Unless you’ve been asleep for the last twenty years, you won’t have failed to notice that the internet has changed our lives.
The evolution of the internet has changed how we gather information; it has changed how we communicate with our friends; it has changed how we watch TV, and it has changed how we do business.
The changes we are seeing are showing no sign of slowing down. If anything the way in which we buy is changing even quicker than ever before. All of this means that brands need to adapt to keep pace with the way that customers buy, especially in a business to business environment. Failure to keep up with the ever-changing user journey will leave businesses chasing their competitor’s tails.
What has changed?
The way we buy and the way we interact with brands before we buy has changed dramatically over the last few years.
We need more touch points to convert a customer. A few years ago the consensus was, that in the B2B world, you needed around five touch points with a customer before they would purchase. Today that figure has risen to 8-10, although I would hang my hat on the line and say it was even higher! It also means that the average lead to sale time has dramatically increased.
Research and social proof mean that within minutes we can find out what people think about brands. If a brand has a reputation for crappy customer service, it is impossible for them to hide.
The competition got stronger. Everyone is fighting for the same customers. It is, therefore, more important than ever for brands to get across their message and value proposition. I would even extend this to include brand values – this is something I will be talking about A LOT in the coming months.
We spammed the internet. The saturation of competition has moved us to a state of distrust. Brands now need to gain the trust of customers before they make any commitment.
What this means for businesses
Brands can no longer follow the traditional sales process. Instead, they need to find ways to attract, engage, and nurture potential customers until the customer is ready to buy. If they’re not, there’s a good chance that brands are trying to attract customers with a sales model and user journey that isn’t geared around the modern, digital customer. I find this quite a lot with clients, particularly in the B2B community where digital acquisition was not part of their traditional sales cycle.
The big question is can brands pivot as quickly as their customer’s buying habits are changing?
How can brands adapt and keep up with the ever-changing user journey?
A holistic approach to marketing. Online and offline marketing activity should be viewed as one. The last 30% of marketing is how everything ties together. Multichannel attribution demonstrates the need to make sure that all of your marketing activity is interlinked.
Revise the customer journey. Brands should be reviewing and mapping out the journey their customers take. They need to think about the journey from a customer point of view. What factors are important to the customer during that buying cycle? Are they nurturing them? What part does the website play in all of this? What and where are the touch points? Are the touchpoints online, offline, or both?
Gear the website accordingly. Understanding the customer journey will mean that businesses can craft their website in a way that will help move customers naturally along the buying cycle. Micro conversions offer a ‘marginal gains’ approach to nurturing customers.
Make it easy for customers. It’s important not to sell to the customer in a way you want to sell. Remove barriers and let the customer buy in the way they want to buy; when they are ready.
In summary, If brands embrace the changing face of the internet as it unfolds; understand their customer and the journey the customer takes, they stand a good chance of staying ahead of the game. Having a deep understanding of how customers engage with their brand will mean they’re in a position to attract, engage, and nurture prospects and turn them onto customers. Easy hey!