The Buyer’s Journey has been around for quite a long time now. It is an important marketing concept that most marketers use in trying to gain the best results possible. So with that said, what has become of it and how will it look like in 2018?

The Buyer’s Journey

”Am I going or not going to buy this product?”

The Buyer’s Journey is a three-stage process consisting of Awareness, Consideration, and Decision. These are the phases that a customer goes through before they reach the endpoint — the product. The Buyer’s journey serves to aid marketers in establishing the most effective marketing strategy and boost conversion. However, this brings the need for marketers to keep track of currently-occurring trends.  The flow of the buyer’s journey is dependent on these trends. Right now, new concepts and ideas have surfaced. These trends aim to cope up with the ever-growing demand of the current generation. In this article, we are going to discuss them and how they affect the Buyer’s Journey moving forward.

The Conversion Process

The Buyer’s Journey always starts with a conversion. What exactly is a ‘conversion’?

A conversion occurs whenever an exchange occurs between two parties. Say, for example, you’re giving away a “free” downloadable content. Once someone downloads it, that will count as a conversion. Keep in mind that in the world we are living on, nothing is free. If it is “free” in terms of payment, another element should be given in exchange for it — information.

To acquire this free downloadable, the visiting user will then need to fill out a form. This form will request some important contact information like their email address or contact number. So the downloadable is actually not free since an exchange has occurred. In addition, a conversion also indicates that you and that user went through a transaction.

This simple method has always been the case throughout the decade. But now, different trends have emerged. Transaction has already begun to break down into various marketing channels for variety and convenience.

Digital Marketing Channels

Say goodbye to good ol’ traditional marketing — everything is now digital.

It goes without saying that business now requires digital marketing to compete and be relevant. Digital marketing channels are a variety of different conversion paths that you can access via the internet. These avenues mainly reach out to targeted audiences in hopes of gaining a conversion. Having multiple digital marketing channels is essential. The more options you offer, the more conversions you’re going to get. There are different marketing channels out there. However, we will only cover the ones that will make a huge impact next year. 

Shifts In Marketing Motivation

Let’s talk about the reason why trends constantly change: marketing motivation.

Marketing motivation is the primary goal that shapes us the entire marketing campaign. It’s the primary reason why marketers fuel their business for success. It also indicates the occurrence of an exchange between buyer and brand.

For most marketers, the stimulus that sparks these exchanges to happen used to be just “To Sell Out Products.” It later became the modern approach of “To Help Our Buyers.” However, in the current generation, that concept doesn’t cut it anymore. We are now seeing a great deal of accessible information, as well as a much-evolved communication method.

Today, the pioneering principle of inbound marketing, which is “helping out the buyer,” has evolved yet again. It’s now all about “Adapting to the way buyers want to be helped.”

(Consistent) Communication Is Key

With the change in perspective also came a drastic change in the marketing playing field.

Consistently communicating with customers is now an absolute must. Competition has gotten steeper due to different conversion options spurting from out of nowhere. The iconic form field, for instance, is already starting to decline. Though it is still relevant in some cases, it isn’t convenient anymore. Forms also don’t always coincide with the needs of the modern-day buyer.

A good scenario for this statement is when the buyer needs to gain immediate information about your business. You should consider the different available devices or the specific platform they are currently using.

Constant communication is now the hottest marketing trend. Marketers are now reaching out their customers more than ever, in a more casual and personal manner. With this being the case, establishing a strong relationship between brand and buyer has taken a considerable leap.

To make exchanges count, it’s time to start innovating more. Instead of settling for one, brands need to establish multiple relevant conversion paths. It is essential that you take advantage of an increasing diversity of buying preference and consumer communication.

We wanted to see which marketing channel is making huge impacts. So we did some research. Here’s what we found out:

Relationship Marketing Today.

We need to understand the relationship that needs to happen between the brand and the buyer.

The Buyer-Marketer Relationship is essential for business success. As marketers, you should always keep a lookout for challenges and opportunities for your customers. Keeping a constant check on the status of your relationship with your customers will provide you valuable information. Issues with relationship marketing have been gaining attention in recent years. Marketers are trying to understand how to perfect this area of their marketing efforts.

Looking at the buyer-marketer relationship today, we are seeing a far more aggressive emphasis on communication. As said in the previous section, communication is now the primary focus of every marketing campaign.

Getting To This Point

Everything isn’t the same anymore. Marketers need to adapt. 

Remember the time website live chat went viral? It was the first time customers can get a quick response without having to call or send an email. However, reaching out to prospects and customers now goes way beyond chat due to the evolving communication options.

Varying Tendencies

Your business isn’t the only one leveraging anymore. It also isn’t the only option that can provide buyers with what they want.

The Buyer’s Journey has been changing. We are already experiencing an influx of available options. As a matter of fact, 80% of people on the internet are suffering from “information overload.” The prime reason is the number of different options made available to them. That paved the way for patience to deplete among customers. Internet users nowadays are impatient and will disregard your brand if you fail to respond right away.

Both the buyer and marketer has developed different tendencies and perspectives for communication. Buyers are all about engaging with brands depending on where and when customers and prospects prefer. Brand, on the other end, makes sure it meets these demands.

With customer patience dwindling within the day, Businesses have also tweaked their strategies accordingly. The goal has now shifted towards providing the best and answer to inquiries as quickly as possible. In addition, these answers are given straight from the type of platform they are constantly using. It can be popular social media networks like Facebook, their official website, or other available options.

The Customer Conversion Funnel

To understand the occurrence of changes in the buyer’s journey, we must talk about the customer conversion funnel, which serves as a physical representation of the buyer’s journey.

Most marketers tend to base their strategies through the customer conversion funnel — a visual representation of the Buyer’s journey, starting at the first time they discover your brand, to when they finally decide to convert into a buying customer.

Diagram Of The Conversion Funnel

The diagram below is what the conversion funnel looks like. Each section features an interconnection of different corresponding strategies to create an active and fluid conversion funnel.

A diagram of the Customer Conversion Funnel featuring a funnel-shaped figure divided into three sections that represents the three main stages of the Buyer's Journey

The Customer Conversion Funnel Serves as a physical representation of the buyer’s journey.

However, to find success in using the customer conversion funnel, we should not focus exclusively on a single POV. What we mean is to not settle for a single conversion channel all throughout.

While the strategy of how we can reach our target audiences is paramount, we also need to consider looking at the opposite side of the spectrum — the buyer’s POV. Regarding buyer-brand interaction, there is no one-size-fits-all option. It needs to be a variety of different things.

Understanding The Different Stages

To fully understand the conversion process, let’s take a look at each stage of the funnel.

The conversion funnel has a total of three different tiers: the top of the funnel (ToFu), the middle of the funnel (MoFu), and the bottom of the funnel (BoFu). Each level corresponds to a particular stage of the buyer’s journey. These stages comprise of awareness, consideration, and decision. All of these levels indicates the different progress scenarios that each prospect undergoes before it becomes a customer.

TOFU

In the top of the funnel (awareness), the visitor has just discovered your business and is now conducting research — looking for possible answers to their problem. This level is where a visitor has just come across your brand for the first time and is finding out if your brand is legit and whether or not it can provide what it offers.

MOFU

The middle of the funnel (consideration) features these visitors turning into leads and starting to find out that your brand does exist and your offers are there for the taking.

BOFU

Finally, the bottom of the funnel (decision) is where your leads have already narrowed their choices and will now make a final selection. It is at this point where your leads have now become customers and are about to purchase from you.

As marketers, being aware of these stages is crucial, as each will play a key role in turning a random visitor into an actual customer. That, however, depends on how well you “play your cards” so to speak. Also, how you communicate with prospects should be unique for each stage.

The Importance of Timing

If they haven’t gone through the MOFU yet, don’t feed them messages that are designated for the BOFU.

Communication success depends on the proper use of messages, so always have a keen instinct for timing. As your leads are being nurtured through the conversion funnel, it’s essential to send ideal messages at exact moments. Avoid communication mismatch; do not ask someone to schedule a personal meeting after reading just one of your blog posts. There will be chances where that reader hasn’t gather enough reasons for them to want to transact with you. To understand the nature of the buyer, it is essential that you consider viewing the process from the perspective of the buyer itself.

Ranking Factors

Ranking in search engines like Google will also factor out towards how your target customers are going to reach you.

Last October 17, multinational technology company, Google, released the latest update to its Chrome Browser. Dubbed as Chrome 62, this version enables Chrome to consistently display websites that are not using Secure Socket Layer (SSL) as “Not Secure.” The SSL works to encrypt your connection to a site, blocking hackers from infiltrating and gaining access to any confidential data.

Here’s what the new Chrome 62 will look like:

A screenshot of the example.com sample URL page featuring the URL enclosed in a red-colored box.

The latest version of Google Chrome, Version 62, will now display non-SSL-enabled websites as “Not Secure.”

Paying Attention to Search Engine Updates

So what does that have to do with conversion and your marketing efforts? Well, along with the update, Google also announced that websites that are not enabled for SSL would receive a corresponding penalty in their rankings. That means sites that haven’t enabled their SSL will have a lower discoverability rate and as a result, conversion opportunities happening on your website will plummet until the issue has been resolved. So if two sites with similar features are ranking for a particular topic, the one with their SSL enabled will be much favored to rank higher than the other.

However, take note that even before this update went live, Google has already flagged “not secure” websites that are also asking for confidential information. The October 17 update just served as a reinforcement to Google’s prior mandate, flagging all forms as not secure. This includes the ones used by most B2B companies to generate leads. That being in places gives marketers all the more reason to pay attention to even the smallest search engine update.

This scenario is also another indication why seeking for alternate conversion paths is important (take chat for example). It is crucial to create different communication alternatives for matching consumer preferences. Limiting to only a single channel will now present a much more significant punishment, SEO-wise.

This update has made chat platforms like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger to become more useful, immediate options for direct customer communication.

The Buyer’s Point Of View

At this point, we will now understand the Buyer’s Journey and just how effective it is… through viewing it from the buyer’s point of view.

The Demand For Conversion Diversification

Despite the different forms of content that we can use and take advantage of, gated content and blog posts are still present at the TOFU. Blog posts are still relevant in today’s marketing and remain the go-to strategy for attracting potential visitors.
However, as what was just mentioned, there are different forms of content existing in the first section of the conversion funnel. Other than searching for information, people nowadays are discovering content from brands via social media platforms like Facebook.

Taking advantage of Social media is just one of the reasons why conversions need to go way beyond the traditional method. Just think about it; if someone comes upon your content on social media for the very first time, the very last thing they want to do is leave the platform just to fill out your form.

Another reason occurs after the filling out and submission of the form. When a lead has been routed, the next thing that needs to be done is reaching out to that lead via email or call to offer some useful advice and (hopefully) book a meeting with you. But also consider buyers who intend to go straight to calling the sales directly instead of the other way around, as well as people who hate taking phone calls.

 

Tapping into Automation

Though forms still exist in this era we are living now; they have been compromised and associated with other factors like bots, messenger apps, and on-site live chat. These options present convenience to people who prefer not making phone calls and just want to get a fast and instant solution. Both considerations are important today. A lot of consumers choose methods based on how quick and easy they offer their products and the degree of not wanting to engage with anybody else.

Looking through the buyer’s point of view requires us to tap into automation. Whatever you might choose, just make sure that it’s going to have the following features:

  • Scalable to your target audience
  • Requires limited human involvement
  • Provides quick and instant solutions.

Combining Everything

So with these ideas and concepts being presented, we became curious on knowing just how we can connect both the buyer and marketer POV to effectively nurture leads on their terms, where they prefer to conduct an exchange, and in the most effective and comfortable manner.

The answer, as what has already been reiterated throughout this post, is by providing a variety of options for conversion, like the following for example:

  • Schedule a Meeting: share a personalized link where, when accessed, prospects can view your sales calendar.
  • Chat: Visitors get quick and instant response to their inquiries through on-site live chat or chatbots.
  • Calls: For people who don’t mind calling and talking on the phone, they can call sales using a phone number.

Which Conversion Path is most Appropriate?

We’ve gathered information through research and have come up with the three conversion channels mentioned above. However, which conversion path is the most ideal?

Given the fact that there’s no single solution to this interaction, there’s also no direct solution to this question. So for every section of the conversion funnel, (TOFU, MOFU, BOFU), there will be channels that are going to be more appropriate and ideal than others. We broke this down and came up with the best conversion path for every part of the funnel.

Keep in mind that this is based on our own findings. It might vary from yours or other marketers.

Top of the Funnel (TOFU)

As the name implies, the TOFU is found at the very top of the sales funnel and serves as the primary stage of encounter. This phase will be where you will be looking to attract an audience of potential leads. You are going to be working to attract relevant traffic without deliberately filtering out or discouraging conversions.
From our findings, the most effective forms of TOFU content are the following:

Content

Content, in general, is considered as an important part of the buyer’s journey. It serves as the root of the inbound marketing methodology, which is to attract potential customers with quality content, and lead them all the way down the buyer’s journey.
As what was said earlier, it would be inconvenient for someone to navigate out of their current platform and into another site just to fill out a form. This is the reason why we’ve placed key mechanisms for conversion communication within our Facebook Page. It hasn’t touched the procedure of reaching a blog post at the bottom as it is merely just adding more options for users.

Blog Posts

Not a surprise for most of you, we assume. Blog posts remain the primary tactic for attracting visitors to your site, and it will continue to be the case now and for the foreseeable future. So for now, if you are still focusing on optimizing and updating your blogs, then you are on the right path. Just make sure that you follow the current marketing motivation, which is “To Help the Buyer.” We’ve used our own blog page as an example. As you can see through our recent topics, we chose the one that not only references what our company can offer, but can also aim to help answer common digital marketing inquiries.

Videos

Almost a quarter of marketers this year have placed their priority on videos. We have seen videos this year dominating overwritten text, and it will only continue to do so in the foreseeable future. So with that being the case, utilizing videos will always get anyone’s attention.

Messaging

Also, on this level on the sales funnel, messaging is at the peak of its effectiveness. Messaging is effective in the TOFU due to how it can directly connect brand with buyer. Messaging also has multiple different layers, like different messaging platforms like on-site chat (live or automated) Facebook Messenger, Slack, Skype, or WeChat. Bots are also in the same breath as messaging. Bots can be used to automate messaging that can be managed on the back end, to identify which type of human will respond to a particular query — whether it be a problem, inquiry, or request of information. Through this technology, a company can raise initial awareness by providing a quick and easy response to incoming questions without having to monitor their chat 24/7.

Bot integration is the most fundamental since it’s where a company determines if the person contacting them genuinely need help. Bots can also be where you can immediately identify if an inquiry needs to be taken into serious consideration.

This is what the Silver Edge Facebook Messenger looks like:

Having on-site chat functions also behaves in the same manner, but be cautious about instilling too many chat options. Remember never to give people any reason to leave the platform they are currently on just to interact with you. As what has been mentioned before, forcing people to go to your site will disrupt potential conversion possibilities for those who will discover you on social media and other off-site platforms.

Middle of the Funnel (MOFU)

Once your lead finally converts on your TOFU content, they will now move into the middle of the funnel — or MOFU — stage. The middle of the funnel is the most complex and challenging stage due to the vast and extensive variety of interested yet not-fully-qualified leads. During this phase, the content should keep helping while also slowly positioning your brand as the ideal solution and answer to the lead’s problem. According to our findings, the most ideal conversion path in the MOFU is:

Advanced Messaging

At this point, we are already past the discovery and attraction stage, when casual visitors become leads.Unlike prospects, leads are now aware of the existence of your brand, and communication needs to be initiated immediately. But first, you need to consider the evolutions that communication needs to undergo to match the potential consideration of your offer.

In this level, you should continue providing content that your leads will find valuable. Keep in mind. However, that content being shared during the MOFU must be more advanced than the ones that made them discover your brand. Content that is effective during the MOFU would include the following:

  • eBooks
  • Videos
  • Quizzes
  • Case Studies
  • Webinars
  • How-to Content
  • Personalized Emails
  • Product Pages

You should also make sure that, whatever content you will be using, it should quickly make your leads engaged and interested in what you have to offer. Keep in mind that, similar to the top of the funnel (TOFU) stage, the path meets the contact where they already are. Once you give your leads enough reason, chances of them scheduling a meeting with you will be a lot more certain. Your leads are also more likely to advance to the next and final tier without having to disregard content platforms for a third-party site.

Bottom of the Funnel (BOFU)

By now you’ve already managed to set up your lead-generating strategies and are already enjoying a healthy collection of leads. You are now gaining people’s attention, and they are sticking around. So with that already in place, what’s going to be your next move? At this point, your bottom of the funnel (BOFU) will now come into play. Unlike the previous stages, the BoFu is going to be the most crucial and delicate since you will now try to sell your offer.
In this stage, you should exercise patience and caution — you should wait for the perfect moment and not jump in for the sale right away. But keep in mind that at this point your leads are already your customers, fully aware of your brand and are very much comfortable engaging one-on-one with you.
For most industries, the BoFu stage does not need to consist of content at all. What it now contains is an offer. These will vary depending on what product/service you are offering, so make sure you choose the appropriate one.

Also, keep in mind that the conversion path should give information to the contact on how and why they need to make a choice. In this stage, we have carefully observed that the immediate availability of communication becomes very crucial, which makes a whole lot of sense, right? Contacts commonly have already made and research. They’ve made up their mind and are ready to make a purchase — now.

Chat or Call Sales

At this point, you’re already under the impression that the trend for marketing today is offering instant solutions. If you haven’t figured that out yet, just review the previously discussed topics, or better yet, just look around the internet. Notice how people are emphasizing chat. Chat provides users with the convenience of getting their inquiries answered right away. They don’t even have to wait long to get a solution.

During the decision phase, the buyer gets even busier, a lot more committed, and impatient as ever. In other words, buyers are looking for the right and immediate reasons to buy. At the BOFU, a form is an ideal way to do that, especially when they want to talk to someone right away.

Also, remember the folks who hate talking on the phone? Their concerns need to be answered here, too and fast.

The Process of Purchasing Today

The process of purchasing products, which consists of lengthy decision-making, has also changed. Before the internet became the world’s most crucial necessity, transactions can be made through phone calls. Now, the process of buying can be visualized through this phrase: “I want to purchase this product; here are my account details.”

Nowadays, people prefer to shop online due to its convenience — all you have to do is to choose a product you want to purchase, enter your account details, and wait a couple of days for it to be delivered. We no longer have to walk to a physical store to buy anything, and we have automation to thank for that.

However, you should also consider the users who still prefer talking to another person first and respond to their questions yet still don’t want to talk over the phone — these people prefer to speak to someone via chat. If that’s the case, then the process will look like this phrase: “I want to chat with a sales representative because I’m interested in purchasing this product. If they can convince me, I’ll give them my credit card details.”

This scenario is where website chat comes in handy. Whether it be automated, or a live sales representative, you need to incorporate chat since it helps in answering people’s questions and inquiries on the fly.

Never forget to provide a wide range of different communication options as it will be key for your customers to reach you, be aware that your business does exist, and most importantly trust that your brand truly provides what it offers.

Also, consider the “overly protective” users. There will be times when even if you’ve already explained everything to a user, they still won’t be convinced to enter their account information into a random chat box, which is pretty reasonable, by the way.

For this reason, there should be options and choices throughout your funnels where customers are given the option to call sales directly. This option is most useful during the BOFU (decision stage).

Are Calls Still Relevant?

With the high demand for digital communications like chat, are calls still in the conversion mix, or has it completely fallen out or relevance?

With the direction that the internet is headed and how transactions are conducted, most might assume that calls have truly been disregarded and left in the dust. However, we wanted to know if this is truly the case, so we looked for different marketing agencies to see just how their conversion paths are going in terms of actual rate of conversions made. Here’s what we found out:

So in our search, we came across Inbound Marketing Company, HubSpot, who also wanted to know how each of their conversion paths are doing. They also conducted a research of their own. Here are the results of their findings.

HubSpot Rate For Each Conversion Path

  • Ebook/gated offers: 0.7%
  • Contact sales form: 15.11%
  • Book a meeting: 12.5%
  • Chat: 20.95%
  • Call sales: 29.62%

To get that result, HubSpot had to use a formula for determining how many of their customers closed after each of their transactions. They used the formula below:

Number of customers who closed within 90 days of transaction X
Total volume of users who booked meetings in that same period

To know the average number of customers closed after booking with HubSpot digitally, they then used the formula below:

Number of customers who closed within 90 days of scheduling a meeting
Total volume of users who booked meetings in that same period

Our Own Results

Using the formulas they used, we also conducted our own little research on our conversion paths and how they can be compared to HubSpot. We had to remove ‘Ebook/gated offers’ since we are currently not offering them.

We are entirely shocked at the results:

  • Contact sales form: 10.2%
  • Schedule a meeting: 21.12%
  • Chat: 38.18%
  • Call sales: 30.5%

Okay, so in our regard, chat comprises the majority of our conversions path. However, as you can notice, Call Sales came in second with a respectable 30.5% chunk of our translations. Looking back at HubSpot’s results, calls are dominating over any conversion path they are using.

This only means one thing: calls are still relevant, and people still want to talk over the phone.

On the other end, the close competitor of calls is still Chat, which reinforces the idea that more and more internet users prefer digitally closing their transactions instead.

Looking Ahead

To close this discussion, we want to, again, express the fact that the buyer’s journey has completely changed for the better. It has changed to better adapt to the current trend and demand of today’s marketing structure.

From the very start, we greatly emphasized just how customer preferences have changed over the years, and how marketers needed to match the ways they sell to how people wanted to buy. That ignited the integration of options and variety to the buyer’s journey. With the trends favoring digital more and more, different conversion channels have been developed to adapt to the demands of the customers. At this point, It’s safe to say that the ones mentioned in this article will indeed flourish and be utilized a lot more in 2018 and the years ahead.

For now, we have insufficient conversion options for our customers, but with the concept of variety already in place, we will strive to continue evolving, acquiring and offering new conversion channels along the way, and make it easier for people to discover and engage with Silver Edge Media. We’ll post our results via social media to keep you guys updated on our progress. We hope that our findings will inspire you to do the same. Stop settling for forms and start venturing towards different marketing channels and improving your buyer’s journey.

What conversion paths have you been using? Are you gaining results from them, or are you currently struggling and looking for a change? Let us know your experiences by sending us a message at contact@silveredgemediaservices.com.

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