A recent Pew Research study shows that eight in 10 Americans are now shopping online and most of those (79 percent) use their phones to make purchases through the internet. Here’s the zinger: A separate study from Statista concludes that 80 percent of the U.S. population report using social media. Do you see where I’m going here? One could draw a direct correlation between the percentage of people who shop online and the percentage of people who use social media. Eighty percent of Americans shop online. Eighty percent of Americans use social media. Eighty percent of Americans use their phone to both shop and browse social media. Social media is often where the customer journey begins. (And it often begins before the customer realizes it.)
The observer is passive. It happens all too often. I’m browsing my Twitter or Facebook feed and I see a very pointed ad. It’s seemingly random, but the advertisement hits home. It’s an ad for a product that I’ve discussed with my friends or it falls in line with my personal interests. It’s no accident. Each Like, Follow, tag, and Retweet is collected by data-mining sources and through computer magic and algorithms, it is determined that I am the target audience. You know what? They’re right. Through my passive Like or Follow, I’ve been showing my subconscious desire to make a purchase.
The prospect takes the first step away from passivity and takes the first intentional step on the customer journey. A prospect begins to research the product. They search hashtags related to the product, read reviews, and check user comments on Facebook pages. The prospect browses different retail sites to see what deals or coupons may be available. At this stage, they aren’t certain that they’ll make a purchase, but they’re making sure the product is right for them and they’re developing a short list of the brick and mortar or website they’ll use if they decide to click the “add to cart” button.
Social media is all about being social. It allows us to have a digital relationship with someone even if we’ve never stood face-to-face. Social media allows you to be friends with a celebrity influencer. We get to take a peek into their lifestyle. The lead starts to look for influencers from peer groups and celebrity spokespersons. We trust people more than we trust any corporation so if a friend or celebrity endorses a product, it carries much more weight than if you read a rave review directly from a company’s website. The lead looks to influencers to see if the product has worked for them and what the benefits are. Are there any pitfalls? Was the advertising misleading? Social media provides the most accessible way for the lead to take the next step into being a customer.
That’s it, right? A purchase has been made and the prospect has taken the journey into becoming a customer. But wait, the customer may look for support, or shop for add-ons and other products. It is here in the customer journey that one decides whether they made a good decision or a bad decision. As a customer uses the product, they will decide whether they like the product enough to buy it again or whether they will prospect for a new product. They may also take the first steps into becoming an influencer by adding reviews in discussion forums.
An influencer can have a positive or negative affect on your future customer base. It is now the goal of any retailer to provide such a great product and service that the customer becomes a positive influencer. A successful retailer will provide a product and service that the influencer will rave about on their social media pages. If a customer is satisfied with the product in hand, they will share positive feedback through hashtags, Facebook status updates, photographs, and check-ins. However, if the customer is dissatisfied, they will cast a shadow across their social media landscape in regard to your products and service. An influencer helps to determine whether the next prospect becomes your customer, or not.
The customer journey through social media is circular. If a product becomes a part of one’s lifestyle, customers will become the influencers who cast a net to gather other prospects. Once those prospects become customers, they may, themselves, become influencers. Each customer will remain a customer as long as they remain satisfied with the product; however, if the customer has a bad experience they will start prospecting and looking to other influencers. And the customer journey begins again.