We’ve been exploring the subject of marketing and have so far discussed the concept of digital marketing and focused on explaining how to create a winning b2b marketing strategy. This post in the marketing series will focus squarely on understanding the typical consumer journey and what to do to ensure you are doing the right thing during each phase of this journey
Let’s get into it;
What B2C marketing means. B2C means business-to-consumer. According to Hubspot, It describes businesses whose customers are individual consumers, rather than professional buyers. Therefore, all of the businesses' marketing is dedicated to the needs, interests, and challenges of people in their everyday lives. Recall that when we discussed b2b marketing, we stated that although emotions may influence the buying decision, however, their decisions are more logical than emotional. In b2c marketing, this is the opposite. Purchases and buying decisions are more emotional than logical as consumers depend more on their gut when purchasing a product/ service. One way to lean into this emotional purchasing power as a b2c startup is to lean into genuine and authentic storytelling that will cause your customers to take the needed action.
Having understood what b2c marketing means, let us examine how consumers research and buy products, that is, what the typical consumer journey should look like.
Following a report released by McKinsey in 2009, consumers formerly began their buying journey by considering so many businesses offering the solution they seek and then, eliminating options as they go through the various stages of the marketing funnel and eventually settling for 1 business at the end. This is not the case anymore owing to the presence of more digital channels and the emergence of more informed consumers. Now customers go through a 4-phase decision-making process which includes - the initial consideration, active evaluation (researching potential solutions), purchase and post-purchase (when customers experience the product/ service gotten).
What does this mean for startups looking to be the final option for the customer? At the initial stage, the customer will be able to draw up a list of businesses to consider. Referencing the research previously mentioned, it has been discovered that the fragmenting of media and the proliferation of products have actually made consumers reduce the number of brands they consider at the outset. This means that there is a tendency for them to fall back on the businesses that stand out in the midst of the sea of ads and messages. At this point, brand awareness is very crucial for your startup. If consumers are aware of your brand, your business is 3 times more likely to be considered during the final purchase stage compared to brands they are not familiar with.
This begs the question- what tactics can a lean startup employ to achieve brand awareness? Oftentimes, startups make the mistake of selling their product/ service to the consumer instead of selling the solution the product will give the consumer and the need it will fulfil. Messaging and positioning are important for brand awareness; it is simply, ensuring that the solution the business provides is made very clear and simple to the customer and is strategically placed as the ultimate solution to the issue the customer might be experiencing. The ultimate hack to achieve brand awareness is to deliver value. When customers buy from you and get exactly what was promised, they are more susceptible to referring and recommending it to family and friends, etc. This has been acknowledged as one of the most effective ways of increasing brand awareness. Other ways include advertising, leveraging social media, investing in search engine optimization and content marketing, among others.
During the evaluation stage, customers actively look for information that will be valuable to them. Before now, marketing at this stage involved a subtle form of ‘push’ through advertisements, direct marketing, sponsorship etc. This has changed, customers are now more in charge, actively seeking information through different channels like internet reviews, word-of-mouth recommendations, recollections of past experiences, etc. This does not in any way obliterate traditional marketing but rather points to the fact that startups should go beyond the pushy-marketing style used before to actually influence consumer touch-driven points like word of mouth and internet information styles. Ask customers to leave reviews on information sites like Google Business and other information sites relevant to the industry (like trip advisor for travel startups, etc). Give occasional rewards to loyal customers who refer your business to their families, friends, etc. Most importantly, as much as you are able to ensure that customers always have a positive experience with your startup. Invest in customer service so their recollection of your business will most often be a positive one.
After this stage, the customer makes a purchase. Now, the post-purchase stage is important and shouldn’t be trivialised. It isn’t the end of the journey. It is rather the beginning of another. It is necessary to ensure that complaints made after the purchase has been concluded are handled appropriately. Perhaps, a customer calls to let you know that after downloading your app, they are unable to pay for utilities as they are not receiving the supposed OTP code required to complete the process. At this point, empathize with the customer and as much as it is possible, ensure that this issue is resolved. If it involves providing explanations and reasons for this, ensure to do so. Customers who have good experiences during the post-purchase phase are more likely to keep using your product/ service and become loyalists.
In the next post, we will evaluate how startups can align consumer journeys with marketing strategies and how to leverage digital channels for business-to-consumer marketing.