The fact that the Internet has changed everything isn’t a new one, even less so for marketers. However, knowing that the Internet has changed the way you need to market, and really understanding how the Internet has changed the path to purchase aren’t the same thing. In this post, we’ll touch on the aspects you need to pay attention to the most to optimize your strategy for better results.
The New, Typical Path to Purchase
It used to be easy to talk about the consumer path to purchase: advertising made them aware, they talked to a retail clerk and they took action; even as the funnel matured, it remained a straight line. Depending on the products you sell, you would focus on getting coupons in front of the right people or retaining loyal customers to your brand via the purchasing experience.
But the Internet is changing the typical path to purchase in many ways, making the process more complicated and creating a plethora of touch points (i.e., micro-moments) that should be won to influence decision makers. Purchase research is just as likely to happen online as it is in-store, and that’s just the first shift in the shopping ecosystem toward a multi-channel experience that customers want to be frictionless and integrated. Now, 90% of customers can be finished with most types of purchases without ever walking into a store at all because the Internet—especially the mobile web—have put a nearly infinite amount of information at customer’s fingertips. A single search on Google offers customers shopping options for both in stores and online, coupons and discounts, answers to their questions, and much more. Customers can have their questions answered and know who they want to buy from, and how, all from the comfort of their mobile smartphone.
Below, we’ll take a quick look at some of the biggest factors in how the Internet has changed the path to purchase.
Role of Video
Video is useful because of how simple it is as a communication tool—it helps simplify difficult concepts by providing clarity and context, and it’s an excellent form of storytelling. It shouldn’t be a surprise, then, that there are big expectations for the changing role of video, especially with developments in interactive video and the potential for shoppable video content. In fact, some projections foresee that 75% of Internet traffic will be video views by 2017, so it’s no surprise that it was one of the hot topics across several talks at the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s (IAB) Annual Leadership Meeting in early 2016. While the big names in professional video marketing are expecting to see a rise in storytelling—mini-form and long-form videos—the development of meaningful and actionable metrics, and a better understanding of digital video’s ROI, growing adspend, age-differentiated marketing, and even the end of platform-focused metrics, let’s take a look at some of the statistics for why video is growing in importance. On YouTube, a Google study provides that TrueView videos offer:
- 13% consideration lift in 57% of campaigns
- 3% favorability lift in 24% of campaigns
- 4% intent lift in 35% of campaigns
- 45% higher lift in consideration, 14% higher lift in favorability, and 19% higher lift in intent in video viewers that completed the ad
Furthermore, 44% of consumers admit to using video as a part of their research, more than half of which contacted the brand, and 71% of which went on to make a purchase.
Role of Blogging
We understand the role of blogging in SEO and how critical new, valuable content is for search rankings. You may even understand that having that content is important for reaching your customers across a variety of the micro-moments along the new path to purchase. Blogging clearly positions your business as a thought leader in your industry, and helps to ensure that the answers your customers are looking for, before they ever talk to you directly, are still coming from your brand. It also offers some seriously tangible benefits:
- Prioritizing blogging increases chances for positive ROI by 13%
- 57% of businesses captured at least one new customer via blog
- This type of content marketing costs 62% less than traditional, and 22% of marketers are investing more in it.
- Longer blogging (i.e., 1,500 words or more) garners more shares on social media, specifically 68% more via Twitter and 22% more via Facebook.
- 42% of consumers hear about brands via blogs, and 35% will seek recommendations from trusted bloggers.
Ad blocking is on the rise, and on the rise globally, and that means that blogging and other types of native content are going to become more and more important. Depending on traditional Internet advertising will no longer be a meaningful way to tap into your customers, but methods that integrate conversation, create value, and engender real relationships with consumers continues to be the future for brand marketing.
Role of Social Media
As with blogging, social media can offer your brand in terms of managing reputation, reaching customers where they are as an extension of customer service, and even providing data that expands and clarifies market research and segmentation. But social media is one of the tools on the forefront of how the Internet has changed the path to purchase, and how it’s continuing to evolve.
The truth is, social media is one of the few touch points that the complex path to purchase. It’s part of consumer research, part of their decision making, and part of how they share how satisfied (or dissatisfied) they are with the results of their decision. This is a major change from the way brands have traditionally viewed social media, that is, role in the process, and developing metrics and properly attributing ROI will help adjust this view in the future. This expectation comes from the fact that action on social media builds on the concept of consistency—when consumers share products or services on a platform, roughly 50% will have gone on to purchase that product after a week, and an exponential 80% will purchase before the month is out. Further will include, not unlike the developments for video. A few more statistics:
The truth is, social media is one of the few touch points that proliferates across the complex path to purchase. It’s part of consumer research, part of their decision making, and part of how they share how satisfied (or dissatisfied) they are with the results of their decision. This is a major change from the way brands have traditionally viewed social media, that is, relegating it to an “assist” role in the process, and developing metrics and properly attributing ROI will help adjust this view in the future. This expectation comes from the fact that action on social media builds on the concept of consistency—when consumers share products or services on a platform, roughly 50% will have gone on to purchase that product after a week, and an exponential 80% will purchase before the month is out. Further developments in metrics will include resonance, not unlike the developments for video. A few more statistics:
- 83% of consumers discover brands, products, and services via various social media outlets.
- 55% of consumers trust reviews they’re exposed to on social networks, even if the person writing the review is not someone they know in person or see regularly.
- Nearly 66% will turn to Facebook while they’re shopping, even if they’re in-store
- Sharing is motivated by positive experiences in 87% of consumers, and free products prompt 72% to share.
- 32% are motivated by dissatisfaction
- More than 66% will share their purchase on Facebook no matter what the experience, and another third will connect with the brand or other brand advocates via the network. Most will post photos and video.
- Social has become the biggest traffic referral source at more than 31% of overall traffic across eight platforms, which is hardly a surprise when you consider that social networking represent about a third of time spent on the Internet.
Role of Reviews
Peer reviews are, quite possibly, the biggest flag to mark the changing of the typical path to purchase. While reviews and testimonials have always borne some influence—70% of consumers value friends and family over brand representatives—consumers are seeking out reviews beyond what the brand offers now more than ever. They also understand the influence that their commentary can have beyond the traditional word-of-mouth among friends, family, and coworkers. That’s why we now see 20% of consumers regularly leaving reviews (a number that jumps to 33% in the travel industry, a sure sign that this is a trend that will continue to grow.)
Gone are the days of distrusting people on the Internet—81% of consumers utilize reviews, and 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal ones from people they know. Reviews from everyday people, that read as authentic, are more influential than ever, and will likely only become more influential as the digital and physical continue to integrate. Here’s some statistics about how far peer reviews on the Internet have come:
- 55% look for positive reviews online, while another 34% look for recommendations from online acquaintances and 46% look for professional recommendations
- 67% of those looking for online reviews will look at videos, and 49% will turn specifically to YouTube.
- 41% of consumers will be directly influenced to make a purchase by between 1 and 4 reviews.
- Decision making is influenced by positive reviews for 90% of consumers and by negative reviews for 87% of consumers.
- Personal stories and lists of pros and cons top the list of making a review influential (80% and 71% respectively).
- Internet influencers on social media or in the blogosphere are still trusted by 71% of consumers if they were given the product or service for free.
With a clearer understanding of the ways in which the Internet is changing the typical path to purchase, you can audit the way you’re approaching capturing the moments along that path. While this new path certainly fragmented and complicated, it may prove to have a stronger effect than a straight line when leveraged correctly.