Link Walls, VP Digital Marketing Strategy, ChannelAdvisor, has decades of experience of ecommerce and today looks at the evolution of the consumer journey and examines the key considerations that retail brands need to address in order to succeed in a rapidly changing world.
The evolution of the consumer journey & key considerations for retail brands
Consumer shopping habits have shifted dramatically in the last two years and shoppers have become more digitally savvy at every point on the buying journey. This evolving path to purchase presents a huge opportunity for brands willing to adapt, utilise new technology and meet rising consumer expectations.
The many paths to purchase
The growth in ecommerce inspired consumers to research, discover and purchase products in new ways. Consumers now have the opportunity to buy from marketplaces, retailer websites, brand websites, social media sites, and more. In fact, 73% of consumers now describe themselves as channel agnostic, compared with 65% before the pandemic. No longer passive participants waiting to be told about the latest trends; shoppers are now actively seeking out new styles for themselves. Statistics have shown that 81% of retail shoppers research before making a purchase.
The big technological advancements over the past decade have also forced consumers’ buying habits to evolve. Our research has shown consumers are using multiple channels and devices to research products, with mobile, for example, now accounting for 63% of all online purchases. These developments in technology have brought a new ‘always-on’ mentality and the modern path to purchase has changed for good.
The impact of technology
The traditional journey consumers take is largely linear and has remained the same despite the innovation we’ve seen across the industry. Consumers start by becoming ‘aware’ of a product, they then ‘consider’ that product and finally ‘purchase’. This process typically remains the same whether it takes someone ten minutes or ten months to buy a product.
The big shift in the modern consumer journey has come from technology, which has provided consumers with more digital touchpoints along the path to purchase. They are now more informed, demanding and often impatient. This increase in information disrupts the traditional consumer journey and not meeting these new customer needs can impact a brand’s sales.
The increase in digital touchpoints
Technology has had a huge impact on consumer awareness. The increase in digital touchpoints like online stores, apps and marketplaces has increased visibility and allowed consumers to find products wherever they are.
Social media for example presents a huge opportunity to brands looking for the next generation of consumers. On average, users are spending 1 hour 40 minutes a day on sites like Instagram and TikTok, with 72% of users reporting they made a purchase based on something they saw on the platform. Having a digital strategy that can capture this market will prove crucial to future success.
The increase in channels has made the market much more competitive with brands and retailers now fighting for consumer attention and trying to gain visibility. To do so, it’s essential they develop new strategies to gain exposure and reach their customers. Technological features like shoppable media and utilising social commerce are a great way to help with this.
Holding consumer attention
According to a recent ChannelAdvisor survey, Amazon and search engines were the primary channels used for consumer research. It allows them to search for a specific product across multiple channels, build up their product knowledge and look for the best price or potential alternatives.
This is why keeping consumers’ attention along the path to purchase is crucial, attention is short and with more options than ever it’s easy to lose a sale. Brands and retailers should prioritise their content with up to date product descriptions, images, blogs and case studies all of which capture attention and keep consumers engaged.
Consistency is also important for brands and retailers. The increase in online and physical channels means consumers have a greater choice of where to buy a product. Consistent messaging across online stores and physical stores allows a much smoother path to purchase, with consumers remaining informed and in control of their purchasing decisions.
Standing out from the crowd
The final stage of the traditional consumer journey is purchase. How a brand stands out from its competition and creates a frictionless path to purchase will prove crucial to its success.
The surge in ecommerce has made the shopping landscape even more crowded. Brands that employ tactics like shopper discounts, ‘how to’ videos, and same day delivery options, often win by providing the buyer with more information and keeping them more engaged with their offers.
A seamless checkout experience makes a huge difference. Shoppers now expect everything to be as easy as the ‘one-click’ checkout service that Amazon offers and any complications on the way can quickly turn into a consumer abandoning their basket and buying from the competition.
After sales experience
However, unlike the traditional consumer journey the modern consumer journey doesn’t stop at checkout. The experience consumers have with delivery of their product is as crucial as the three previous steps, it can turn consumers from advocates to critics.
Issues outside of a brands control will arise, the recent global supply chain crisis impacted businesses of all sizes and caused havoc for sellers. The key for brands is transparency. Keeping your customers informed of where their product is, how long delivery will be or offering them a discount on their next purchase can help smooth this friction. Clear communication and delivering your products on time will build your brand’s reputation and keep customers coming back.
The modern consumer journey has evolved significantly in recent years. For some brands and retailers this can seem daunting, but adapting to this new ecommerce era will sustain their success for years to come.