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The Path to Purchase: Has the Buyer’s Journey Changed?

Business moves fast. Marketing moves faster.

You’ve no sooner developed a good grasp on the latest craze in marketing when something newer comes out. It can be tough to know which trends are worth pursuing (video, for example, is still white-hot with no signs of slowing down) and which trends will fizzle (how much time and money did you spend on QR codes?).

One major shift in marketing every business leader should pay attention to is the new focus on the buyer’s journey. You’re most likely already familiar with the concept: the buyer’s journey is the process a buyer goes through as he/she becomes aware of a problem, evaluates possible solutions, and eventually purchases a new product or service.

Understanding this journey lets you understand where and how to position your brand. However, customer journey marketing isn’t anything new per se; what is new is the way this journey unfolds.

Broadening Your View of the Buyer’s Journey

When building a marketing strategy, it’s tempting to concentrate on marketing to buyers who are ready to buy. However, this is akin to announcing your candidacy the day before an election. People may be ready to vote, but if they don’t know you, they probably won’t vote for you.

By focusing solely on the bottom of your marketing funnel, you’re missing out on multiple opportunities to connect with your buyers, educate them about their challenges, and earn their trust. The kicker is that if you don’t seize these opportunities, your competitors will.

But where can you find these opportunities? Too many marketers assume the buyer’s journey is a straight line from discovery to consideration to decision. But the digital world has fundamentally changed that journey.

Instead of a nice, tidy path from complete unawareness to being ready to buy, the buyer’s journey now looks like a Chutes and Ladders game.

Diagram of the chaotic buyer's journey

Buyers move fluidly forward and backward and sideways these days. Why? Because of information. Consumers are bombarded non-stop with new information. They may be ready to buy, and then a friend’s Twitter update (or your competitor’s new video) will send them sliding straight back into the discovery phase.

To keep up, it’s vital to understand your buyers intimately, so you can connect with them no matter where they are in their journey and provide useful content and solutions to their problems.

Micro-Moments and Their Impact on the Buyer’s Journey

Speaking of problems and solutions, your buyers are turning to their phones for everything. Whether looking for ideas while working on a project or doing a quick search for reviews while browsing for a new brand of shampoo, consumer decision-making is heavily influenced by the ability to access real-time answers.

These moments, where people pause to pull out their mobile devices to search for a solution or find an answer, are commonly referred to as “micro-moments,” and they give marketers an interesting new perspective into the mindsets of their consumers.

Instead of focusing on persona or demographics, capitalizing on micro-moments requires you to think carefully about intent: What are people looking for, where are they looking, and how can you help them? Micro-moments can be a powerful way to reach buyers who normally may not have crossed your path.

For example, let’s say your company manufactures cleaning products. One Saturday night, Jenna has a dinner party and someone spills red wine on her couch. As soon as she gets a chance, she searches “how to get red wine out of couch.”

This is a micro-moment. Jenna needs a clear, helpful answer – right now. Although her immediate motivation wasn’t necessarily to make a purchase, Jenna’s search for answers is an opportunity for your business to provide content that addresses her problem, gains her trust, and – with the right offer (maybe a coupon code for upholstery cleaning spray?) – converts her into a customer.

If you focus solely on bottom-of-funnel content and keywords (such as “upholstery cleaning spray”), you won’t be there when Jenna is looking for a solution to her problem of red wine stains on her furniture.

The same goes for when Rob does a quick search for how to deodorize a dishwasher, or when Veronica looks for ways to sanitize her toilet bowl. As Google puts it, “the brands that do the best job of addressing our needs in each moment will win.”

How we look at the buyer’s journey has changed. You can call it a trend or simply a deeper understanding of all the steps buyers take, be they impulsive micro-moments or meandering swings back to the discovery stage. Through customer journey mapping, you improve your chances of meeting your buyers wherever they are, on their terms – which may be enough to lead them on their path to purchase and ensure their journey ends at your brand.

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