The digital age calls for a change in the way that brands interact and engage with consumers. An array of online channels provides increased touch points where consumers can connect with countless brands often beyond the manufacturer's or retailer's control.
It is vital for small and big businesses alike to shift their traditional strategies in order to determine the most effective ways to interact with their target market at these touch points. As consumers spend more time engaging with brands in an online environment, businesses must realign their strategies and budgets and develop an internet marketing plan that hits the mark.
The Funnel Metaphor
Traditionally, marketers have used the ‘funnel’ metaphor to describe consumer brand engagement. The model states that consumers start with a large list of potential options and then systematically winnow the list down into a single selection.
David Court and three co-authors developed a more nuanced approach to understanding the interaction process: the consumer decision journey (CDJ). They refute the idea that buyers systematically narrow their choices when selecting a brand or product, and rather offer a four stage journey: consider, evaluate, buy, and enjoy, advocate, bond.
The model proposes that consumers undertake an extended evaluation phase during which they add and remove brands from a group under consideration and finally enter into an on-going relationship with the brand after purchasing a product or service. They then share their experience with the brand in an online environment.
It is crucial for contemporary businesses to understand at which touch points their target market will be most influenced and develop an internet marketing strategy that capitalises on this.
Consider and Buy
The journey towards making a purchase begins with a consideration-phase in which brands are selected based on exposure to advertising, word of mouth recommendations, and so forth.
There is a trend for traditional marketers to overemphasize the ‘consider’ and ‘buy’ stages of the consumer journey, allocating too many resources and too much budget towards advertising and retail promotion. In a CDJ model, there is a tendency for consumers to select fewer brands for consideration in the initial stage as they are bombarded by a saturation of brand choices in the modern media.
In the evaluate stage, consumers add some brands to the consideration list and discard others based on input from peers, reviews, retailers, the brand and its competitors. In a digital age, the ‘evaluate’ (and ‘advocate') stage(s) become increasingly relevant and more resources should be allocated to guiding consumers’ evaluation processes and spreading a positive message following purchase.
Increasingly, consumers put off a purchase decision until they're actually in a store and they may be easily dissuaded at that point. Thus point of purchase, which exploits placement, packaging, availability, pricing, and sales interactions is an ever more powerful touch point. Effective branding is increasingly vital at this touch point.
Enjoy, Advocate, Bond
Following purchase, a consumer enters into an open-ended relationship with the brand as they begin to interact with the product and share their experiences via online touch points. If the bond with the brand grows strong enough, a consumer will ideally skip the ‘consider’ and ‘evaluate’ phases for their next purchase and jump straight to the buy stage of the journey.
The Shift to a CDJ-driven Branding Approach
The shift from traditional marketing structures to a CDJ-driven approach involves three steps:
- Your target market's decision making journey must be defined and understood.
- You must learn which touch points are of priority to your consumers and develop a strategy to leverage them.
- Resources and organisational relationships must be allocated according to your newly defined branding strategy.
The Importance of Digital Touch-points
The era of online ushers in a new way of interacting with consumers that is integral to an effective marketing strategy . The massive reach, immediacy and interactivity of digital touch-points demands that the brand experience and consumer journey be reassessed and an effective internet marketing solution be implemented based on the needs and inclinations of a contemporary online market.