One of the challenges in modern-day eCommerce is getting a good conversion rate. When customers walk into a physical store, most already have the intention of making a purchase.
However, customers don’t usually buy something the first time they see it online. Many consumers will continue to do research and price comparisons before they commit to a product.
The marketing rule of seven states that customers need to hear your marketing message seven times, on average, before they make a decision. In the digital world, this means that it will usually take more than just a single exposure before you make a sale.
As we’ll see soon, there are a number of steps involved in the complex modern-day customer journey, and understanding it will help you incite demand over the course of your exposures.
Understand the Customer Journey
There are 5 general steps in a customer journey: Awareness, interest, evaluation, commitment, and sale.
Let’s go through each stage one by one and see how they tie into the modern-day journey. More importantly, let’s see how email marketing can be used in each step in order to bring the consumer forward to the next stage.
This is when the consumer becomes aware of their problem and is where it all starts.
Subscribers to email lists are generally past this stage already. They have already done some internet research, discovered your landing page or website, and signed up for your email list.
At this point, the consumer will start to become interested in possible solutions to their problem. They’ll start with a search on Google or, sometimes, a question on Facebook, Quora, or Reddit.
They’ll start to read blog posts and news articles and watch videos about their problem. They might come across your blog.
This is when you get them to sign up for your email list. By promising to provide them with what they are looking for – valuable information that can lead them to a solution – you can encourage them to subscribe to your newsletter.
When subscribers first sign up to your list, they may still be at this stage. Now is the time to show them your solution or how your product or service will bring them the relief that they are looking for.
At this stage, the consumer is already aware of a number of possible solutions and is comparing them and doing additional research in order to find the right one.
Some new subscribers will be passed the “interest” stage and be at the evaluation stage already. They may have already looked into different solutions (they may even be subscribed to your competitors, email lists) and may simply be keeping their options open by looking into what you have to offer.
It is at this stage that you have to set yourself aside from the competition. The next step is commitment, and you should be using all of the marketing techniques at your disposal to get your customers to commit to you (we’ll cover some of the later in the article).
The reason this is so important is that the modern-day consumer journey is so much more complex than it ever has been. Let’s take a look at some of the things that are different in the internet or smartphone age:
- Easy access to information: Consumers can easily search for information about a problem or a particular product.
- Easy access to options: There are simply so many options available. It’s not just the shop down the street; it’s the dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of other eCommerce stores.
- Easy access to reviews: Consumers trust online reviews as much as they trust recommendations from family members or friends. That’s why you need to work on reputation marketing (getting good reviews and testimonials on review sites and blogs) and social proof.
- Lack of urgency: It’s not like the consumer will have to drive down to your store again if they decide not to purchase the product at the moment. They can always open up their mobile phone and there will be an option available (if not your product, then your competitor’s). They know eCommerce stores can’t do without sending push notifications every hour.
At this stage, the consumer decides to purchase a particular product or service from a particular seller or merchant.
They are probably done with their research at this stage. However, as the sale hasn’t been completed yet, they are still potentially open to changing their mind if a better alternative is made known to them.
This is the end goal. At this stage, your goal should be to make the process quick and simple. For example, don’t complicate the checkout process; make it quick, reduce unnecessary steps, don’t surprise consumers with high shipping and tax fees, and offer flexible payment options.
How to Overcome Competition in the Evaluation Stage
Email marketing is most important in the interest, evaluation, and commitment stages. You will often be bringing your subscribers through these stages until you make a sale.
The evaluation stage is the most critical here, and that is where you have to set yourself aside from the competition.
There are a number of important marketing techniques that can be used here. Let’s go through some of them.
1. Repeated Exposure
Remember what we said about needing multiple exposures? In email marketing, this can be accomplished by sending follow-up emails with the same offer or with free ebooks, guides, or webinars.
It can also be done with retargeting. You can use your email list to target audiences on Facebook and Google Adwords. If you are investing in influencer marketing parallelly, you can share your email list with influencers to capture customers’ two-way.
Make sure to always test your results. What are the open rates and click rates of your follow-up emails, and what is the ROI of your retargeting campaigns?
Creating urgency is important both in the evaluation stage (in order to get consumers to commit) and for consumers who are already in the commitment stage (in order to give them the final push so that they make a purchase).
- Time-sensitive offers: Create offers that are time-sensitive and which will expire after a number of days or hours. Flash sales and special promotion codes are great for this. Incorporating countdown clocks in your emails can help.
- Scarcity: Limit your offer to the first 100 (or any other number) people who use it.
- Choose your language and subject lines carefully. For example, use words such as “Time is running out” or “before it’s too late.”
3. Social Proof
Customers have gone smarter than before. They know good businesses can’t afford to not rely on social engagement these days.
As mentioned, consumers now want to see what other people are saying about a product before they purchase it. That’s why social proof is so important.
There are a number of ways to incorporate social proof into your email campaigns. Sharing numbers and using phrases such as “Join the X other people who have already signed up” in your subject lines or emails can help.
You can also include testimonials in your emails, write emails that tell a positive story, include endorsements, include links to positive blog post reviews, or include social buttons linking to your social profiles at the bottom of your emails.
4. Stress pain and pleasure points
Many consumers in the interest and evaluation stages will still be undecided about whether or not they should spend their money.
By stressing pain (what they stand to lose) and pleasure (what they stand to gain) points, you can convince them and bring them over into the commitment stage. The key here is to focus on emotions. A great way to do this is to feature stories of other people and how they have relieved their pain and/or gained pleasure in your emails.
5. Set yourself aside from the competition
In the evaluation stage, you want to set yourself aside from your competition. Research your competitors and the general market first.
Then, address issues that have not yet been addressed in the industry. Discover your competitor’s weak points and make sure to mention in your emails how you are different and what you offer that is unique.
To stand out from your competitors, emails, make sure to use unique subject lines and write your emails with your distinct tone and style.
6. Understand the different types of consumers
There are 3 kinds of consumers: Tightwads, spendthrifts, and unconflicted.
The majority of your subscribers will likely be unconflicted (those with average spending habits). Some will be spendthrifts.
Some will be tightwads, and it will be a lot harder to convince them to part with their money. You may want to avoid these people in order not to decrease your ROI.
In email marketing, you can avoid tightwads by being careful with who you target in your lead generation campaigns.
For example, even if you give away a free lead magnet, focusing too much on the “free” part may cause you to attract freebie-seekers who aren’t interested in actually purchasing anything.
Another idea is offering a free trial to convince those who are still undecided.
Wrapping It Up
Maintaining a competitive edge in today’s world isn’t always easy.
By understanding the modern customer journey and using email marketing to align yourself with that journey, you can stay ahead in your industry.