The customer buying journey has changed drastically over the years. Here’s why it should matter to you and your business and how you can benefit from the many changes.
The Inbound Methodology And The Customer Buying Journey
The Inbound methodology has been adopted by companies all over the world to successfully grow their businesses. I touched on the “why” behind this practice in a previous post (What Is Inbound Marketing and Is It Right For My Business?). Read on to learn why businesses are taking a “pull” approach to attract customers as opposed to doing outreach in an effort to find them. When you understand how the inbound methodology works and the concepts behind it, you will begin to see the value of inbound tactics and how they have already had a significant impact on the customer buying journeys of today.
Given that the inbound methodology is applied to Marketing, Sales and Customer Success teams, all three departments play a role in the new customer buying journey. To best illustrate this, take a look at the graphic below.
As you can see, the buying journey is no longer linear, such that it is not a straight line of marketing -> sales -> customers. Instead, it’s a never-ending cyclical journey that relies on all departments working together to not only attract the right customers but also to engage with them and delight them. Let’s take a closer look at what that means for each department and how they work together to achieve a seamless and successful customer buying journey.
Inbound Marketing Approach
The role of Marketing in an inbound business model is to attract prospects, create content that represents the target consumer and produce targeted ads which will increase engagement, and build meaningful, long-term relationships with customers by using tactics to delight them.
Inbound Sales Approach
The role of Sales in an inbound business model is to attract leads, engage with them using tools such as email sequences and sales automation and delight them during the sales process to ensure they are happy, paying customers.
Inbound Customer Success Approach
The role of Customer Success in an inbound business model is to attract prospects by providing answers to their questions, engage with them by being available for live conversations and using CS automation, and delight them by continuously evaluating the interactions between the department and the customers to ensure a top level of service is provided in every interaction.
As you can clearly see, each department is responsible for the same overall concepts of attracting, engaging and delighting, and therefore, are all critical for making the new customer buying journey a success. Now that we’ve covered that, let’s talk about how consumers engage with companies in this new way of shopping for and ultimately, purchasing products and services.
The Consumer Has The Power
First off, I want to make it clear that nowadays, consumers are the ones who have the power. Gone are the days when getting a product in front of a potential customer was the goal. Instead, consumers are the ones seeking out products and deciding on which one to buy based on a number of factors which include ease of purchase, product reviews and brand image, to name a few.
Consider this: a consumer named Olivia is interested in purchasing a new pair of headphones to replace an old pair that no longer works. Here are some of the steps she will take to make a decision about which headphones to purchase, and where businesses are able to use inbound methodology to get her business:
- Search on Google Search using her mobile device or computer for the best wireless headphones.
- Review search results which will include a combination of links and images for brands that sell wireless headphones such as Apple and Bose and stores that sell all kinds of wireless headphones such as The Source and Best Buy.
- The results will depend on which businesses have ensured they rank high through SEO tactics and/or paid advertisements.
- Decide on her top two options, for example Bose On-Ear Wireless Headphones and AirPods.
- Bose and Apple have made sure to rank high so they are seen by Olivia and consequently, considered in her buying journey.
- Conduct a search on YouTube for a review of each model as well as a direct comparison of the two.
- There will be an ad for Bose or Apple on the right of the video she is watching and there may even be a video ad for either at the beginning of the YouTube review.
- After watching the reviews, make a decision on which brand is best and visit the website selling the headphones she wants.
- Getting to the website of the headphone maker will be easy thanks to intelligently placed advertisements either on the current page or even after Olivia has left YouTube and is on another platform such as Instagram.
- Once on the website, Olivia will come across the product she intends to purchase, immediately.
- Getting the product in front of Olivia will be easy thanks to the headphone provider using machine learning to track her search history and intentions.
- A pop up live chat will appear on the bottom of the screen with a friendly face asking how they can help Olivia.
- Using a conversation bot is a great way to show Olivia someone is available to answer any questions she may have which will create a sense of safety and assurance she is about to make the right purchase decision.
- Olivia will click on the AirPods and be taken to a page with more information about the product as well as an interactive button that says “Buy Now” which she can click on to purchase the headphones.
- Based on the product of interest, a series of other, related products Olivia may be interested in will appear on the bottom of the page, thanks to machine learning.
- Once she has seen the price and decides to go ahead with making the purchase, Olivia will be able to buy the product using various payment methods including a “one-click” payment method provided by major credit card companies.
- Adding options for easy payment methods is another way companies can help close a sale because they make it very easy for consumers to complete their order.
- After the sale has been made, Olivia will be taken to a new webpage with confirmation of her order and other important information regarding her order and an email will be sent to Olivia confirming her order.
- Sending automated emails to customers is a great way to reinforce that they made the right choice in purchasing the product.
- Shortly after the first email, another email will be sent to Olivia with a tracking code she can use to keep updated on the status of the shipment of the headphones.
- Sharing such information with customers using automated email systems is important to show the customer they are top of mind and ensure they have all the information they need so they don’t feel the need to spend time contacting the company’s support team.
- Once the product has been delivered, Olivia will receive another email letting her know that the AirPods have arrived at her chosen location safely, congratulate her again on her purchase, and offer useful tips and FAQs regarding the headphones that she can read, listen to and/or watch to get the most of her new purchase. In addition, the email will ask Olivia for her feedback on her buying experience.
- An automated email that shares useful knowledge with the customer as well as invites feedback is an excellent way to show the brand cares about the customer’s experience and wants to maintain a good, two-sided relationship.
As you can see, Olivia’s buying journey was one with many touchpoints. And what’s even more interesting is that this is just one way she could have come to the decision to get those headphones specifically. In fact, she could have started her search because she saw an ad with wireless headphones that was targeted to her and she chose to look into it further. Or maybe, she heard from a friend about the great customer service the seller provides and she went straight to their website to look at the types of headphones they provide because she wanted to give her business to a brand she feels good about buying from.
Whatever the path Olivia had chosen to take, the result would have been the same for two main reasons. One reason is because the seller she chose made sure to be present in as many/all the touchpoints on the path to purchase. The second is because the seller follows an inbound methodology which, in addition to effective inbound marketing tactics, also incorporates valuable sales and customer success tactics such as providing conversational bots and customer feedback, respectively.
How To Benefit From The New Customer Buying Journey
So, what does this new customer buying journey mean for you and your business? It comes down to three things:
- Be at the right place: consumers now expect to be able to get the information they need anywhere online. That means that your business needs to be present in the touchpoints of your prospects’ buying journey, including after a purchase has been made. Creating multiple interactions with consumers will allow you to understand the intent behind their buying behavior, regardless of where they are in their buying journey.
- Be specific with your marketing: use machine learning and automation to understand what people are looking for currently and in the future and use that information to build a community by providing useful, relevant information. Consumers want to give their business to companies that they feel they can relate to and have meaningful connections with and sharing smart content will help you in the long-term.
- Be responsive – in real-time: given how tech-savvy many consumers are, it’s highly likely they’ll have questions and want answers, right away. By using conversation bots and automation sequences you can show potential buyers that you offering them a personalized purchasing experience and your brand is one that is willing to go above and beyond to gain a new member of their community – both of which go a long way with today’s consumers who crave personalized, meaningful buying journeys.
With these ideologies and tactics in mind, getting ahead of your competitors in the new customer buying journey will be even more likely than before. If you have any questions, reach out!