold on customers like Mrs Jones, it would be in low or even negative figures.