The last time you bought something, how much time did you spend researching online before you made the purchase? Whether you were looking for bluetooth headphones or shopping for a new car, you probably felt the compulsion to thoroughly examine your options by reading reviews, mulling over specs, and scouring the internet for the best possible option. You’re not alone — a study by eCommerce Foundation shows that 88 percent of consumers pre-research their buys online before making a purchase either online or in-store.
As a marketer, how do you reach — and, more importantly, convert — the research-obsessed consumer? Here are a few strategies that will help you do it.
Anticipate Consumer Anticipation
Consumers are thinking farther ahead than ever before making big purchasing decisions. This means that their research may start long before the actual need to make a decision arises. By anticipating high-stakes purchases like getting a life insurance policy or a home loan, you will stay top of mind for them when they are ready to make a decision. One of the best ways to reach customers at this stage is to have an arsenal of relevant top-of-funnel content at the ready. This can come in the form of blog posts, infographics, short videos and other educational content that answers your customers’ most common questions that come up early in the buying process. It should also serve to get them excited about your brand. Part of why people are researching earlier is to get themselves pumped up about their purchase. This isn’t only a brand awareness move, either. This helps create a reassuring voice from your brand that shows you know the concerns of your customers well and that you will have the answers to tough questions that might come up down the line.
Optimize Search to Answer Questions
The rise of voice assistants has changed the way people search for answers online. When consumers were still tied to keyboards, they used a truncated search string like “credit score mortgage” to see how their credit might affect their mortgage rate. With voice search, queries are not only more specific, they’re asked in a much more natural way. Instead of “credit score mortgage” someone might ask “what’s the minimum credit score I need to qualify for an FHA loan” or “how much can a good credit score reduce my interest rate?”
That means your SEO writing should reflect the conversational nature of voice search. You have to think about more than just keywords or even long-tail—you have to know what questions your customers are asking and how they ask them. Listening to call recordings is a great way to figure out how your customers ask questions. Once you create a list of the questions your customers ask, you can begin to tune your existing landing pages and create new content to return relevant results. When you are writing blog titles and headers, make sure to do it in a way that naturally answers these questions.
Offer a Personalized Experience
You know that you need to offer potential customers all the information they need to make an informed decision. But doing so can quickly turn into information overload, and the last thing you want to do is overwhelm them with content. The idea is to build confidence in the decision they are about to make. The research-obsessed customer has got a bad case of FOMO for making the best purchase decision possible, so you should make it easy for them to prove it and stay organized.
To do this, you can offer planning tools, calculators, and tailored content packages that make the research process an easy one-stop shop. Real estate sites like Open Listings have a mortgage calculator right in the listing page so home buyers can figure out if they can afford the home they are looking at before they even take a tour. We offer our prospects an ROI calculator so they can clearly see the value of attributing paid search to inbound calls. And many travel sites have trip planners that allow vacation-bound customers to see their flights, rental cars, resorts, tours, and more all in one handy itinerary. According to a recent survey by Epsilon, 80 percent of respondents said they are more likely to do business with a company if it offers personalized experience. Bottom line: the more personalized you can make the research process, the more comfortable your customers will be working with you.
Let Customers Contact you Their Way
Where your customer is in the buying process as well as their communication preferences can determine how they will contact you for additional information. If someone has a basic question that they can’t find right away on your website, a chatbot is a great way to give them the information that they need. If they are a little further along in a complicated process like a home loan or getting an insurance quote, the customer may want to give you a call. And web forms are still a great way for customers to get information quickly and review it on their own schedule.
This is why you can’t tie customers down to one mode of communication. If you over-rotate to digital and bury your phone number, it can frustrate people into shopping your competition. If you don’t offer easy options like chatbots and web forms, people looking for quick answers will take off. Also, be sure to keep your demographic in mind. Our research shows that while 43 percent of of respondents under 35 said they’d find AI-powered experiences less frustrating than human interactions, 62 percent of people 55 or older said AI-powered experiences would be more frustrating than working with a real person.
Even though 80 percent of businesses already use or plan to use chatbots by 2020, over half of consumers believe the future should entail a combination of human and automated interactions. This means that your customer communication channels have to be varied and the experience has to offer a balance of bots and human interaction.
Make the Entire Journey Friction-Free
Particularly in considered purchase categories like insurance and financial services, your customers are likely to cross communication channels several times during the research process. They will find you in search on their laptop, see you on social, ask your chatbot a question, and call you on the phone. Making the journey across channels as seamless as possible is key. Nobody wants to enter all of their info again on their phone if they have already filled a bunch of forms out on their laptop already. Consider enabling social sign in and secure authentication with Google sign in to make accessing accounts a one-click affair. Social sign in also gives you another opportunity to enrich your customer profiles with information from their social media accounts, allowing you to further personalize their experience.
If your customers frequently call your business during the buying process, you’ll need to be prepared to offer them a friction-free experience. If your customer uses click-to-call from a paid search ad for car insurance, you don’t want to connect them to an agent that does commercial insurance. If it’s an existing customer, you don’t want them to end up getting transferred around by sending them to a general call center.
And no matter what, you don’t want people to have to repeat information that they already entered somewhere in the digital journey or send them through an endless call tree. Call tracking and analytics platforms like Invoca can help you send all your customers to the right place at the right time and provide the call center with rich customer profiles in real time. This means that you will know your customer when they call, and they will definitely appreciate that.
Web-influenced sales continue to grow and the likelihood that your customer has intensely researched you and your offerings before making a purchase is nearly guaranteed, so you have to be prepared to give the research-obsessed customer the best experience possible.