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GUEST COMMENT Paving the path to purchase: understanding customer browsing behaviour to increase revenue

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The path to purchase has now become a muddy, winding path that can confuse and overwhelm the shopper and leave the marketer struggling to target consumers along their journey. You were once able to anticipate the “when, where and why” of the steps taken on the march to submitting an order, but consumer behaviour has rapidly evolved. Transitioning between multiple devices like laptops, tablets and smartphones during the shopping process is now the norm. According to a study by Google/Ipsos, 85% of consumers will start shopping on one device and finish on another. It’s time for you and your team to understand and respond to these shifts in consumer behaviour and clearly pave the path to purchase.

By focusing on this part of the purchase process, you can substantially improve customer engagement, lower abandonment rates and provide a better shopping experience for your customer. Of course, all of these optimisations will help result in the ultimate goal — increased revenue.

The Path: What led the shopper to this step of the path? What emotional components will contribute to engagement or abandonment?

The Pavement: How you focus and maximise your marketing efforts to meet your customers’ needs and help them along the path to purchase. The shopper’s journey begins on your product page. Email, web search, display ads, site search…

A shopper can arrive on a product page in a variety of ways. All of the sources have influenced the shopper in some positive way, and lead them to arrive on your site. Each source can influence the shopper to varying degrees, but one thing is certain – the shopper is engaged and they have taken their first step on the path to purchase. They are now browsing your product page.

This is a period of exploration, discovery and decision-making for the shopper. They may be seeing your site for the first time and need to familiarise themselves with how to navigate the product page layout. Then the shopper evaluates the product – viewing images, selecting sizes, choosing quantities, picking colours, evaluating costs. The shopper’s commitment is low at this point, and these pages can easily be abandoned without much loss being felt by the shopper.

The pavement

Similar to those piles of flyovers at major motorway intersections that are always under construction, product pages are rarely fully optimised. You may frequently audit and update your product pages, but consumers are influenced by forces beyond your site that set expectations for high levels of product information and interaction. Marketers may have previously believed other online retailers were their competitive drive to maintain engaging product pages, but bricks and mortar stores have increasingly offered a more immersive product experience. When shopping in a store, consumers expect more than just a tangible interaction with a product. They want to compare prices, read reviews, contrast features to the top of the line models, etc… In direct contrast, online shoppers are pushing marketers to create a more lifelike experience with a product.

Detailed descriptions, a few images and some ratings or reviews may not be enough to keep a shopper’s interest while evaluating a product. A few key components will help you to pave over this dusty step of the purchase path, such as product descriptions and brand voice.

Your product pages are not product manuals. They start the conversation with the customer. They are your first impression, and you only have one shot to nail it. The product detail pages should provide the same rich, detailed information that customers would get from a sales associate or from physically inspecting the product. Product details may be available from manufacturers or distributors that accurately describe a product and its features. This data can be easily incorporated into your product page, but doing so can easily strip away your brand’s voice. You know your customers, and you should speak to them in a way that elevates the shopper-to-brand conversation to a place of trust and in a way that accentuates the attributes that makes your brand unique.

You can easily describe a sweater as ‘Available in red, blue or beige. 100% cashmere’. Factual, yes. Interesting, not really. Such bland information can be customised to speak to your shoppers. For example, if your customers are young and hip, you could describe the sweater as ‘Available in trendy Jewel-Toned Red, Boy-Crazy Blue or Ready-to-Accessorize Beige. All in soft and cozy 100% cashmere.’ Using brand voice in product descriptions is important and can create a loyal community of brand advocates in part because of the way they describe their products.

Similarly, the story is important and allows you to go beyond simply using your brand’s voice to describe a product to your shoppers. Share the product story! Including details like the unique materials that are used to make the product, the craftsmanship behind its manufacture, traditions or origin country information, suggested uses or any endorsements from associations, can give the shopper a more defined sense of what’s behind a potential purchase. The details of a product’s story can help the shopper connect with the item in a way that colour, size and quantity options simply can’t.

In an ever more competitive and noisy retail environment, it will be brands that take time over their identity and messaging that will have most success with busy and demanding consumers.

Kestrel Lemen, marketing strategist at Bronto Software

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