If there’s one thing I think we can all agree on, it’s that life’s a journey. And so is marketing and the consumer path to conversion.
Similar to every journey, the consumer path to purchase is quite complex, requiring just the right amount of steering prospective customers from a target audience toward awareness, contemplation and eventual decision-making. Yet, with the explosion of digital channels to an always-on media environment, many brands struggle with genuinely connecting with consumers.
It’s important to realize that each person’s path to purchase is unique and complex. For most people, there are infinite opportunities to become distracted during a digital shopping session. In many cases, multiple devices fuel different paths. According to the Harvard Business Review, 73% of today’s consumers confirm they use more than one channel during a shopping journey.
To make matters even more complicated, a shopper can be at the brink of purchase and then quickly retreat to the research phase. Unfortunately, this back and forth can create a difficult struggle for companies striving to get to the path of high conversions.
Add to the mix the fact that everyone today wants fast results, especially marketers, who often view digital as a cheap, easy way to conversions. But the path to conversion doesn’t just magically happen. And while quick wins may work in the short term, they’re not an ideal substitute for long-term tactics and continued success.
Even though the traditional sales funnel was once useful to marketers–it helped explain how a customer thought about buying from awareness of your product, to possible interest and eventually action to get a sale–the outdated model simply doesn’t cut it anymore.
Forward-thinking marketers must recognize that the traditional sales funnel is, in fact, no longer a reliable model–the progression from one phase of the customer journey to the next has become nonlinear, faster, and the level of information to consider is greater than ever before.
If Growing Conversions Is The Goal, Then Brand Awareness Is The Route
While it may seem simplistic, for consumers to make a purchase, they first need to know a brand exists.
Brand awareness is the probability that consumers recognize your brand, products or services. Fast-moving marketers seeking instant gratification often dismiss the importance of recognition, but it’s actually a critical piece of getting into a consumer’s consideration set.
When it comes to purchasing decisions, studies show that the brands consumers recognize most are more likely to be included in their consideration sets. In fact, 75% of shoppers said they are more likely to purchase from a company that knows their name and purchase history.
Before diving head-first into a marketing campaign, company leaders should make sure their sales and marketing teams understand fully how long it might potentially take someone to buy from their company. Marketers must consider the different stages a consumer goes through before they make a first purchase, including:
• Stage 1 – Pre-Awareness
• Stage 2 – Awareness
• Stage 3 – Research and familiarity
• Stage 4 – Shopping and consideration
• Stage 5 – Decision and purchase
• Stage 6 – Advocacy
In the early stages of the path to conversion, marketers should make brand awareness and visibility a top priority. They can accomplish this via various strategies, including social, organic search, publications, media mentions, offline promotions and more.
A strong identity and presence can help put any brand at the top of consumers’ minds. According to research, digital interaction influences 70% of purchases.
Brand Familiarity (And Why You Must Conquer It Before Anything Else)
By definition, brand familiarity is the process of creating brand presence by providing awareness, emotional connection, value, accessibility and relevant differentiation for your audience. Building strong brand familiarity is one of the most significant hurdles companies face.
Considered the most primal form of consumer knowledge, company leaders need to understand the importance of allocating marketing budgets–without expecting Return on Advertising Spend (ROAS)–to sustain as a lasting, thriving and well-known business.
Within the brand familiarity process, goals include:
• Building a strong branding presence by giving clarity to the vision, mission, target market and products sold
• A willingness to invest in brand awareness campaigns without expecting a ROAS
• Consistent and regular engagement to become familiar with the people gravitating toward their brand
The Bottom Line
Today’s consumers are distracted, but they are also savvier than ever before. Marketers can be savvy, too.
The path to purchase model has shifted and will continue to evolve. To make real growth possible, marketers must take a long-view approach by carefully analyzing consumer behavior to gain actionable insights into how shoppers arrive at their purchase decisions.
It’s also critical to invest in and make brand awareness a top priority, striving to reach consumers where they live, work and play. With this approach, companies can earn the familiarity that will bring their brand top of mind for inundated consumers.
To build a business that’s sustainable, predictable and scalable–and that has a future beyond pure luck–brands must conform to best practices along the conversion journey, strategically guiding target audiences from one stage to the next. They also must recognize the importance of investing marketing dollars (and patience) to develop awareness and an emotional connection successfully.