Improving Customer Experience and Retention with the Path to Purchase

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Here’s a quote from McKinsey & Company to frame and put on your wall: “… maximizing satisfaction with customer journeys has the potential not only to increase customer satisfaction by 20 percent but also to lift revenue by up to 15 percent while lowering the cost of serving customers by as much as 20 percent.”

Your company wants to improve its revenues while reducing its costs, right? Focusing on the customer journey will do just that. It’s one of the best ways to improve your conversion and customer retention rates, which has a significant impact on your customer’s bottom line. For instance, some research indicates a mere 5% in customer retention can increase profitability by 75%.

Whether it’s your first time following your customer’s path to purchase or you’re looking to improve your existing mapping process, here’s everything you need to know about this insightful process.

Why Customer Experience Matters

Before we get to journey mapping, let’s start with customer experience.

There are many definitions of customer experience, but it is loosely defined as any interaction that your organization has with your customer. How they are treated and how well your company meets their expectations contributes to whether your customer has a good, bad, or neutral experience.

Good customer experience matters for many reasons. It:

  • Increases customer satisfaction.
  • Improves customer retention.
  • Turns customers into advocates. This increases referral customers, which have a 16% higher lifetime value than non-referral customers.
  • Improves the bottom line.

Good customer experience is the responsibility of everyone, not just the sales team or the service desk. This mentality is important as we consider customers’ path to purchase.

Understanding the Path to Purchase

The path to purchase incorporates the customer experience, but takes it even further.

Traditionally, companies have focused on customers’ individual touchpoints — the interaction they have with sales staff at a store, say, or their experience using an online checkout. This is a siloed way of looking at customer experience. However, the path to purchase gives a more holistic and effective way of examining customer experience that focuses on the entirety of the shopping experience.

A simple path to purchase model has three stages: awareness, consideration and purchasing. Other more sophisticated models may have many stages and depend on the nature of the product or service being used, including ownership, out-of-box experience (known as OOBE, for products such as tech gadgets that people ritualistically “unbox”), and advocacy (where a customer actively promotes a product or service).

Research shows how important it is to understand this entire journey the customer goes through. According to Senior Executive Vice President, Becky Wu, “Marketing is the subtle art of hitting the right person with the right message at the right time — and in the past five years, on the right device. Get all four elements of the successful connection right and sales will surge.”

Considering the Complete Path to Purchase

A consumer’s path to purchase is a complex, non-linear journey. But, first, you have to get your company firmly established en-route to the purchase point.

Say you have an exciting marketing campaign that goes viral. It addresses all prospective customers’ concerns at the awareness stage, and it dramatically increases awareness of the product. Yet if the product the campaign is promoting quickly goes out of stock and customers end up waiting months to receive the product, they aren’t likely to be satisfied customers and your company will miss out on a huge opportunity.

Think with Google gives another example. A consumer’s digital path to leasing a new car took three months. Her journey involved over 900 digital interactions, 139 google searches, and 186 digital manufacturer interactions. Of 14 different manufacturers, the consumer considered only 6. In this case of exploring a digital path to purchase, the question is often if your brand is even on the radar of consumers at all. It’s difficult to be considered on a path to purchase if there is nothing for your potential consumer to interact with during a key part of the purchase stages.

This is where a path to purchase study comes in. The data you can capture from a path to purchase study shows you how consumers behave from the very beginning of their shopping journeys, from what they look for to where they are looking. Knowing what consumers search for when shopping for a particular product or service highlights the search terms you should be incorporating into your content. What’s more, you have the opportunity to advertise on key apps — or even build your own — to drive consumers to your company right from the start.

Keeping Customers on Course for Your Company

Even if current customers and consumers who know about your company are on the path to purchase, there will still be times when some of them stray from your purchase point.

But the path to purchase goes beyond making consumers happy with your brand — it also allows you to see where you might lose potential and existing customers at any point along their entire journey. Using path to purchase study insights into online and in-store shopping behaviors, you can tailor your marketing approach to guide consumers back to your purchase point.

Once you know where your consumers are straying, you can start to study the competition. By looking into which competitor sites your consumers are viewing on the path to purchase, you can improve your competitive standard by giving better value to your target market than their other options. For example, Client Heartbeat compares the offerings of inbound marketing software providers HubSpot and Office Autopilot. The added value of HubSpot’s Inbound Academy really makes this company stand out. What extra value can you add to your brand to keep your potential and existing customers around?

If you act on the insight from your path to purchase mapping, it can revolutionize your company’s customer experience and keep consumers on track to your purchase point, leading to happier customers and larger profits.

1 COMMENT

  1. Hi Roseanne, great post. I also know that the customer’s refund is five times more expensive than attracting a new one, so I completely agree with you that customers need to be kept, this not only affects profits, but also on the company’s reputation.
    Best regards

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