How Digital Marketing Assists the Path to Purchase
by Kim Grant
In a perfect world, your target customer would simply view your advertisement, immediately visit your website, rush to the checkout page or store, and whip out their credit card. Unfortunately, the world we’re living in is far from perfect, and the average path to purchase is far from linear in today’s digitally-dominated consumer landscape.
Whereas in times past the path to purchase was far more cut and dried, nowadays consumers are tapping into multiple platforms in order to inform their buying decisions. Agile marketers are recognizing that if they want to grab their target audience’s attention–and keep it until it leads to a purchase–they’re going to have to use a variety of digital marketing channels to do it. Below are some ideas to consider regarding how digital marketing assists the path to purchase.
Digital Marketing: The Times They Are a-Changin’
It used to be fairly easy to identify at which point in the sales funnel a consumer’s buying decision would be made, but times have changed. Ever since smartphones exploded onto the scene in 2007, mobile commerce in turn has expanded by orders of magnitude; in fact, out of the estimated 190.5 million smartphone users in the US alone, data giant ComScore estimates that four out of every five regularly use their mobile device to shop online.
This has added several layers of complexity to the buying cycle that simply didn’t exist before, as mobile consumers now refer to several different digital channels to help them research and assess their shopping options before buying. So instead of making one major buying decision at one singular point in the sales funnel, consumers are now piecing together their buying opinions using several different online references in order to make a more informed decision.
Examples of Factors That Influence Online Buying Decisions
- Display advertising
- Organic search
- Shopping apps
- Videos that highlight products or services
- Social media referrals
- Email marketing
- Customer service (e.g., email or live chat)
- Online deals/discounts
- Product images on social media (e.g., Pinterest pins)
- Online consumer reviews or testimonials
Each one of the above factors represents what Google’s Think Newsletter refers to as “micro-moments”–i.e., opportunities for brands to meet potential customers at a time of increased interest or intent. These micro-moments are key points in a customer’s journey in which they are gathering information, shaping their preferences, and ultimately reaching their buying decisions.
While this approach makes the attribution trail far more complex for marketers, the bottom line is that in order for brands to compete in today’s highly interlinked digital marketplace, they’re going to need to develop a trackable multi-channel experience that takes these various influential factors into account.
Treat Every Micro-Moment with Equal Importance
Many times, digital marketers have a tendency to favor certain approaches that they deem to be the key drivers behind consumer purchases, but what motivates one customer to buy may not even be on the radar for another customer.
Since there really is no one-size-fits-all template for micro-moments that will trigger a buying decision, it’s the digital marketer’s job to put their all into every aspect of their marketing efforts across all of their digital channels. Don’t neglect any potential touchpoint; the more you integrate your various marketing channels into a consistent and cohesive whole, the more they’ll work together to positively influence the customer’s path to purchase.