Much of the buyer’s journey and decision making process is completed before a customer even talks to a salesperson or walks into a store — we are reading articles, watching videos, being influenced by marketing, comparing prices, and researching products. Many of us have trusted sources for much of this information that we will consult before making a purchase decision. In fact, only 19% of consumers do not conduct any type of online product research before making a purchasing decision.
The role blogs play in this consumer’s path to purchase is one that can not be overlooked. Blogs are the third most influential source of information in shaping a buyer’s decision, and the most influential third party resource (with retail sites, and brand sites being the first and second most influential). In this post we’ll look at exactly how blog content is used in the buyer’s journey, and what factors make it such an influential resource for consumers.
Think about the place you go for information, entertainment, trends, and knowledge. Whether it’s planning your fantasy football team, finding a new recipe for your next dinner party, or making the switch from Android to iPhone, you can probably think of websites, or blogs, that regularly publish relevant information on topics that interest you. Most of us even subscribe to some of these, and check in regularly for new updates and information. We come to know the writers and bloggers, and we eventually trust their opinions as if we know them personally. Here are a few reasons why:
With frequent updates, and oftentimes a conversational or casual tone, blogs offer a unique experience for readers that they can’t really get from other publications. It’s something more akin to getting a letter from a trusted friend than reading hard news. Good bloggers understand this, and are careful not to abuse the trust of their readers.
They won’t endorse anything they haven’t tried or don’t truly believe in. Bloggers put their reputation on the line every time they make an endorsement. They know that taking a quick payout for a phony endorsement is one of the easiest ways to drive away their readers.
Not to mention, most of them got into blogging because they are passionate about that particular topic. They didn’t get into it for the money, and even if they did, they wouldn’t be successful if they weren’t authentic and knowledgeable and relatable.
Without readers, a blogger is just some person with a laptop and an internet connection. Great blogs are about more than just their author — they’re a community of like-minded people centered around one niche or topic. Loyal readers comment and share their opinions with one another, they try out products or tips that bloggers endorse, and they report back on their experience.
Bloggers work hard to build this type of community. They are likely less concerned with marketing than they are with providing quality and real information for their audience. If they review a product, you can be sure that they’ll test it thoroughly, and write about its pros as well as the cons. Readers expect this and invest trust in the blogs that they frequent. When a blogger’s credibility is questioned, the community reacts quickly.
Most consumers don’t expect to get unbiased, real-life information from retailers and brands, but they do expect third party sources — like bloggers — to share experiences and feedback.
They Have a Segmented Audience
The community they build is the ultimate payoff for a dedicated bloggers hard work. It isn’t necessarily about attracting huge numbers of readers — although that is nice too — as it is about attracting readers who are as passionate about a blogger’s subject matter as they are. The more niche a blogger’s topics, the more niche the audience — this provides marketers with a more precise idea regarding the audience they’re targeting.
Stages of the Buyer’s Journey
Having your product featured or reviewed on a popular niche blog can enhance your marketing at every stage of the buyer’s journey: Awareness, Consideration, and Decision.
Not only can blogs influence the buyer’s journey just by virtue of letting consumers know that a product exists, but it can change the direction of someone’s product research by making them aware of new solutions to their problem.
Imagine, for example, that someone is planning a birthday party and they need a cake. They think they want to make it themselves, so they go on their favorite recipe blog to look for ideas. In their blog-perusing they come across a post featuring a particular brand that showcases different ways to make cakes, as well as other festive pastries with the brand’s ingredients. After reading the post, they decide that the blog’s recipe for a birthday pie fits much better with their party’s theme. The buyer’s journey always starts with a need — not for a specific product but for a solution to a problem. In this example the buyer’s need wasn’t specifically a cake, but a festive and fun dessert for a party, something that would impress others and be Pinterest-worthy.
Blogs can make consumers aware, not just of different products, but alternative solutions to their problems as well, which in turn can change the course of the buyer’s journey.
Once a buyer has decided which type of product will best fill their need, they will narrow the focus of their product research. They know what they need now, they are just trying to figure out where they are going to get it. This often involves more research, but of a different kind.
They’ll look to articles and videos and reviews in the category they plan to make a purchase. Competing products and goods may have different features that the consumer does not fully understand, and reviews (found on social sites as well as on blogs) can help them narrow their choice down to a few select options.
This is where that trusted, credible blogger comes in handy to the buyer. They value the opinion of this person or site because they’ve come to trust it. They’ve found great content, resources, and reviews there in the past — they feel like it’s a personal referral and put a tremendous amount of weight on the opinions given by these trusted “friends” and experts.
You might even find that readers submit questions asking for advice on particular products. “Would you use X brand of diapers or Y brand of diapers? Which is safest for my child?” These kinds of questions are common and often addressed on many types of blogs — either in an article or in the comments below one.
Once a consumer has narrowed down their choices, the honest, objective information they find on blogs will help them to use the process of elimination to make their final purchasing decision, as will the information they can find from your business.
Here is when they’ll compare any faults competing products may have, and decide which is ultimately best. Perhaps they are leaning towards the less expensive choice, but after reading a product review, finding that they cite poor quality and likeliness to break, they decide to go with the slightly more expensive choice that is endorsed by their favorite blog.
This isn’t always a long, thought out process either. Sometimes all of these stages happen in one day for a CPG buying decision, and sometimes it can take weeks or even months.
As you can see the influence that blogs have over the buyer’s journey is massively influential. By understanding how bloggers build dedicated niche audiences, and the different ways in which consumers interact with blogs before making a purchasing decision, marketers can utilize blogs to enhance their marketing throughout every step of the buyer’s journey. When this is done in conjunction with a strategic and targeted marketing campaign, buyers will have much more authentic engagement with your brand that can lead to more sales and new customers.