The Consumer Journey: From Digital Marketing to Making the Sale and Beyond

As technology has evolved over the years, so has the consumer journey, and the business of doing business looks much different today in comparison to 10 years ago. Companies now need to navigate an online presence in addition to landing sales, and the consumer expects more than just a single conversation if a brand hopes to maintain any customer loyalty. From active social media accounts to email marketing campaigns, businesses need to ensure they stay on people’s minds long after they make their first sale — especially if they hope to make more afterward.

And even leading up to the sale, it’s no longer as simple as advertising a product and having orders come in. Consumers these days are savvy, and they do their research prior to buying a product or service. Most of them will do the work of comparing your products to your competitors’, so you’ll need to stand out if you hope to win them over.

This amounts to putting in extra work both pre-sale and post-sale, giving consumers value beyond the purchases they make through your company. If a brand wants to become the go-to for its customers, it will need to give them an experience that goes beyond ringing them up and sending them their product. Luckily, the internet makes this easier to accomplish.

Digital Marketing: Winning the Internet Game

Digital marketing plays a major role in the promotional strategies of most companies nowadays. How your business leverages all of the digital platforms at its disposal depends on your target audience, but it’s key to have some sort of regular online presence — at least if you expect to be considered personable and credible.

Let’s start with credibility. Before buying an item, it’s very likely a consumer will Google your company. The days of getting away with having no website, or even an old-fashioned one, are long gone; buyers not only expect you to have a professional-looking online home, but most of them expect to be able to purchase your products via your website. This is especially true with all of the concerns and restrictions surrounding the COVID-19 health crisis.

If your company doesn’t show up on a search engine, consumers will think twice about whether or not they should do business with you. After all, they want to know they’re giving their information and money to a legitimate company, and it undoubtedly feels safer to go with one that has an established online presence. Reviews also go a long way when it comes to convincing consumers that your company is the right choice for them. If you can, ask customers to leave feedback on your customer service and products post-sale. It’s a small step that could help you gain new customers down the line.

Of course, credibility isn’t the only thing customers take into consideration when evaluating your online presence. Even as everything moves online, consumers expect a personalized experience; they don’t want to give business to a brand that simply views them as a dollar sign. Even if making a sale is your company’s endgame, you’ll need to convince your buyers that you have their best interests in mind.

This is more difficult to do from behind a screen, but it’s certainly not impossible. The best way to build an online relationship with longtime customers and potential clients is to create content. This can be through blog posts and articles on your website, email newsletters, or even just well-written social media posts. The important thing is that you’ve giving your followers something of value for free. Sure, it may take some time and effort on your end — but done well, it will establish you not only as a company that cares, but one that is an expert in your given category. And if people know you for your expertise in a given segment, they’re far more likely to turn to you for products and services in that market.

Making the Sale: It Doesn’t End There

So, let’s say your brand has done exactly what it set out to do. You’ve done the pre-sales work, your customer has purchased your product or service, and they’re happily heading home to try it out. That’s great, but it’s not the end of your relationship with the consumer — or at least, it shouldn’t be if you want to keep selling. It’s called the consumer journey for a reason; it doesn’t stop at the destination!

Following a sale, brands should have a plan to keep customers engaged with the company, and there are several ways to do this. In fact, the Salesforce Journey Builder outlines a number of best practices for optimizing the consumer experience, and many of them can be applied to the post-sale portion of the consumer journey. For example, setting clear objectives for what you hope to accomplish is useful during any part of making a sale, but it’s not something most brands worry about after the deed is done. Set yourself apart by setting more objectives after the fact.

One way to build your relationship with a consumer following a sale is to follow up with them in a week or so, checking in to ensure they’re satisfied with their purchase. Not only does this check the box for coming off as a personable company that cares about its customers’ needs, but it offers an opportunity to pitch accessories or additional items that might enhance the experience of using the first one. And, before you worry about having to reach out to every single buyer, there are tools that will enable you to automate this in the form of an email. If your company has the bandwidth, however, phone calls might be perceived as more personalized. As with most of the sales journey, it’s all about what works for you.

Speaking of emails, getting a customer onto your email list is another promising method of keeping them in the loop following a purchase. All it requires is asking for their email address and permission to send them updates and promotions. Then your brand can automate email campaigns. Such campaigns are useful in letting your subscriber list know when you’re having sales, sending new product information, and even wishing them well on holidays and their birthday. (We’ll say it again: It’s all about being personable!)

Social media can also be an effective tool when it comes to keeping up with consumers, though it can be much harder to direct that content specifically to those who have purchased from your business before. Still, if your brand is releasing a new product or doing particularly well with a certain item, it doesn’t help to share updates and information online. (When making a sale, you can also ask buyers to follow you on all your major platforms!)

It’s All About Data

Figuring out a way to get content to consumers both pre-sale and post-sale is an important part of maintaining the business-consumer relationship, but there’s a second step that happens behind the scenes: analyzing the data.

Using analytic tools, brands should always track which platforms are converting sales for them. This way, they’ll know where to put their largest efforts — and where they can afford to be a bit more lax. For example, if a company’s website and email marketing is leading to more sales than its social media accounts, it’s in that brand’s best interests to focus more time and energy on maintaining its website and creating more email content. This doesn’t mean they should abandon their social media entirely, but it does suggest that they don’t need to be throwing large portions of their budget or schedule at those platforms.

Which tracking tools your company uses will largely depend on what platforms you decide to take advantage of. Many social media sites, like Twitter and Pinterest, provide analytics for you, but there are additional tools that can be leveraged when evaluating how effective these websites are. Likewise, there are means of tracking email and website analytics to determine how your content is doing and how it’s converting.

The most important thing to remember when collecting user data is that the numbers are representative of people. The misuse of data can be a violation of consumer privacy. It is through data correlation that insights are drawn. The consumer wants to see products/ads that relate to them. So psychographic analysis and insights are best to use.

Evolve With the Process

If there’s one thing all brands should take away from the consumer journey, even if it’s not backed by numbers, it’s this: The journey is constantly evolving, and companies will need to evolve alongside it.

We opened discussing how different the sales landscape looks compared to 10 years ago, and there’s a strong possibility that it will be equally as unrecognizable in another decade. As consumers get smarter and technology becomes more complex, it’s up to companies to keep up — and the ones that are able to adapt and provide a memorable experience are most likely to persevere.