Interruptions and the Customer Buying Cycle


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Author Note: This post originally appeared in the Adobe Experience Delivers blog. You can find it here. This version has some updates and new ideas.

My last post talked about advertising and customer experience, which reminded me of some work I had done in the past looking at the idea of interruptions along customer journeys. I think this information continues to be very relevant today.

In June of 2009, David Court and several of his collegues published a paper in the McKinsey Quarterly called “The Consumer Decision Journey.” In the paper, they talk about how the customer journey has changed as customers have become more knowleldge and empowered due to technology. There are lots of interesting points and its definitely worth a read.

One thing in particular caught my eye in relation to customer experience, moments of truth, and context. And that is shown in this figure from the report:

The graphic is a guide (you might need to adjust it for your industry by observing and talking to your customers) for the role your various marketing activities play in purchase decisions. And, while this is for consumers, a similar pattern is likely to be true for business to business marketing.

The things that jumped out at me from this table were:

  • Past history and knowledge of the brand plays a big role in getting you invited for consideration, but is a minor influence at the final point of purchase.
  • Independent influences plays a consistently significant role and can get you added to the evaluation and also sway a purchase decision.
  • The final point of closure is critical and customers may change their mind at their point of purchase based on that final experience.

What this means to me is that today’s customer journey is rife with opportunities for distraction (yeah, I know thats kinda obvious with the deluge of communications we all get daily). These distractions will cause journey interruptions that can either delay the decision or result in you losing the business entirely. I think this is the biggest impact on the new customer buying cycle, since interruptions, if accepted, allow the buyer to quickly jump to a different stage of a buying cycle, or a new one altogether.

From a customer experience standpoint, this means you can’t let your guard down. Even if your marketing efforts in the early stages of the journey puts you in the front-runner position, you can easily be supplanted if you get blindsided by independent reviews, tweets, blogs or a frustrating experience at the closing point.

On the other hand, as a competitor, you should recognize that you have the opportunity to jump into a decision journey in the middle (or even the end) and win the business away from your competition (providing you with a nice short sales cycle). Understand the customer’s context, so that they welcome the interruption versus ignoring it or getting annoyed by it, and you will set yourself apart. In some cases, traditional advertising and promotion models may work well, but I also think some new approaches will emerge that will further change the game.

Two things that you as a company can do to reduce the receptiveness of customers to interruptions when in a buying journey with you are a superior customer experience across all stages of the journey and having community of advocates for your products and brand. If you are making things easier for the customer along their journey, and building trust with them–trust that is reinforced by your advocates, they’ll be less likely to be open to distractions and journey interruptions.

From a competitive standpoint, creating experiences that attract and delight a customer at various points of their journey can win them over. Buying is still not, and never will be, a purely scientific process. Emotions are always involved and a good experiences triggers positive emotions.

Netting it out. Today’s customer is empowered and in control. They define their own journey and they decide if they want to take you with them on their ride. The experiences you provide determine how far that journey goes for you or if you can join mid-stream (and kick others off). Exceed expectations and you’ll start winning business faster and creating a community of advocates. Fail and you’ll be dumped along the side of the road with others who have seen their companies and products abandoned buy customer’s who weren’t getting the experience and results they wanted

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Hank Barnes
Hank Barnes provides research and advisory services on go-to-market strategies--particularly around marketing, positioning, and customer experience--for technology providers. Hank has more than 25 years of high-technology sales and marketing experience in both field and corporate roles, both as an individual contributor and the marketing leader for several startups. He is a long-time proponent of customer-centric marketing and the use of customer experience as a key differentiator for business success. His posts here include content from his days with Adobe, SAP, and now Gartner


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