The push to purchase – The Customer Journey

When a customer stands before the object of their desire emotions run high as the anticipation for gratification peaks. However, as the saying goes ‘There is many a slip ’twixt cup and lip’, meaning that until all those eggs are in the basket, don’t go counting chickens as a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush…

Mixed metaphors aside, chances are, before that commitment to purchase is realised, there is still the potential for the customer to change their mind or, horrors! leave your establishment altogether. 

Prospects often become customers on a whim or serendipitously, either based on convenience of products — whether geographically or stock availability — or even opportunistically, for example, walking into your shop to get out of the rain with an irritated toddler, or coming perchance upon your wheelbarrow website while looking for wheels.

But feet through the door is only part of the equation. Of equal importance is the conversion rate when prospects visit your store, pop-up shop, or stall.

Even though it’s difficult to validate the expenditure linked with having a physical shopfront, be it a permanent or temporary arrangement, based on research conducted by Head Count, almost three-quarters of online shoppers hold the view that the traditional in-store experience is vital when making a purchase decision. It appears that the face-to-face, ‘handling the merchandise’ aspect of the shopping experience is still crucial for retail success. But closing the sale is not simply a case of interacting with a sea of sunny smiles.

While an omni-channel approach, offering a selection of methods and tools will enable customers to shop in ways that best suit their needs, in the way they choose and are comfortable with, the online experience should replicate the offering of the brick-and-mortar store, while noting the experiential differences.

Turning interest into intent

There are many things that encourage, nay, entice a customer to buy from you, other than the fact that you happen to stock whatever item it is that they happen to want. It could be something as simple as an attractive store that is easy to navigate without being overwhelmed by merchandise; it could be the welcoming smell of coffee beans roasting or that stick of vanilla-scented incense. It could also be location, location, location.

It could be an easy to navigate, attractive website that guides the shopper through the products and services smoothly, offering plenty opportunity to put something in their cart.

Once ‘inside’, a call to action (CTA) is what will often nudge people into making that purchasing decision, whether in a solid, physical store or an online merchant.

Getting an irritated, rain-dampened toddler out of inclement weather and who is now tugging at Dad’s trouser leg, may push the father to simply take the first brightly coloured toy truck he can lay his hands on to quell the irritation, resulting in a sale at check out. Alternatively, blatantly displayed sale signage warning shoppers that they will miss out if they don’t buy NOW! may serve to push a purchase, whether on or offline.

Ensure that it is your CTA that galvanises them into making that purchase, that you guide them through the Customer Journey in such a way as to align your marketing strategy with their behaviour, ensuring that they are purchasing the goods that you would like them to.

Obviously, any sound marketing strategy is based on customer feedback, surveys and interaction prior to launching the marketing campaign. You know your target market and you know their preferences. Now it should simply be a case of presenting desirable goods in a desirable manner, right?

Your focus is to capture those elusive window shoppers/browsers, converting them into lifelong customers.

Research shows that 65% of the global consumer base claims that personalised offers and engagement are important to their shopping experience. How well do you fare in this area?

In-store advertising brochures are an excellent means to assist shoppers, as are online catalogues. Both serve as an empowering tool for customers, allowing them to move around freely whether in a brick-and-mortar establishment, or an online store, whether via laptop or Smartphone. In the physical establishment, staff attired in the brand’s apparel also serve as beacons for customers looking for help, as do chatbots or FAQs online.

First impressions are important — particularly in retail. From the moment a customer graces your establishment, they’re making buying decisions. People need to feel that they are not a mere number, a walking credit card. Treat customers as though they matter (because they do, that is the point). That’s where staff play a major role — they’re there to guide the customers and help them as they consider their options in-store, offering relevant information, maybe some product details and then outlining promotions. Customer engagement is where the value really lies.

For both on and offline, hold conversations with customers, offer advice, suggest a complementary accessory etc that could add value to their intended purchase.

It’s all about making communication friction-free, with advice and information easy to obtain, either from knowledgeable salespeople or comprehensive online data and a friendly bot.

Be proactive in your communication across all platforms, from social media (to lead them to your store) to the actual in-store experience.

The effort in getting the customer to buy however, should not be so obvious that they feel obligated or coerced into buying. You don’t want staff hanging around shoppers like guard dogs, herding them to the merchandise you are trying to move. You don’t want to bombard them with CTAs on every second paragraph of the website, just as much as you don’t want customers not knowing how to solve their query or understanding of a product, resulting in purchasing the incorrect item because no help was available to advise otherwise.

Also, as the seasons change and traffic ebbs and swells, during a peak season, by appointing a competent, enthusiastic floor leader — whose one focus during the holiday period is to be on customer care duty like white on rice, namely, to ensure customer support is amplified and that all sales-fronting personnel are executing their duties to ultimate efficiency — will work wonders at your till points. And online, have more call centre agents answering calls and solving queries will result in more satisfied customers.

Believe it or not, the weather can even play into the retailers’ hands when it comes to promotions. When it’s raining, offer a special on umbrellas or raincoats, when there’s a heat wave a small drinks cooler box or ice trays will go down well with a purchase up to XX amount, a beanie for a cold spell etc. While, unless you are a meteorologist, you can’t always predict the weather, you can plan for types of weather and make it work for moving stagnant stock.

And, while we are not here to judge anyone’s parenting skills, what the hell are parents doing with kids out in the rain without a raincoat?

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