We recently explained the Age of the Customer and how it came to be. In essence, customers want to do things their way.
So what should businesses do to adapt?
After all, customers haven’t had to change much, except for purchasing a smartphone to facilitate their online lives. That small change; however, has completely changed the customer journey.
Until recently, companies controlled the information customers used to make purchase decisions. Customers could either visit the business’ website or talk with sales staff at the point of purchase to find product information.
Now, their online research phase has become much more condensed. Customers favor reviews and social sources found in online research. It is in these arenas that most of their purchase decisions are made. That means you now need to get the right content in front of your customer the moment they are considering a purchase. Plus, the content needs to be in a format they trust and on a channel they use.
Where Customers Go for Online Research
When customers enter the research phase, they go where they feel comfortable and have access to “real life” information from people they trust. The range of channels, tools, and resources can include:
- Social media
- Search engine/voice search
- YouTube videos
- Price/vendor comparison tools
- Peer interaction
Influencing the Decision
So how can you be part of the customer’s journey? Now more than ever, the way information is delivered is important. Any message customers perceive as advertising or interjecting into their information stream is often unsuccessful. Your information must be an organic part of their stream of content they consume.
Your company can influence the online research phase in several ways:
- On social media, you can build strong relationships through relevant, engaging content. You can also cultivate user-based content to leverage evangelism.
- Smart search engine optimization and paid search campaigns can ensure you appear in search results for common questions that customers ask when researching your products/services and industry.
- To educate customers further, your company should make detailed information available in the formats and channels your customers prefer, like targeted blogs, educational articles, and videos.
- Reviews from current customers are strong marketing assets. Collect and promote them appropriately.
- If there are any comparison tools for the industry, companies need to ensure they are included and their listings optimized.
It sounds like a lot. (And it is.) But to effectively be a part of your customers’ online lives, you need to be a prominent part of their world. That means executing all the tactics listed above to ensure you’re relevant. And you need to execute them well. Because the online research step is where the majority of sales are made now.