Understanding the customer journey to online purchase

In understanding the customer journey to online purchase, brands and retailers must consider why customers use each channel (in-store or online) during the consideration phase, and what ultimately drives them to buy. This understanding is imperative to conducting successful business through 2020 and beyond.

Why Do People Buy Online vs. In-store?

Each customer has their own set of reasons for shopping online. Many of these reasons can be classified into a particular type of online shopper.   

The Convenience Shopper: likes the ability to shop 24/7—in their pajamas, on break at work, while waiting in line at the supermarket, or whenever the thought occurs to them.

The Selective Shopper: looking for inventory and wants to consider all the options in terms of shape, size, color, and variety. They may be looking for hard-to-find rarities.

The Bargain Hunter: likes to compare prices across retailers to find the best offers, deals, and prices. Nothing beats the thrill of saving money.

The Busybody: doesn’t have the time to sift through racks and shelves, instead, they prefer to buy in a few intuitive clicks. With free shipping, it’s a no-brainer.

The Anti-Retail Shopper: doesn’t like the crowds, the checkout, or the entire retail experience, but still has needs that must be filled through commerce.

By contrast, there are people who prefer to buy in retail stores:

The Authenticator: prefers to buy in-store because they like to touch, see, and try-out items in person before making a purchase. They need to know the item is exactly what they’re looking for and meets their expectations. They may have been burned too many times with products that looked different online than when they saw them in person. Or, they may not trust online security with their payment information.

The Practical Shopper: Clothing shoppers, in particular, may need to try the items on to ensure a favorable fit and feel. Frugal shoppers may feel the cost of shipping is too high. They may also prefer to talk directly with a salesperson should they have any questions. If they are purchasing expensive or breakable goods, they may not trust the shipper to deliver with care.

The Impatient Shopper: What’s convenient for one person may not be convenient for another. For some, the ultimate convenience can be found in the instant gratification of retail shopping. Many consumers need their goods right away and feel that it “takes too long” to wait for them to be shipped.

True Believers: According to a survey conducted by Retail Dive, 18% of retail shoppers genuinely love the in-store experience—the decorations, the displays, the scents, the sounds, the bags. They may also prefer interacting with real people.

Most sales follow a general process of research, consideration, and conversion, but it’s more complicated than that because, beyond the product itself, there are factors that go into the consumer’s choice of your brand or retail store.  

Steps Along the Customer Journey to Online Purchase

If you’re waiting until a customer opens an email or walks into a store, you’re waiting too long to track the customer journey. What puts your brand into the mind of the consumer in the first place? What inspires the shopping trip, whether online or offline? The customer journey goes back to brand awareness, way before intention factors into the sale.

1. Values Resonance and Brand Awareness

Consumers don’t always buy because they need something. Sometimes they just want something. These tend to be the shoppers who shop most often and spend the most, too. You can connect with these customers by crafting messages that showcase your mission, values, and lifestyle. Your ethos should be apparent across all channels—from your retail signage to your website homepage, to all printed marketing materials and branded events.

2. Identification of a Want or Need

Customers must realize they want or need something before they buy. Perhaps an item breaks at home and they need a replacement right away. Maybe they are simply looking for an upgrade of an item that has outlived its useful lifespan. They may want to make a purchase to prepare for a special occasion, vacation, new job, or other life event. At this point, you’re probably connecting through paid Google ads, content marketing, organic social media, and email drip campaigns.

3. Research and Consideration

The pain points are clear. The money is available. Now it’s time for the customer to evaluate the solutions you offer. Research may be conducted outside your funnel, as competitor offerings are evaluated, review websites consulted, and impartial information about their problem is assessed to gain a comprehensive understanding of the best path forward. Your website should have very specific landing pages and product pages designed to capture shoppers at this point on their journeys. Sales professionals should be trained to funnel consumers who couldn’t find what they were looking for toward the online channel for conversion.

4. Decision and Conversion

At the final stage, the customer commits to the purchase and decides to buy a specific product, feeling confident that they have considered the problem and the solutions thoroughly enough. Retargeting ads triggered by abandoned shopping carts and personalized online experiences like e-chat or targeted pop-ups can help move people through the final stage of the journey. Sometimes tactics, like re-emphasizing free delivery during checkout or highlighting high demand, will create a greater sense of urgency.    

5. Experience and Loyalty

the customer journey to online purchaseThe customer journey extends well beyond the purchase if you expect repeat business. You want to go the extra mile to be sure your shoppers are satisfied. A simple follow-up email is customary, but you also want to “listen” through social media, popular blogging platforms, and review channels. Your customer service team needs to be robust enough to handle questions, comments, and post-purchase issues with compassion and efficiency before a small spark turns into a blazing bonfire. Most businesses also offer programs that reward customer loyalty. These programs should be easy to use in order to be effective and appealing.

Using Shopkick to Tap Into the Customer Journey

Shopkick, an innovative retail rewards app, can be used to cultivate a favorable customer journey every step of the way:

  • Values Resonance and Brand Awareness: Brands and retailers can access a captive audience of shoppers who already use the mobile app to find nearby deals, rack up reward points, and learn about new products. Within the app, your brand can display compelling videos and curated lookbooks to generate awareness about a new product or bundle of products offered in a seasonal promotional offer.
  • Identification of a Want or Need: When a person realizes they want or need to shop for something, they simply log into the Shopkick app to see a list of nearby retailers offering “kicks,” or reward points.
  • Research and Consideration: Shopkick allows brands and retailers to stay top-of-mind as consumers continue on the journey to purchase by offering them incentives for watching branded content or purchasing a particular product.     
  • Decision and Conversion: Shopkick connects with consumers at the point of purchase to drive the sale. Oftentimes, Shopkickers purchase a particular product that they hadn’t intended to before interacting with the app.
  • Experience and Loyalty: Gamification is a powerful way to drive a positive experience and long-term loyalty. Users say Shopkick is like a “treasure hunt” that guides them to new finds. Scanning products or purchasing them provides reward points they can use toward a gift card of their choosing, which creates a favorable impression of the overall shopping trip and brand experience.   

Shopkick, an innovative retail rewards app, can be used to cultivate a favorable customer journey every step of the way.

Shopkick provides users the ability to shop online and receive rewards and bonus points for visiting eCommerce sites, watching promotional videos or offers, and making online purchases as they would in-store. Seventy-nine percent of shoppers said using Shopkick while they browsed made shopping more fun.   

Want to help shoppers along the customer journey to online purchase? Discover what Shopkick has done for our partners or contact us to learn what we can do for you. 

Image courtesy of Andrey_Popov



Shopkick is the fun and easy way to earn free gift cards for the shopping you already do. Download the app now!

Understanding the customer journey to online purchase



Shopkick is the fun and easy way to earn free gift cards for the shopping you already do. Download the app now!

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