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How Digital Marketing Evolved the Consumer Journey

As technology has evolved, so has the consumer journey. Before digital media revolutionized shopping, people had fewer avenues to learn about products and services. Online research has become a crucial part of consumer behavior, with 81% of shoppers saying that they visit a business's website or do an online search before any purchase.  It is so prevalent that companies that aren't fully leveraging the opportunity to engage their customers online fall behind those with a more robust online presence.  

Recapping the Consumer Journey  

The consumer journey is the process a person takes as they move toward a purchase. Marketers map these stages to align their digital marketing tactics to each one. Before the age of online research, businesses had to rely on traditional advertising such as television and magazines or being in specific geographical locations. The consumer journey consists of five stages: 

  • Awareness - The consumer is aware of a need or problem. They aren't yet sure of what they want. 
  • Research - The consumer now knows what they want but aren't yet ready to buy.  
  • Consideration - The prospective customer has researched the options and narrowed their choice.  
  • Conversion - The consumer becomes your customer after deciding on your product or service.  
  • Re-Purchase - Follow-up communication encourages customers to use your other services or revisit the store. 

Online Components Help People Learn Faster  

Customers are much more likely to learn about brands and products online. This instant ability to gather intelligence on various topics has affected the early stages of the consumer journey by offering quicker alternatives to finding out about products and comparing them to find the best. Many resources are available to make it easier to research and compare products and services. Many consumers start with search engine queries,  then during the research phase, compare product reviews and online blogs to choose the best product for them. 

Ads Drive Behavior  

Display ad retargeting is an effective marketing tactic that includes site, search or keyword targeting to people who previously visited your site. Of the three tactics, search retargeting is likely the most effective because you reach those who demonstrated interest in your service. For example, after a prospect searches for a new mattress and reads top consumer reviews and blogs, you send them retargeted ads from a local mattress store. Since these prospects already searched for a mattress, retargeted ads bring them back to your site or encourage continued research until they are ready to purchase. 

Before digital marketing, customers weren't exposed to brand marketing as often as they are now. Ad retargeting regularly engages your customers, helping you earn more sales and develop a loyal following. It helps to place your brand firmly in the forefront, so they think of you over your competition when they decide to purchase.  

Customers Have Better Capabilities to Advocate  

Online sales and rating systems are critical in influencing purchasing decisions. They allow customers to provide their opinions and shopping experiences on a broader scale. Consumers wary of new brands, products, or services depend heavily on reviews before narrowing down their choice of retailer or provider. Customers have the power to advocate for higher quality or better service by revealing their experiences. Then your new or potential customers may see them during their consideration or conversion stage to help them decide. 

Ad retargeting can prompt undecided customers to seek out reviews to help them decide, or they can refer to them when considering a second purchase during their re-purchase stage. You could also use reviews or testimonials as part of your advertising to entice customers who are on the fence about their decision. 

Digital Marketing Is Here To Stay, and the Consumer Journey Will Never Be the Same 

Consumers are more informed than ever before. Most customers have thoroughly researched your brand before ever stepping foot in your storefront or engaging your services. When residents see a new sign, they are more likely to Google it to learn more than simply walking in. Businesses that don't leverage the technology lose sales before opening their doors.  

Digital marketing informs the public. It lets your current customers know that you offer other services such as curbside pickup or contactless delivery, something many consumers prized during the early days of the pandemic. You can choose to increase foot traffic with in-store-only promotions or encourage online purchases with promo codes. Many customers take advantage of buy-more-and-save or service bundling if they get an ad for a discount.  

Gone are the days of taking a blind leap of faith in a new product or service. The new consumer journey shifted when buyers became empowered by what was available online. Digital marketing functions well because it helps people get products quickly by putting it all at our fingertips.

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Rory Kemerer

Written by Rory Kemerer

With over 9 years of digital marketing experience, Rory Harris is a leader in the digital playing field. Her passion is clear when she is helping her clients identify their goals or challenges and connecting that to a digital strategy to bring them the highest ROI. Her knowledge not only comes from both branding and lead generation solutions but also the experience she brings to the table to help her clients understand that the data tells a story on what is going on with their marketing.

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