I don’t have to tell you that the customers’ buying behavior continues to evolve. Technology empowers this changing behavior. It gives shoppers easier access to the information needed to make buying decisions before they walk into a store or contact a salesperson. It also enables them to quickly share information and opinions with friends and peers.
A buyer’s journey is not linear. It’s complex. It involves moving across a variety of online and offline marketing channels. Shoppers do so at their own speed, often switching the devices they use to suit their needs.
Shoppers look for information online, in stores or from trusted sources. They will make purchases online, in brick-and-mortar stores or over the phone. They will often start in one channel and finish in another. They might begin the research process using a PC at the office and finish it on a tablet or smartphone. Throughout the buying process they expect a seamless experience between online and offline.
Seven key elements describe today’s buying behaviors.
Buyer Controlled: The prospect starts searching when they’re ready. It’s very different from the days when marketers told consumers what they needed and where to buy it, i.e., push marketing. To better adapt, marketers need to include “pull” or “inbound” marketing strategies to to be found by prospective buyers. Relevant content must be available when the prospect wants it.
Search Dominated: Search is at the heart of today’s buying behavior. It is used in the beginning to help consumers learn more about what they want or need. It helps them narrow down solutions and settle on ways to evaluate different products or services. Search is also used later in the buying process to compare and find the best deals.
Local Intent: Searches with local intent continue to grow. Better targeting, improved device integration and mobile usage growth are driving this trend. Online search is the preferred method for gathering information about local businesses. (ComScore’s “Trends Shaping Local Search in 2014”) According to Google, about one in three desktop searches now have local intent. With mobile, local search plays an even greater role. Approximately half of all mobile searches have local intent.
Inbound or Pull Marketing: Based on a 2014 Google study, the average number of information sources used by shoppers more than doubled from 2010 to 2013! Another telling Google statistic is that in 53 percent of conversion paths tracked, the last click was generated from a relevant keyword. It’s important that marketers include inbound marketing strategies built around “primary” keywords used by prospects as they search. A strong keyword strategy will drive results for both organic SEO and PPC campaigns.
Social Media Growth: A social-media strategy should be an integral part of any online approach to connect with potential buyers. Social networking sites help you engage with your prospects where they now spend much of their time. Plus, social media review sites influence buying behavior. Sixty-one percent (61%) of consumers read online reviews before making a purchase decision (Econsultancy). Reviews also provide fresh content for search engines and can improve search rankings. Using social annotations (rich snippets) in search results increase click-though rates by an average of five to ten percent on desktop Google search ads.
Mobile Explodes: According to Bloomberg, global smartphone use will reach two billion by the end of 2015. A Pew report, “Technology Device Ownership: 2015” states that 45 percent of American adults now own a tablet. Smartphones and tablets have become the go-to devices for a variety of needs, including searching for products, services, and business information. In the process, they have revolutionized the way buyers shop. Consider the following statistics:
- Local mobile searches (85.9 billion) are projected to exceed desktop searches (84 billion) for the first time in 2015 (eMarketer).
- Three out of four mobile searches trigger follow-up actions (Google/Nielsen).
- 80 percent (80%) of customers abandon a mobile site if they have a bad user experience (Google).
Personalized Buying Behavior Grows: A recent Google Study looked at the purchasing paths of 3,000 shoppers and found that there were 3,000 completely different purchasing paths! As marketers we need to understand the audience(s) and the individual personas within our larger universe. Marketing messages must be segmented and personalized to multiple personas throughout their decision process.
An Accenture report, entitled “Energizing Global Growth: Understanding the Changing Consumer,” concludes that companies able to capitalize on these changes with speed and agility are more likely to capture a portion of the trillions of dollars in global growth over the next few years.
The same report found that nearly three-quarters (73%) of business executives said consumer behavior has changed drastically in the last three years. Seventy-four percent (74%) said they do not fully understand the consumer changes under way. Eighty percent (80%) said they believe that their companies are not taking full advantage of the opportunities these changes present.
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