Here's Why Social Is The Heart Of The Consumer's Journey

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Remember when marketers drew customer journey maps into neat, straight lines or pretty circles? Those days are over. In the social era, the "customer journey" is so unpredictable, so varied, that the best a brand can hope for is to show up somewhere along that dizzying pathway to encourage a sale.

 

The new consumer journey in the social era is:

  • Non-linear

  • Highly personal

  • Interrupted constantly

  • Noisy

  • A paradox of choice

  • And therefore… Completely unpredictable

 

Check out this consumer’s multi-channel journey, courtesy of Google ZMOT (below). Whether you’re B2B or B2C, your brand must be prepared to find a customer at any one of these stages.

Remember, the social era is more than just using social media (though of course, that’s part of it). If the industrial era was about building things, the social era is about connecting things, ideas and people, communicating identity through purchasing power (a.k.a, the PROsumer), and blurring the lines between professional and personal.

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If your brand doesn’t understand why social is at the heart of the consumer’s journey, it’ll get left behind. There are simply too many choices and too many well-informed, empowered buyers out there. Here, we’ll bust some myths regarding consumer behaviour and preconceptions and offer five questions for identifying entry points in your prosocial customer journey.  

Myth 2 - The CFO is older and male.

Busted - Nearly half of all B2B researchers are millennials, an incredibly diverse generation (spanning from age 23 to 38, there are 80 million of them in the U.S. alone), with very different needs, beliefs, values and experiences within this group. To reach them, you’ll have to think counterintuitively; stop marketing generationally and think in terms of audience mindsets. The closer you dive into your audience research, the better picture you have of Your Best Customer. Who has the final say in B2B purchasing? 64% of C-level (CEO, CFO, etc) has final authority, but 81% of non-C-level employees influence these purchase decisions. Again, it all comes down to understanding your customer.

Myth 1 - Busy decision-makers don't have time for the internet.

Busted - According to Google, 89% of B2B researchers use the internet for B2B research in the buying process. Potential customers of your brand or service are already searching through your competitor’s content, forming opinions and looking for the best deal and service, whether you’re there or not. In the retail world, 82% of smart phone users consult their phones on purchases they are about to make in-store.

 
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Looking at your existing customers may help you understand where in the journey your brand appears (or doesn’t). These five questions will help you to get the lay of the land as far as entry points are concerned.

1. Who are my Best Customers?”  

Understanding Your Best Customer goes a long way in predicting behaviours and purchasing patterns. Your Best Customer is not just the one who purchases but truly engages with your brand also. You want more consumers like this. Do they belong to any communities with like-minded people? Chances are that they’ll also like your brand.

2. “How did they find me?” OR “How did I find them?

Knowing where your previous consumers have entered your ecosystem gives you a great idea of what your brand does right. If you know they discovered your brand, followed your account and then purchased a product through a targeted Instagram ad, you'll know your Instagram strategy is serving that audience particularly well. Don’t just focus on where your brand appears, but look for gaps in the entry points where you can gain some new traction.

3. “Why did they choose me?

What separates your brand from the competition? Look at this from every entry point. For example, if you’re getting a ton of referrals, it’s likely your product or service is on point. If your brand is having retention issues, it’s likely that your messaging is stronger than your service. Look at where your messaging is strongest, understand why this is and see if you can translate it to the other aspects of your brand. Remember, though - not every customer is the same.

4. “What was their journey?

If your brand gets a bunch of online referrals but doesn’t do well by word of mouth, it might be time to investigate your product. Once you’ve conducted enough research, you can also look into the patterns, see if any of these entry points have changed, and adjust accordingly. Which brings us to...

5. “How has it all changed?”

It’s important to remember that as consumers get more and more savvy about your industry, their entry points into your funnel will probably have changed also. Is your brand getting more traffic from one part of your marketing machine than it used to? This trend might be worth investigating.

 

Now that the sales funnel is no longer a funnel, your consumers (both B2B and B2C) expect you to meet them on their journey and not the other way around. Your consumers are better researched than ever before and it’s about time brands stopped talking down to them. Your consumers (and your brand) will thank you.