Here is an interesting article written by David Kalt, the founder and CEO of MIA member Reverb, the leading online marketplace dedicated to buying and selling music gear. David is a content contributor to Forbes, and covers how small businesses survive in today’s retail landscape.
“Shopping used to be simple. When you needed a new razor, you went to the store, followed the signs to the right aisle, selected a razor from the two or three options available to you, and that was that. Today, there are not only dozens of brands of razors to choose from in-store, but you could spend days reading online reviews and social media posts trying to determine which option is best. If you didn’t want to go to the store, you could check Amazon and get a razor shipped to you in two days for free. You could even join a service that ships you a razor—plus shaving cream and anything else you might need—on a monthly basis.
Don’t get me wrong: As a buyer, I love the options and convenience that come along with today’s connected retail experience. But there’s no denying that it has complicated things for retailers. Simple transactions, like selecting a razor, a cup of coffee, or even a hotel, have now turned into a much longer process, with plenty of research, options, and steps along the way. To make sense of this complex new reality, brands are exploring “journey marketing.” It’s a concept that forces you to consider the points in a customer’s journey to or with your brand and ensure that the actions you’re taking at each point are effective. Visually, think of it as a map that starts with a consumer saying “Never hear of it” and ends with them telling their friends: “You have to try this!”
At large companies with hefty budgets, a full-blown journey marketing exercise might consist of investing in expensive marketing technology, hiring a research firm, and more. But even as a small business with limited time and money, you can still identify your various customer types, map out their pathways to conversion, and better connect with them along the way. Here are just a few pages you can take out of the “journey marketing” playbook.
- Do your homework. First, find out as much as you can about your customers through any means necessary. Take note of gender, age, occupation, and more as you interact with customers in your store. If you have a significant social media following, dive into those analytics. Read up on data studies and other research produced by larger companies in your industry. You can even ask current customers to answer a short survey on their receipt or in a follow-up email in exchange for a discount. Young shoppers, in particular, are willing: A recent Salesforce survey found that roughly 60 percent of Millennial and GenX consumers are willing to share data in exchange for personalised offers and discounts. From there, separate your customer “personas” into groups based on common themes.
- Get out your crystal ball. Once you’ve identified the different types of customers who buy your product or use your service (or might in the future), consider all the steps they take to go from unfamiliar with your brand to repeat customer. Don’t just consider their path—anticipate their needs at each point on that path. For example, a common persona for guitar shop owners is the “adult beginner.” An adult beginner has different needs at the beginning, middle, and end of the purchasing process than a professional musician. By thinking through the adult beginner’s unique journey from “What in the world do I want to buy and from where?” to “I’m ready to buy another guitar from this store,” a store owner can better connect with that customer along the way.
- Grab your magnifying glass. After you’ve identified the different touchpoints that each of your customers has with your brand, take a closer look at the experience you’re providing at each of those touchpoints. Consider the “awareness” stage as an example—what’s the first interaction each of your customer types has with your brand? Is it your website, your Yelp profile, your sign outside, or something else? Is each of those touchpoints set up to uniquely help each of your customers get to the next level with your brand? Consider, again, the guitar store owner who is mapping the journey of the adult beginner. Are the homepage and other initial touch points user-friendly to a first-time instrument buyer? Are the in-store employees equipped with recommendations for a beginner? After a purchase is made, will the customer get a follow-up email that recommends some other beginner essentials, like picks, a guitar strap, or a guitar stand?
The biggest benefit of a “journey marketing” exercise? A shift in your mindset. The process forces you to change the question from “How do I sell?” to “How does my customer buy?” It’s a small but impactful change that will help any small business make sense of today’s complex retail landscape and one that will hold true even as the industry continues to evolve and change.”