Evolving the purchase journey: how can it be improved to benefit customers?

Technology is having a profound effect on the way customers approach purchases – and one of the principal shifts is in their decision-making.

The rise of desktops, mobiles, and tablet devices means customers have more access to insight in order to make informed decisions. But with so much information available to the customer, being able to make an actual purchase decision can often be a challenge. Loyalty remains a critical component to the buying journey as people are more likely to use a brand they trust when faced with a mass of information.

Online research is not just a prerequisite for an online purchase. If a customer can browse a product or service online before entering a store, they will be more informed and decisive as a result. The chance of them making a purchase is higher than if they were to simply walk into the store without any previous online contact.

Although online research prior to a shopping trip might be commonplace for some people, many businesses could still be in the dark about this change in behaviour. If these organisations are still operating an old sales model – expecting the customer to research in-store – a sale could be lost.

From watching online videos, to using comparison sites, or reading user ratings on social media, today’s customer is prepared to invest a significant amount of time on their research before they commit to a purchase.

More than 80% of customers now spenMobile vs Desktopd a considerable time and a good deal of effort in researching and evaluating products and services – and for big purchases this can be as much as 12-15 hours online.

With such a change in customer behaviour, significant opportunity exists for retailers, and others, to make this process quicker and easier.

One of the more exciting ways this process could be improved is through the use of artificial intelligence. Developments in artificial intelligence over the next three to five years could mean customers won’t need to conduct their own time-consuming research.

Artificial intelligence technologies will be able to provide bespoke recommendations on why a certain product or service is the best fit for a certain customer. The recommendations will be validated using evidence from research data in combination with personal information from the customer such as age, lifestyle and even purchase history.

Developments in digital technology beyond artificial intelligence will see customers soon be able to easily search by voice, gesture and image, or participate in other people’s purchases via social media and augmented reality, as if on a shopping trip together.

Yet despite all the noted innovations, many businesses could continue to fall short in the simplification of the purchase path by not fully considering the social and emotional engagement customers need to achieve during the various stages of a customer journey.

If, for example, a customer engages with the brand via a digital channel their expectation is that they will still receive a personalised experience. If the customer receives a standardised response to an enquiry for more information, this could be the end of the interaction. There is an opportunity in this scenario to delight the customer and reinforce with them how they are in control – and, if this is an option that could lead to a purchasing decision, why would a retailer not take it?

Personalisation is critical to improving the purchasing journey and it can boost sales by up to 19% in the digital retail sector. So, why would a retailer not seek to apply that to every customer touchpoint?

Engaging the customer appropriately increasingly means engaging them digitally.

For more insight on digital delivery, please visit our YouTube channel: Experian UK Business.

Sources:

Think with Google (2016). Holiday Is (Almost) Here: 5 Shopping Trends Marketers Should Watch in 2014. Available at: https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/consumer-insights/five-holiday-shopping-trends-marketers-should-watch/

Increase. (2016). Personalisation increases sales by 19% – Increase. Available at: http://www.marketingincrease.com/personalisation-increases-sales-19/

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