Customers travel through a series of steps—whether they know it or not—before they make a purchase at a local business. This is known as the consumer journey. For customers, the journey they undergo is not something they often think about, as they are just looking for an outlet to fulfill their buying needs. For local businesses, the customer journey model is the difference between a sale and a consumer buying products/services from a local competitor.
The 5 phases of the customer journey model:
Many people think that the consumer journey ends at the point of sale, but that is not entirely true. The customer journey moves starts at awareness and continues well after the point of purchase, and the buyer has a major influence on other consumers when sharing their customer experience.
Over time, the customer journey model has changed as customers constantly find new ways to discover local businesses through advertising and fulfill their individual buying needs. One thing that has not changed over time is the presence of a stimulating moment in the consumer journey—something that gets a consumer to think about a business.
What does customer journey model awareness mean? Essentially, awareness is some form of advertising that grabbed the consumer’s attention and has them interested in a product or service.
The different forms of brand awareness in terms of marketing or advertising have transformed drastically over the years, from print advertising in newspapers, posters and billboards, through radio and TV advertising to telemarketing, blogging, email marketing, social media and digital/online advertising.
A local business needs to be found online! Why? Because part of the consumer journey involves searching for businesses and looking for websites, location, or for details on products and services that fulfill a customer’s need.
The businesses who win in today’s marketing world are the ones who are most findable. When a customer is looking for a product or service. After conducting a search, the next step might be to look for businesses who are close to the customer’s house or workplace. When looking for the direct location of a business a customer is going to look at one thing that will tell them how to get in touch with the business either in person or over the phone, a business listing.
Online listings – A local business needs to be listed online if they expect people to find where their physical location exists. Listings point consumers in the right direction, eventually leading them to an in-store visit at a local business.
So a customer has searched for a business online, but they want to find out MORE about the business before they spend their money. Customers do not show up to the first business they see anymore, they spend time researching the establishment beforehand.
If a customer happens to read a lot of negativity about a business, it is likely they will continue searching for a business until they find a place they are wanting to do business with. Local establishments must be aware of the impact that online conversation has on the performance of their business and the influence that online discussion has on customer journey awareness.
Two of the most common research outlets are:
Online reviews – Consumers look for online reviews of a local business before a transaction is ever made. If other consumers are posting positive reviews about a local business, it is more likely that other consumers will visit.
Social media – A consistent presence and activity on social media show consumers that a local business cares about customer service and consumer interaction.
If a customer has searched for a local business and done their research on the business, it is likely that they are ready to make a purchasing decision. Many businesses have moved their services to their website, including ecommerce options that allow online purchasing.
Website presence – A website acts as the virtual doorway for consumers to visit a local business. Without one, a local business isn’t seen by people searching for their products/services. We are seeing more and more businesses offering an online storefront to accommodate online shoppers’ needs.
As more customers adopt the online shopping lifestyle, the presence of websites and ecommerce options becomes more significant. If a customer prefers to shop in store, a website may list different brands or products that a customer can expect to see in the store.
Note: It is still extremely important for local businesses to have websites even if they choose to sell their products and services in store as opposed to online.
When a local business converts a web search into a paying customer the customer then has the opportunity to influence the consumer journey for other consumers. If the customer had an extremely negative purchasing experience they are extremely likely to share their experience with others.
Reviews like this can affect the profitability of a local business if they are not dealt with correctly or addressed in an appropriate manner. Businesses must be careful that they are not piling up too many of these types of negative reviews. If so it is likely that consumers will take their business elsewhere and it is more likely that they take their business to one of the local competitors.
Positive types of online reviews can influence other customers to do business with a local establishment. Offering a great customer experience is a business’s’ greatest asset and the best source of free marketing.
This is where the Reputation phase and the Advocacy phase of the customer lifecycle tie together. One person’s experience has the potential to affect the experience of many other consumers. If a customer is browsing reviews of a local business they must be nearing a readiness to make a purchase. This customer was ready to buy until they saw a few negative reviews; now they no longer trust this local business. The next step for this consumer is to find a local business who won’t let them down, so they forget about Business A and convert the sale at Business B. This is what we call ‘marketing for your competition’ and businesses cannot afford to throw away a potential sale to a competing business!
If your business is piling up negative reviews, don’t panic! We’ve got you covered! We are offering online review management services, hat can help your business improve your online reputation.