I know many people who dread making major-life purchases, like buying a house or a car. They tell me there are too many choices, too many offers, and too much noise. The amount of marketing is overwhelming. This just leaves them confused and frustrated.
These experiences should—and could—be better. If you’re a marketer, you’re in the hot seat to make the customer journey exceptional. But how do you go about doing that?
Major-life purchases are a unique beast—for consumers and for marketers. We define a major-life purchase as one that is a high-ticket item that entails a complex buying decision with a high degree of financial and emotional risk.
Unlike an impulse buy, a major-life purchase has a long shopping cycle with significant consequences. Most of us can relate to the shopping experience in making these purchase decisions. These are the ones we care about, such as securing a mortgage or a life insurance policy, going back to school to earn a degree, or, as I mentioned earlier, buying a home or a car.
These big, often, life-changing decisions take weeks or even months of research, comparison shopping, and qualification processes. And, most of the process is often done online, which means multiple website visits and comparing services to help sort out best rates, available service providers, pre-qualifications, and so on.
Influencing the Decision
Today’s customers demand superior shopping experiences so it’s essential for marketers to make real connections with these shoppers to influence their decisions. To do this, marketers have to understand who their customers are, what motivates them, and, most importantly, reach them at the right time with the right message. After all, influencing a person to buy a pair of sneakers requires a vastly different marketing strategy than influencing a person to buy life insurance.
Add to this customer expectations have hit all-time highs. With more choice, more access to information, and less incentive to be loyal, today’s customers are firmly in control of their relationships with companies. Consider recent research where 80% of customers say the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services; 95% of customers say they are more likely to be loyal to a company they trust; and 67% of customers say their standard for good experiences are higher than ever.
Marketers need a wider and deeper view the customer. They need to understand which of their prospects and existing customers are in an early research process; which ones are getting ready to make a purchase decision; and which ones aren’t in market at all. With this view, marketers can ensure they’re connecting at the right time, with the right message, to deliver an outstanding experience to the customer. They not only expect such an experience, but if you don’t deliver this experience, you do so at your own peril!
Solution: Use Knowledge (Data) to Create Great Experiences
It should come as no surprise that these insights come from the right data. We’ve long-known that data is a marketer’s most valuable resource, many calling it the new oil. Companies are allocating billions of dollars to acquire more of it. And with 91% of senior marketers saying customer data is essential to making decisions, data clearly makes or breaks marketing strategies.
With the right data, segmentation strategies for email, direct mail, clicks, dialing, social media, any channel immediately become more relevant and timely. The result, which every marketer wants, is higher customer engagement, more conversions, and with more loyalty and higher customer lifetime value.
Ultimately, access to, and effective use of data is the key to major-life purchase marketing. By accessing the right data, you have all the knowledge to create great experiences; by leveraging it properly, you actually create these experiences. Consumers have spoken: They expect marketers to make their major-life purchase decisions easier and better. You can help them, and your companies, by leveraging the latest data and technologies to make it so.
Understanding your customers during this complex shopping journey is hard work but has big benefits. In an effort to better understand the challenges and opportunities, we’re taking a year-long look into the major-life purchase decision process. Look for our first report on Major-Life Purchase Marketing in early March.
Ross Shanken is Founder & CEO of Jornaya.