by Ross Shanken on August 18, 2017

Understanding the Buying Journey with Trust, Transparency and Relevancy

Hand touching tablet pc, social media concept.jpeg

What is influencing today’s consumers’ online shopping behavior? Where is he or she in their buying cycle? How long does it take them to make a purchasing decision? What factors are they evaluating in order for them to make a product selection? Most would agree that the answers to these questions require insights into consumer behavior. Most would also agree that these insights need to be collected and managed in a privacy-friendly manner that protects the consumer’s personal information and are utilized to serve the consumer’s best interests.

So why should we understand the behaviors of our customer base? Because understanding the audience’s needs, motivators, and purchasing timeline will help us to add relevance to our customer’s buying journey. This is what consumers actually want - relevant communications from the companies they’re seeking to interact with. They don’t want to be accosted with irrelevant communications by marketers who are trying to make their numbers for the quarter at the expense of the consumer’s best interest. By understanding consumer behaviors, we are able to tailor our approach to fit in with their buying behaviors and provide the most relevant communications to them.

As consumers have transitioned to utilizing multiple digital devices, websites, and apps to make purchases, it has become more streamlined for organizations to gather and track consumer interactions and, therefore, are able to provide this relevancy. It’s now possible to gain insights such as:

  • The explicit and non-explicit interaction a consumer has with your company and product
  • The products and content users find most interesting (based on number of visits/views, level of engagement, etc.)
  • The number of times a customer visits your website before making a purchase
  • What additional sites they visit for the same or similar products
  • The information they consume to help them make a purchasing decision
  • How long they are in market, what sequence of patterns are observed before they make a decision

This level of insights provides us a view of the consumer needs with the opportunity to help the consumer along the purchasing journey with relevance. We can even drill down to individual customer preferences, allowing for almost complete customization of marketing touchpoints, messaging, offers and content. This modern ability to curate consumer behavioral data and provide the most relevant communications to consumers allows all participants in the consumer buying journey to benefit:

How Lead Generators Benefit

For lead generators and/or publishers, this means a number of benefits to their business. Lead generators spend a significant amount of effort driving traffic to their websites with the goal of converting it to a qualified lead for their advertisers. The challenge is that a very small portion of their website traffic ever converts into a lead. With the ability to access consumer insights data, the lead generators have better visibility about the person who is active on their website.  The more intelligence that they are willing to share with their brand partners about consumer behavior, the more effective the lead generator can be at creating engagement.

Engagement can be the ability to identify the consumers’ implicit needs, leverage insights to interpret what additional information or what level of engagement is needed; and create value and trust as part of the consumer experience. This can potentially mean driving higher quality leads which they can offer to brands, while providing a better experience for consumers. That includes making sure that consumer engagement is done in alignment with consumer preferences and consent, reducing the risk of compliance issues with regulations such as the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), and avoiding anything which would erode consumer trust. To ensure consumer engagement is done in a privacy-friendly manner, organizations like LeadsCouncil have published their standards, which aim to ensure lead generation and consumer engagement practices are accomplished within a framework of trust and transparency. All of this put together ensures trust for the lead generators, for the brands they represent, and ultimately for the consumer who can trust that their privacy is not compromised.

Knowing what behaviors and data to look for, lead generators and/or publishers can also get better at finding those ideal consumers. This means increasing their inventory of high value leads and the potential additional revenue which they can derive for their business. And given the intelligence that they can add based on their insights &  engagements with consumers within their digital properties and content, they have unique data which they can share as a value-add to enhance their relationships with brands.

As the data economy and technology continue to evolve, business models also continue to evolve. Lead generators have the ability and option to share more data and insights than ever before, allowing everyone to more fully benefit from consumer behavioral insights, driving greater value for business, and for their customers. Across the adtech & martech landscapes, this evolution is in full force, and we believe it is happening now in lead gen. We all have the opportunity to ensure this evolution from “lead acquisition” to “customer acquisition” happens in the right way - with trust, transparency and relevancy for consumers, lead generators and brands.

How Advertisers Benefit

Today’s consumers live, work and play in a digital world. They use multiple devices, social accounts and names, nicknames and usernames to identify themselves. They demand access to products, services and content how, when and where they want it. And they expect that when brands interact with them, it will be personalized and meaningful. That means advertisers need to not only compete with all of the other media that consumers interact with, but when they do interact, it needs to be relevant, timely and impactful.

Advertisers Can Benefit by Enhancing the Consumer Experience

Everyday consumers interact with the advertiser’s brands and content, and their behavior gives contextual clues about their intent to take future actions. They research colleges and universities before selecting a program and a major. They browse auto sites before choosing a car and where they want to purchase it from. They research housing, neighborhoods and mortgage rates. All of these actions provide insight into where they are in their buying journey and what their propensity to buy or act is.

Advertisers Deliver Highly-Relevant Content to Help Consumers in Their Buying Journey

The results of these interactions are rich stores of behavioral data. Data which advertisers can use to more intelligently provide consumers with the type of meaningful engagement that they demand. Especially when a consumer raises her hand and requests information, such as a price quote, a recommendation for insurance or any other considered purchase.

By combining that behavioral and intent data, with other data stores both on and offline, advertisers have the opportunity to create “intelligent” and highly-relevant engagements with consumers. Intelligent, meaning timely, in-context, and aligned with consumer expectations as to how they want to experience it.

Advertisers Build Trust With The Consumer

Advertisers and brands who invest the time and resources to build intelligence into their marketing programs will see more satisfied, loyal and “engaged” consumers. When consumers get what they want, how and when they want it, it builds trust and loyalty with your brand. In some cases, you can become the trusted resource or adviser, building influence which can be used to benefit other brands. And in the end, you will see more successful conversions of consumers into customers. And also, conversion of one-time customers, into brand loyal, long-term customers.

What’s equally important is building trust with the consumer that you are not abusing your knowledge of them and not infringing on their privacy. In today’s world, there is so much data readily available about the consumers you interact with, and surprisingly, not a lot of clear law or regulation about how you can and cannot use it. This is a privilege that if abused is to the consumer’s detriment and therefore to the marketer’s ultimate detriment. Most smart marketers get to this conclusion:  Just because you can use data in a certain way, doesn’t mean you should.

How do we decide what we should do vs. what we could do? There are many grey areas in this new world of prevalent consumer data, and so it is paramount in building trust that marketers think about the consumer’s value and privacy first in order to create a trusted relationship. Keep the relevancy and consumer value in mind, and this creates trust and wins for the marketers; do not, and you create mistrust, noise, and ultimately less effective consumer engagement for you and your company.

Optimize Your Marketing Programs - Understanding How, When and What to Deploy

Working with partners and vendors, advertisers can gain access to an immense amount of data about their consumers. The key is to get the right data, regarding “leads” and combine that data to identify where a consumer is in their journey, and what their intent is at that given moment.

Using that intelligence, you can make better, data-driven decisions about which offers to send and provide them when and how your consumer wants them.

Ensure Consent-Driven Communications with Consumers

Given the current regulatory environment, it is also critical to ensure that engagement with consumers is done with their consent. This is an important part of the process and will allow advertisers to avoid issues regarding compliance with regulations such as the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), while also meeting consumer expectations as to how they want to be contacted. In this end, advertisers who are conscientious about this will see increased response and conversion rates, while avoiding legal and PR issues which could impact their brand and consumer sentiment.

In addition to following regulations and staying out of legal trouble, we must also follow the idiom that just because we technically can market to a consumer in a certain way at a certain time doesn’t mean we should. The digital world has developed its own set of norms, organizations, and rewards and punishments. For example, send too many unwanted emails, and you not only alienate your consumers, but you end up on spam lists; abuse your privilege of unprecedented access to data in today’s world, and you’ll develop a reputation of a brand who is pushing your products & services instead of being a trusted resource to help consumers on their buying journeys. Those brands who are trusted resources and advisors will always win in the long run.

How Consumers Benefit

Consumers today have high expectations. They are savvier, more educated and empowered than ever before. Consumers online behaviors move across their work computer to their personal laptops to their smartphones without thinking twice. One minute they are responding to work emails at their desks and the next they are shopping with their phones. As consumers navigate their way through their buying journeys, they expect that they will be able to engage with brands on their terms. This means, they want to receive communications, advertisements and content, but only when they are ready and only if it is helpful to them. And only from the brands they want via the mediums that they choose.

Advertisers and Brands Need to Become Trusted Advisers

As a result, the ability for the branded advertisers to align and react to consumer interactions with the goal of meeting or exceeding the consumer expectations, is key to creating customer satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy. Consumers are looking for help from the publisher and advertisers websites that they visit along their buying journey. They need content to help them make informed decisions. They are looking for readily available online resources to make recommendations to aid in the decision process. But these recommendations need to match the consumer’s wants and needs, all while building comfort and trust between the publisher, the advertiser and the consumer.

Consumers Want a Personalized and Targeted Experience

When visiting a website, consumers want to receive personalized, targeted content based on their preferences. They don’t want to be sold to. They expect advertisers to help them inform and support them along their buying journey. The consumer communication experience can and should be improved by leveraging consumer insights – the consumer wants this.

Consumers are looking for brands to align their messaging and product offers by understanding the timing of their needs. Websites should be able to witness the consumer interactions online and leverage this behavioral data to improve the consumer communication experience.

Consumers Need the Content and Tools to Make Educated Purchase Decisions

Consumers expect that they will be able to access the appropriate resources, tools and content that they need to make an educated decision. They are depending on brands and their websites to help guide them as to what they should evaluate, as well as how to evaluate, which product or solution is the best fit for them. The faster that a brand can respond to a consumer’s needs with deep, meaningful consumer interaction, the more comfortable and likely the consumer will be to act and purchase from them.

It is About Satisfying Consumer Needs

Consumers are not interested in what a publisher or brand wants to offer via their website or other content. Consumers are coming to a brand’s website for a specific functional purpose or need. The better a publisher or brand website can protect consumer from irrelevant content and unwanted, high-frequency over-communication, the more likely the consumer will revisit the website and consume more content.

In the end, consumer interactions with publisher and/or brand websites provide rich and highly targeted information that can be used to inform engagement. Using this data properly will allow consumers, publishers and advertisers to be aligned and build trusted, win-win- win relationships.