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PIPELINE RESOURCES

The Customer IS the Store

By: Lewis Sears

(Safely) “Driving” sales
of consumer products

I’m glad we can all agree that texting and driving is a menace to society, and no one would ever do that. But a recent study shows that perhaps I’m a little naïve. Even so, I’d like to give drivers the benefit of the doubt and assume that when it comes to online purchasing, all hands are off phones until the car is safely parked. Indeed, these days, there’s nothing unusual about logging into an app, performing a search, and ordering your mother flowers while still strapped into the driver’s seat…

Our digital connections pervade every aspect of our lives. While I still enjoy going to lacrosse games at the stadium, I don’t refer to a physical game day program for information about the teams – I look it up online. Similarly, while I still frequent physical stores, I’m just as likely to shop online while I’m INSIDE the store. Actually, it’s possible to talk to a store employee about a product, perhaps handle the product, find a better deal on the online portal, order for in-store pick-up, and then walk to the front of the store to pick up the item.

Often, the sale begins long before the customer actually visits the store – or the online store portal. There is a progression of consumer engagement from interest, passive investigation, active investigation and decision time to purchase, initial impression and continuous experience. For every company and their brand, each stage represents an opportunity – or conversely, threat of purchase (or even brand) derailment. And while the engagement journey takes many forms, such as people, media and technology, the common thread throughout is the impact of digital connection.


The customer journey in a digital life

The concept of a customer journey is not new. What is (relatively) new is the pervasive nature of the digital experience throughout that journey. Here is how digital informs – and affects – each step along the way:

Interest: Companies proactively drive interest in their products – think advertising, branding. In the digital world, we think of email, online advertising, SEO and increasingly, social media management. From a brand perspective, more is not always better. Messages should be crafted to individual needs. This requires a knowledge of the consumer, their behavior, and many other attributes.

Passive investigation: Consumers have a wealth of information to digest. While there are many external sources, the company needs to ensure that their branding and message are consistent. Companies CAN control their own messaging. And while it’s important to provide all kinds of information in all kinds of channels, it’s also important for that information to be consistent. Because consumers leverage multiple channels, each should reinforce the core campaign.

Active investigation: Consumers will contact companies with questions about their products, services and contracts. Phone-based CSRs have given way to chat windows, chat bots and other AI-enabled contact points. But all of these channels must have a consistent 360-degree view of the customer and deliver a consistent brand message.


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