We’ve talked before about the importance of knowing your audience to help you reach the right people with your marketing. If you sell stair lifts, for example, you probably shouldn’t be advertising on Snapchat.

Knowing your audience not only helps you decide where to advertise, but will also help inform the content of your advertisements.

You can take this a step further by thinking about the journey your audience takes on the way to making a purchase, and providing messages that resonate with the buyer at each stage.

‘Buyer’s Journey’ essentially means doing lots of online research before making a purchase, and marketers often describe this in three stages: Awareness, Consideration, and Decision. It sounds like a straightforward linear journey, but as this Google research discovered, it looks more like an infinity symbol. 

In Google’s model, the sum total of a shopper’s experiences and impressions creates a backdrop of exposure, encompassing brands, products, and more. Against this backdrop, purchase triggers prompt consumers to enter a cycle of exploration and evaluation, gathering information and then narrowing it down. If the first cycle doesn’t yield a definite choice, they loop back, repeating as many times as necessary.

Finally, all options evaluated, they make a purchase. Or they don’t. Either way, the whole experience feeds back into their background exposure.

In the ‘messy middle’ of exploration and evaluation, people are looking for information about a category’s products and brands, and then weighing all the options. Buyers will loop through these modes of exploration and evaluation and repeat the cycle as many times as they need to make a purchase decision.

This process is influenced by each person’s cognitive biases, which may include being swayed by an expert, an influencer or reviews, FOMO, or the power of immediate availability or a free gift.

Buyers may do their exploring and evaluating across a huge array of online sources, such as search engines, social media, content aggregators, and review websites.

Thinking about a customer journey in this way makes it easier to see why your digital marketing spend needs to be more than just placing an ad on Google search. Channels such as Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram could very well be relevant for the journey your customers take. 

As the cost of advertising can vary across channels, you could get a greater return on your spend by understanding the journey people take, and then placing your advertising along that journey in areas where you are most likely to influence buyers’ behaviour.

A lot of advertising focuses on the beginning and the end of the buyer journey, with the intention of building brand awareness and subsequently closing the sale. The messy middle provides an opportunity to share genuinely helpful content with buyers and bring them closer to becoming a customer with each click or page view.

The better you are at anticipating a buyer’s needs for information and guidance, the more effective your ads will be. Ads that serve the right message at the right time will be more contextual and relevant to the buyer, and more likely to be absorbed and remembered.

The takeaway from Google’s research is that you can influence buyers’ behaviour in your favour by:  

  • Showing up at key moments of exploration and evaluation to win or protect your share of consumer preference.
  • Applying behavioural biases to give shoppers the information and reassurance they need to exit the messy middle and complete a purchase.
  • Optimising site speed, user experience, and onsite messaging to shorten the distance between trigger and purchase.

Sometimes customer journeys follow certain patterns depending on the products or services you deliver. Contact us today if you would like to discuss the journey your customers take and our ability to influence them along the way.