We’ve all been wondering what is the best way to manage marketing communications with our customers. The truth is that there are just so many different communication tools that it is really hard to figure out which one is the most suitable for any given time.
The simple truth that each marketing communication needs to be connected with the particular psychological and emotional stage in which the customer finds himherself.
As we know from business literature from a strictly psychological perspective a customer goes through 6 different stages when approaching a purchase decision. These stages are:
- Need recognition. A customer acknowledges a need or a problem that needs to be solved. These problems can be functional, social or emotional.
- Search for a solution. A customer looks into possible solutions for the problem, the bigger the problem, the more time heshe will spend looking for a solution.
- Comparison between alternatives. A customer will shortlist options available and learn about any point of parity and point of difference.
- ChoicePurchase. A customer will then commit to purchasing one solution. This is when the customer will conduct a transaction with the business.
- Post Purchase Experience. The customer will assess if the solution purchased fixes the issues.
However, this model is incomplete, as there are additional elements to take into account. In the fashion industry, the experience of going through several purchase decision stages is conducted through several media channels, some of them are physical, some of them are digital, so at each stage, a brand needs to be aware of how communication needs to adapt to the specific needs of the channel.
Moreover, there is an emotional side as well, that can put the customer in different emotional states throughout the journey, spanning a whole range of emotional state which span from excitement to fear.
This is why we need a more comprehensive vision of what a customer does, which allows us to account for all these additional variables. This is what we call the customer journey, which we are splitting in 6 different phases, as each has its own unique features.
- StorePoint of SaleTipping Point
- Loyal Customer
- Brand Advocate
The awareness stage is when the concept of a brand is formed. To understand this in more detail we can say that communications that happen at this level are designed to build a subconscious perception-idea of a brand in the ‘back’ of customers’ minds.
In this sense, most of the brand we interact with essentially store data daily in our brains, as most customers may be aware of their need to buy a product, but don’t necessarily act any further on this, so the best thing a company can do is to create positive associations are going to be called upon in advertising.
When we are given a cue or a trigger, like advertising or a word of mouth recommendation, our brain picks up this information from the back of our mind and brings it in front of our eyes, and if the association is strong enough then, our will to buy can bypass our rationality and lead us to impulse purchasing.
At this awareness stage, any and every communication the brand puts out concurs in creating an idea that can shape our behavior. These communications are what we call top-of-the-funnel communications, as they are reward-only communications, the customer does not have to invest any money or time in order to gain a benefit from us. It may be useful to note how social media platforms are very effective at this stage, as the general idea is that on social media people are more upfront with their emotions and more blunt about their opinions.
In this case your brand has been able to go through one of the biggest challenges in the funnel: that is moving from a benefit-only offer to a low-risk offer. In more practical terms what has happened is that the customer may have exchanged personal information to access a premium service, usually his-her email. At this point, the communication format changes completely. If until now content was developed based on the grounds of a low statistical chance of connecting with a customer based on a variety of algorithms which brands have very little, if no control over, now the brand can instead connect directly with a customer who has become a profile lead.
Deciding what kind of customer relationship to establish is a key decision for a firm, which as discussed in the business model canvas, is able to profoundly impact your value proposition.
As a rule of thumb, the more expensive the product service, the more likely your customer service marketing strategy will need to convey confidence and transparency. As for many relationships that we experience in our personal life, this will entail time and that’s why the nurture stage is the next step: entailing the time necessary to bring the relationship to fruition.
Nurture is the most critical of phases, as it’s the one that could potentially last a day, as much as a lifetime. The nurture stage however is not necessarily designed to push sale copy in a synchronized manner, on the contrary, the copywriting that is usually created is designed to allow customers who already have expressed intent to buy to overcome their hesitations. In this stage we often see testimonials and reviews being used to convey transparency and customer success.
A typical strategy connected to email nurture is the one to connect sales to a time dimension, which delivers urgency and scarcity. This can also be done by devising an email drip, which tries to get customers to take advantage of limited offers.
It’s important to notice that some companies choose to use this stage to provide other goals, which are not as directly linked to sales. A nurture campaign can be used to develop brand equity, to inform customers of PR or Corporate Social Responsibility activities, or even simply to inform an audience about opening hours.
4. Store Point of Sale
The store point-of-sale is the stage where the purchase ritual is conducted. If the store is considered the last mile of a firm’s supply chain, it is also the first point of contact for the customer. At this stage, in particular, the emotional state of the customer is especially relevant, as his mood or the store atmosphere is capable of luring him\her to impulse purchases. Customers who approach shopping on the grounds of a planned purchase need to be addressed with an educational experience, as their decision to buy has already been made. On the other hand, customers who are in the store with no planned intention to buy, should be provided with an entertainment experience, capable of driving them emotionally towards a purchase that was unplanned. We discuss these strategies in more depth in this article.
Store promotions are particularly meaningful, as in this ‘last mile’ the customer is closer than ever to converting, both psychologically and physically.
Customer loyalty is very important, as we know for a fact that in retail 80% of sales come from 20% of your customers. This is a key figure that should always make us think about the fact that for as much as we would like to keep attracting new customers, a marketing campaign should always consider how keeping the old ones is a primary goal.
Loyalty allows us to tap into a pool of value that goes beyond one-time purchases but actually goes into what is called a CLV, or customer lifetime value. Identifying and understanding the characteristics of a loyal customer is essential and this is why loyalty cards and retention programs are carried out by most companies as soon a customer average ticket exceeds a fixed amount.
Getting your customers to become brand advocates is the ultimate success stage. Customers who fit this profile are more than loyal, they will look after your brand online reputation and defend you from those who will speak against you.
But that’s not all.
A brand advocate serves an additional purpose which is restarting the customer journey for other customers. In this sense this step hold a double goal, or enhancing the brand equity as well as attracting new customers through word-of-mouth advertising. WOM is a key element of any brand positioning and in this post we’re looking more into it, to help you identify some of the most effective strategies to deliver it.
So there you have it, 6 insights into the steps each customer takes before concluding hisher journey. As we’ve seen a brand’s marketing division needs to make sure that each communication strategy is chosen and tailored to the needs of customers who are navigating at each click or at each footstep a different psychological, emotional and physical landscape.
The customer journey is a very useful model for marketers as it delivers value on many different levels.
- Identify the journey. It helps us to figure out what specific journey our customers take. Based on our productservice our customer journey will be physical, digital or mixed.
- Helps marketing focused. It helps us to make sure each communication is focused on a clear goal, and hopefully a S.M.A.R.T. goal we can measure.
- Analysis and evaluation. It allows us to correct mistakes, which can happen at different levels of the experience. As a rule of principle, we should always make sure that we fix customer issues going backwards, starting from the sales point to the awareness, as it would be unfeasible to increase awareness of a customer journey that provides unsuccessful experiences.
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