Today’s always-on, digitally-aware consumers have unparalleled access, choice and buying power. The vast amount of unconnected and unstructured data, events and records they generate provides fast moving consumer goods companies a unique opportunity to gain a profound appreciation for the consumer decision journey and, in the process, drive consumption and loyalty. However, before uncovering the many “whys” surrounding choice and behavior, we must first expose the stage-by-stage multitudes of influences that impact how consumers engage, experience and bond with global brands.
It’s time to renovate the conventional consumer decision journey to reflect how consumers actually think, behave and communicate. Typically, the map is an oversimplified, linear model that overlooks the emotional, behavioral and cultural factors that affect purchasing propensity, buying intent and customer loyalty. It’s against this backdrop that Signals Analytics proposes the modern consumer decision journey.
Today’s consumer has never been more fickle, with loyalty fleeting, product switching rampant and needs constantly changing. In 2016, the world’s top 500 consumer brands spent over $800 billion extending, researching, developing and commercializing products, but almost 80% of these same companies experienced a decline in market share. The reasoning for this erosion is evident: the ubiquity of mobile devices, social media and digital engagement; economic, cultural and societal factors that have caused seismic shifts in purchasing behaviors; and the emergence of agile micro-competitors. Consumers are truly empowered and now dictate how, when and where they engage with brands, shop and purchase goods.
However, the digitally-empowered consumer brings with it a deluge of unconnected and unstructured data, events and records against which conventional “big data” analytics approaches stand little chance towards revealing the many “whys” surrounding need, choice and behavior. By focusing on this digital body-language, global brands can make dramatic improvements in portfolio health, pipeline optimization and product innovation. The military-proven concepts of signals intelligence uncovers deep understanding of the modern consumer decision journey, as well as the relative opportunities within each critical stage, to drive optimal customer engagement, experience and consumption.
1. Consider (Initial Consideration)
With brand awareness most critical, are your marketing messages aligned with the latest consumer trends or fads? Are audiences responding favorably to your brand image or are competitors winning the battle? Are your advertising channels truly effective and optimized?
The consumer decision journey begins with the consumer's initial consideration of branded products and services based upon exposure to ads, in-store merchandising, a social encounter, and other types of stimulus. Traditionally, this stage contained the largest number of brands to consider; however, today's consumer, surrounded by media and presented with a multitude of choices, will many times over reduce the number of products they consider at this stage. Non-digital channels such as television advertising, in-store shopping and word of mouth are most impactful at this stage, but as the consumer transitions from consider to evaluate, digital channels take on an increasingly vital role. With brand awareness playing such a critical role in the consideration stage, it is imperative for companies to assess if marketing messages are aligned with the latest consumer interests, as well as fully-leveraging and optimizing the necessary advertising channels. Clicks and pageviews are insufficient for telling this whole story. Qualitative data that provides an interpretation of actual consumer voices towards your brand and associated campaigns is a must.
2a. Evaluate – Zero Moment of Truth
Can you discover and understand the impact of third-party reviews, key opinion leaders and digital body language? Do you understand brand preconceptions, relevance and connectivity indicators beyond “likes,” “retweets” and “clicks?”
At the evaluation stage, consumers undertake direct outreach to websites, marketplaces and other digital sources for product specifications, reviews and ratings. This information has a much higher likelihood of impacting consumer decisions than “forced” efforts to sway them. Brands are no longer the de facto resource for the quality and value of their products and services. Google refers to this at the “Zero Moment of Truth” (ZMOT), representing the detailed effort of digitally browsing forums, reviews, social media and other websites for pertinent answers. Brands are best positioned for success at this stage by understanding consumer questions, challenges and concerns, as well as providing unbiased information with the highest level of transparency.
2b. Evaluate – Initial Moment of Truth
With the blending of digital and physical experiences, are you anticipating different interaction points with your brand or product? Are these interactions aligned with and geared towards satisfying consumer needs and adaptable to changes?
The second phase of the evaluate stage is the “First Moment of Truth” (FMOT); where the consumer has reached a finalized “short list” of products and is performing last-minute evaluations. This would include detailed reviews and comparisons, both digital and in-store (usually both) and potentially even concurrently. The evaluate stage turns emphasis away from product information and instead leans heavily on digital third party sources. Consumers will be making buying decisions based on reviews, key opinion leader critiques and retailer feedback, among other outlets. Savvy marketers realize that fully understanding consumer opinion on product quality is much more than just the number of “likes” and “retweets.” Identifying key blogs, review sites and rating engines to derive true, underlying feedback tells the real story.
Do you understand how to rapidly close the gap between purchasing intent and propensity to buy? Is your customer engagement strategy aligned to specific needs and behaviors?
89% customer retention rate for those companies with extremely strong omnichannel strategies
This is the stage in which the actual buying decision is executed. Traditional components of the purchasing cycle such as pricing, packaging, placement, availability and sales assistance continue to play a key role. However, this is also where the “Path to Purchase” becomes a vital part of the process; specifically, the extensiveness of your omnichannel offerings. Today’s empowered consumers expect a variety of purchasing alternatives (online via browser, mobile app and in-store) combined with different fulfillment options (in-store pickup, home delivery and same-day shipping). An advanced omnichannel strategy ensures that you are aligning to any potential combination of the consumer’s desired needs.
Do you understand the initial “whys” behind consumer experience, sentiment and satisfaction? Are customers sharing their reasons for purchase? Are early impressions positive, neutral or negative? Which digital channels are they most utilizing?
With the purchase having taken place, the emphasis shifts to a deeper brand connection as the consumer begins to interact with the product and with new digital touch points. This is the “Second Moment of Truth” (SMOT) and represents the consumer’s experience with the product in a home environment. Initial impressions are developed and the foundation for potential future purchases is being laid. Further consumer interaction at this stage would include registering for warranty, following brand on and sharing purchase via social media. It is also critical for the brand to ensure that troubleshooting issues and customer support options are easily accessible at this stage.
Is brand connectivity fully understood? Are they passive or aggressive in sharing feedback? How does this compare to customer responses of your competing brands? Do they engage directly with you or only third-party sources? Does this depend upon positive or negative feedback? And are customers invested enough to share suggestions for short-term extensions and/or longer-term innovations?
The advocate stage is the “Third Moment of Truth” (TMOT) and occurs when a consumer shares their experience and promotes your brand with a testimonial or review. This moment is when the “consumer” becomes the “customer.” There is initial purchasing happiness and satisfaction, and the customer is willing to share this sentiment via social media and, potentially, word of mouth. These feelings may be short-lived or could progress into the Bond stage. It is also possible that the customer enters the “loyalty loop” and repeats purchase without considering or evaluating competitive brands.
Can you ensure your new customers will enter the “Loyalty Loop”, not become lost in the “Infinity Loop” by determining brand affinity traits and amplifying them via preferred channels, as well as continuously engaging in consumer centric innovation?
The bond stage is the “Ultimate Moment of Truth” (UMOT) and occurs when the “customer” becomes a “true fan” of your company. The raving reviews and word-of-mouth marketing make this customer a loyal and vocal champion of your brand - the utopia of marketing. They are personally invested in your brand at this stage and desire to digitally interact with you. Even more importantly, there is the highest possible likelihood that they will enter the “Loyalty Loop” wherein they bypass the consider and evaluate stages and proceed directly to the buy stage for their next purchase of your product.
In the real-world, providing the optimal consumer experience is an ongoing challenge. Rapidly changing consumer needs and a steady influx of new digital avenues increase the difficulty of staying ahead of shifting trends. However, with a seemingly limitless supply of continuously-expanding unconnected and unstructured digital data, a deeper understanding of the consumer decision journey and the relative opportunities within critical decision points is at our fingertips.
Signals Analytics invites you to join us for the continuation of this discussion in our 6-part series The Modern Consumer Decision Journey, where we will explore how consumer goods executives can utilize augmented intelligence to stay ahead of always-shifting consumer wants, needs and demands, as well as drive deeper omnichannel engagements and greater brand loyalty to win in today's ultra competitive and increasingly fickle marketplace.
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