Managing the Sales Funnel and Engaging Shoppers Along the Path to Purchase
Whether a shopper is buying a high-consideration or low-consideration product/service, chances are they’re online for a good portion of their path to purchase. Here’s how marketers can maximize impact along the way with a customer-centric digital marketing strategy.
When you make a significant purchase – like a new phone system or a TV – your journey probably looks something like this:
- If your TV hasn’t actually died, you may see an ad for a new curved-screen or higher-level resolution model and decide it’s time for a change
- You head to Google or Amazon to search up TVs with new features and look at models, narrowing your consideration set down to two or three
- You may go to Consumer Reports, CNET, Best Buy or other sites that have trustworthy consumer and/or editorial reviews
- You return to Amazon and may go to BestBuy.com and some local store sites to compare prices
- You actually visit a few stores to look at models live and in-person
- You go back and look at consumer-generated reviews from a myriad of sites to be sure the model you liked is has good reviews
- Unlike the way TVs were purchased decades ago, you rely less on a store’s sale-person and instead go on a journey to capture lots of information about all the different models in your price-point with the features you’re looking for
- After your search, you purchase a new TV either online or in-store
As you can see, there are a lot of opportunities for both brands and retailers to reach you along that path. There’s the “Zero Moment of Truth,” the first touch point that inspires you to shop for a TV. There are many moments during which you’re reading buyer’s guides and reviews. There are the times you’re shopping online, whether that’s on your mobile or PC, whether you’re at home or actually in the store.
The path to purchase isn’t linear or predictable – shoppers now build their own path, combining online and offline research and shopping to choose their own adventure, as evidenced by the chart below.
What’s amazing is that 87 percent of consumer purchases begin with a product search. Currently more than half of these searches are occurring on Amazon, but Google still carries a significant percentage of queries. These are important factors for a marketer to consider. Equally important: 96 percent of the visitors to your website aren’t ready to buy yet. They’re looking for information – and a reason to buy from YOU. That means it’s the marketer’s job to not only get them to the site, but to provide the information and incentives the shopper needs to complete a purchase on their next visit.
How Marketers Think About Path to Purchase – The Sales Funnel 101
Top of Funnel (TOFU)
The top of the funnel refers to that portion of the customer journey during which they’re looking for information. The shopper is trying to figure out if they really want a new TV, if they can afford a new model, and what the current models look like. Marketers are wise to focus their TOFU campaigns on promoting awareness, aiming to provide a first-touch introduction to the brand or business. Creative at this stage might focus on slick images and top features and benefits – you’re just letting the consumer know that you exist and have what they’re looking for!
Middle of Funnel (MOFU)
Once a shopper has shown some interest in your product or brand, it’s incredibly important to keep them engaged in this critical consideration period. Effective Middle of Funnel (MOFU) campaigns re-engage previous visitors. In digital marketing, we can target the MOFU audience using defined parameters, such as visitors who have visited a certain page and not completed a purchase. An example in ecommerce would be shopping cart abandoners, those who have added a product to their cart, but then jumped off to another site before completing the checkout process.
This technique of re-engaging customers in the MOFU stage with digital marketing translates to increased conversions. Digital marketing guru Larry Kim conducted an experiment for a new tool on Wordstream.com to measure the impact of remarketing campaigns. After just 18 months, the results showed that retargeting increased repeat visitors by 50 percent, raised conversions by 51 percent, and increase time on site by a full 300 percent.
They’re not the only company seeing incredibly results: CPG leader Kimberly-Clark relies on retargeting, seeing 50 to 60 percent higher conversion rates among consumers who have been retargeted by campaigns. According to creadits.com, tire company Tirendo used a Google Ads remarketing campaign to increase their conversion rate by 161 percent. Additionally, the company saw a 43% decreased CPA (cost per acquisition), resulting in increased profitability.
To supplement remarketing campaigns for those in the consideration period, marketers may add additional lead nurturing tools such as a live chat. When properly deployed, these additional lead nurturing tools can further help increase conversion rates for your website.
Bottom of Funnel (BOFU)
At the bottom of the funnel, clients are ready to buy. They have done their research and now have high purchase intent. All communication at this stage should be designed to encourage conversion.
Existing customers are more likely to convert than new, therefore, it’s important to keep a strategic eye on targeting your existing customers.
At this stage of the funnel, aim to provide offers that can tip the scale – free shipping, product samples, loyalty benefits. In terms of tactics, combine retargeting ads with a focus on longer-tail keywords in search (high intent) and “near me” searches. (Searches for “shopping near me” have grown more than 200 percent over the last few years.)
Back Through the Funnel – Driving New Sales from Existing Customers
The funnel doesn’t really end at the bottom – as we’ve pointed out, smart brands and organizations recognize the value of their existing customers and endeavor to keep them engaged and loyal by continuously providing them with new up-sale and cross-sale opportunities. Once you know the precise attributes of those that have transacted on your site you can then build a personalized relationship with your customer by offering her the goods and services she is regularly looking for.
The funnel or customer journey, when managed correctly, is more like a waterslide where people loop back up to get in line again. Current customers are more likely to purchase again, especially if you offer them an easy way to transact and a good site user-experience.
Now more than ever, digital is an important component of this journey for digital brands as well as brick-and-mortar businesses. Mobile searches have now become a tool that enhances the decision-making decision. The ‘second screen phenomenon’ describes consumers’ use of mobile phones while interacting with another screen i.e., researching a product on your phone while watching a commercial for said product. Consumers are now conducting price checks while in store at brick-and-mortar locations, comparing deals, a practice known as “showrooming.” Marketing executives need to meet consumers where they are, taking advantage of digital marketing opportunities across the stages of the funnel.
Embrace Digital Evolution
As retail continues to evolve and we see more and more brick-and-mortar stores shutter for good, the need for retailers to embrace digital strategies comes into sharp focus. Agencies like MediaCrossing guide retailers through the process of creating and activating integrated advertising campaigns that support the stages of their sales funnels. With access to thousands of audience attributes to provide hyper-specific targeting, advertisers can reach the right people at the right times and help shoppers find their favorite store’s offers and inventory at the precise moment that they want them.
If shoppers can’t find your product, they’ll go elsewhere. If you can’t engage customers at every step along the path to purchase, someone else will – and the sale will be lost. Leveraging search and other digital tactics (programmatic display, mobile, video, social, native, etc.) that support your sales funnel is an important part of winning those customers – and coming through the so-called retail apocalypse unscathed.