“Forget everything you knew about the customer funnel!” This sounds like very bold marketing advice – the type you might want to disregard because it sounds too over the top – but when you realize the source, you may want to reconsider.
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Google spent 6 months looking at customer search data as part of an opt-in panel. What this research revealed reinforces what we’ve observed in our work helping retailers and small business owners connect with their customers: the customer journey is not a straight line.
Today’s customers are researchers, but they’re not all researching the same things in the same way. Google tracked four different customer journeys. 1 shopper began researching in very broad terms, before narrowing their selection to a specific brand. Another shopper knew what brands they were interested in relatively quickly, but then researched all of their options in quite some detail before making a purchase. Another customer made their purchase and then began the research process. In the final instance, what appears to be a fairly straight forward purchase required over 20 searches, as the shopper investigated all of the logistics involved while deciding what worked best for their plans.
These four examples are only the tip of the iceberg. Google limited their research to the part of the customer journey that happened via their search engine. However, the customer journey can begin many other places – on social media, via the recommendation of a friend, as a result of seeing an ad in the newspaper or on tv, and more. Customers may begin their journey researching one question, and may change direction based on what they learned.
Your job is to provide the customer with a satisfying experience no matter what route their customer journey takes. This first step in this process is understanding your website data. Google Analytics captures a wealth of information that can reveal how groups of customers navigate your website. You’re looking for behavioral patterns that identify the types of information most of value to your buyers. Simply by improving this information, making it easier to access, or adding clearer calls to action to the relevant pages it’s possible to boost conversion rates.