When I’m behind the wheel I like to follow my own path, make my own decisions, take my own short-cuts. Don’t ever, ever tell me what to do. And now more than ever consumers want to make their own decisions rather than being told overtly what to do or buy.
They would like to believe that they find their buying solutions off their own backs rather than being pushed in any given direction. This does not of course mean that response advertising becomes in any way irrelevant, it does however mean that the way that it engages with its audience needs to be more savvy. The trick clearly is to put the customer in the driving seat but make sure that you retain responsibility for the steering and key controls (a bit like a driving instructor!).
It’s never easy to ‘second guess’ customer behavior and unfortunately there are no guarantees that any two will follow the same path. We can however provide them with options on which route to take and enable them to navigate as quickly and efficiently as possible to our preferred conclusion. The journey from initial response through prospect to customer is one that has to be made pretty independently.
If we push too hard or assume too much then we’ll lose attention and business, this is especially true when we consider the way we recruit and talk to our audience by channel. We love to pigeon-hole our targets into online and offline customers, let’s face it, it makes planning, measurement and media decisions a whole lot easier. In truth whilst a few at each end of the spectrum might fall into these categories the vast majority sit somewhere in between the two poles.
To complicate things further:
People will vary their attitude to online purchase by product and service. Someone may be comfortable buying an expensive holiday online but baulk at buying a sofa because they want to sit on it first. The same individual who is comfy trawling comparison sites for insurance quotes might still want to talk a pension over face-to-face with an advisor.
Prospects may start their transaction offline but then migrate online or vice versa. Mail order customers can be prompted to order online by receiving a paper-based catalogue. Someone may begin filling in a complicated form online but happily ‘bail out’ to the phone when the going gets tough. The solutions to these issues are numerous and each business model has it’s own bespoke requirement but here are three key principles to bear in mind.
Be flexible: Allow your prospect to respond to you through whatever medium they see fit, but also allow them to change at any stage of the process. Make it easy for them to switch channel and also allow them change the nature of their response from purchase to enquiry if they want to. Remember any dialogue is better than silence.
Measure everything you can: Understanding all the different traits in behavior gives us the insight to improve performance. Never assume what you can quantify and invest time and energy upfront to put the measurement tools in place.
Take a single customer view: Design your tracking and databases around the customer, not the channel, so you can acknowledge and respond to the way they want to do business with you, not the other way around.
It’s not easy. But let people make their own decisions.
Do all this and you’ll be able react empathetically to the people at different stages in the sales process – turning prospects into enquirers, enquirers into buyers, buyers into advocates. It’s simply about removing those barriers to a sale. So it’s easier for them to make the right decisions for you.