Wait A Minute, I’ll “Google” It
by Jack Loechner, Staff Writer
According to the Mobile Marketing Association’s Mobile Shopper Marketing Committee, the role of the smartphone in retail deserves a much closer look. The ensuing white paper evaluates the buying process through a specific framework: McKinsey’s “Consumer Decision Journey,” the result of a 2009 study which reframed how marketers should view a customer’s path to purchase. McKinsey examined over 20,000 qualitative and quantitative purchase decisions across five industries and three continents to build its report.
The Paper came from the realization that digital transforms marketing away from being a one-way “push” of messaging to consumers to travel down the funnel towards purchase, to how consumers “pull” information about products, services, and brands at any point in time that’s relevant to them, whether or not they’re in a buying cycle. According to the report, the funnel has become a circle:
The decision-making process is seen as a circular journey with four phases:
- Initial consideration;
- Active evaluation, or the process of researching potential purchases
- Closure [moment of purchase], when consumers buy brands; and
- Post-purchase, when consumers experience them
smartSince smartphones had been around for only two years when the McKinsey study was published, the iPhone launched in 2007 and the App Store in 2008, McKinsey couldn’t have foreseen the impact that mobile devices would have on the consumer decision journey, says the report. It makes sense, says the report, to provide a follow-on to McKinsey’s research, layering on top the impact of mobile devices on how consumers evaluate, research, and ultimately respond to marketers’ messages.
Given the enormity of the opportunity that mobile presents, says the report, marketers must reframe their expectations and worldview around this still new, mobile- enabled customer journey. While consumers’ tendency to “pull” information about products has many benefits for marketers today, it also creates challenges since it’s easier than ever for them to research competitive products and access not only positive reviews but negative ones, and for competitors to use proximity targeting to reach your consumers. Knowing how to operate in this environment is critical for marketers.
This Whitepaper, about understanding each consumer segment, what triggers a consumer action, and how mobile affects this behavior, will help marketers become more empowered in how they use tactics, giving them the ability to share the right message at the right time, says the report.
Those on the Consumer Decision Journey, identified by McKinsey, increasingly travel via smartphone.
- According to Pew Research, 77% of Americans now own a smartphone, with 92% of 18-29 year olds owning one
- Overall web traffic only grew 0.1% from Jan. 2013 to 2016, according to ADI Advertising Demand Report (Sept. 2016), but smartphone visits have grown. 36% year-on-year with desktop visits declining 4% year-on year (Adobe Digital Insights)
- US users spend 87 hours per month on their smartphones, according to comScore, with 5% of that time spent on retail content
- According to Think with Google, 84% of shoppers in physical stores use their smartphones to get information about products and comparison shop
- eMarketer estimates $102B in mobile commerce sales in 2017, with that number more than tripling by 2021.
Understanding the Consumer Decision Journey
Phase 1 Initial Consideration and Discovery
- The first phase of the journey begins with a consumer realizing he or she wants or needs a new product. This realization is immediately followed by the consumer identifying an early group of brands to consider. He or she assimilates these options based upon previous experiences, prior purchases, or exposure to recent touch points such as advertising, social media, in-store experiences, word-of-mouth and peer reviews.
Phase 2 Active Evaluation
- In this next phase, the consumer decides which brands and products to evaluate further. It’s critical that marketers make their brands easy to access and communicate with, and that they detail how their brands differ from competitors. From the McKinsey report: “Companies must invest in vehicles that let marketers interact with consumers as they learn about brands.”
Phase 3 Moment-of-Purchase
- McKinsey’s research shows that “more consumers hold off their final purchase decision until they’re in a store; up to 40% of them change their minds because of something they see, learn, or do at this point.” Therefore, the Moment-of-Purchase phase stipulates that a marketer’s job doesn’t end when a consumer enters a location to make a purchase; rather, the truly difficult work is beginning. The marketer must close the sale.
Phase 4 Post-Purchase Experience
- Handling the post-purchase experience is traditionally managed by customer service and support, but no other step is more critical to determining long-term customer loyalty. Customer support at its finest is a marketing-driven discipline, laser-focused on ensuring the product meets customer expectations, issues are resolved quickly and fairly, and that complementary products are readily available, says the report. Customers may also want access to additional research, tutorials, communities, and updates throughout the life cycle of product ownership.
Fast forward to 2017, and mobile represents the single most accessible digital screen for consumers to make decisions both in and out of the home. However, this readily accessible sales tool can be a double-edged sword for marketers, where both favorable and negative user reviews and videos can be obtained at any point in the consumer’s decision journey, notes the report. Brands can send conquesting messages or coupons directly to their consumers while they are in competitors’ stores, raising the stakes even higher for gaining a consumer’s attention.
This level of increased competitiveness and transparency makes it important for marketers to get into the mindset of consumers as they move along the path to purchase. They must be present at the important trigger points with relevant messages that answer each consumer’s specific need for information. They must also ensure their brand and messages are made and designed for a mobile audience and the devices receiving them.
Concluding, the Whitepaper says “ … ultimately the goal of any smart marketer is to leverage the Consumer Decision Journey, along with mobile, to foster the loyalty loop… “ And a celebrated Harvard B-School professor says “… a customer’s satisfaction significantly impacts their lifetime value to the brand. Given mobile’s incredibly personal nature, the smartphone becomes an object to be obsessed over when determining new ways to keep customers happy, engaged, and coming back for future purchases… “
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