For every transaction you have with a consumer, there were at least a dozen different influences that went into that person’s decision to buy from you.
This much you know. But what does the typical path to purchase really look like these days?
We couldn’t tell you.
The sheer volume of online buying options now available to consumers means there’s no surefire way to know precisely how people discover your products — or what they’ll do next. Thousands of different touchpoints could be used in any combination of ways to create hundreds of unique consumer journeys, all for the same, single product.
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t be prepared to meet their expectations.
To help break things down, let’s take a look at the six essential digital touchpoints that should be a part of every online seller’s strategy — along with our top recommended resources for getting ahead of the game.
Digital Touchpoint #1: Amazon
Because more than half (56%) of shoppers start product-specific searches on Amazon, you want your products to show up when they start looking. By incorporating some essentials into your Amazon strategy, you can grow your shopper base exponentially:
- Leverage Amazon Advertising. If you want to maximize visibility and get your products in front of as many purchase-ready consumers as possible, having a robust Amazon Advertising strategy in place is critical. Sponsored Products, Sponsored Brands and Product Display Ads are all highly visible to (and frequently used by) consumers.
- Assess your product data. The better the content, the more likely a listing is to rise to the top of search results and compel people to purchase. Check the quality of your titles, descriptions, bullet points and images to ensure you’re positioning your products to “own” the Amazon search results page.
For more ideas you can use to get ahead on Amazon, check out these resources:
- Owning the Amazon Search Results Page
- Your Ultimate Guide to Advanced Amazon Advertising
- 11 Secrets to Amazon Success
Digital Touchpoint #2: Paid Search and Shopping
Amazon may be the go-to resource for shoppers who have a clear idea of what they want to buy. But what about consumers who are still trying to figure that out?
For this audience, Google gives you the edge.
During this critical stage, shoppers tend to be very receptive to the advertising that’s placed in front of them. You can meet them at this critical stage by focusing on:
- Paid Search Ads to help ensure your listings are getting in front of the right consumers, at just the right times. We’ve seen sellers nearly triple their search presence simply by focusing on fine-tuning product content for paid search.
- Google Shopping to surface your products as people browse for ideas and compare prices. While virtually every advertiser is running some kind of program through Google, only a small percentage of that massive advertiser base is using Google Shopping. Once you get good at leveraging Google Shopping, the payoff can be tremendous.
For more inspiration, take a look at these seller success stories:
- Karen Kane: Connecting with a New Generation of Customers
- Peter Millar: Increasing Visibility in Search
Digital Touchpoint #3: Social Media
Social media is often your best best for connecting with consumers, especially if they’ve already interacted with your brand. These platforms allow you to:
- Tell the stories behind your products. Providing helpful content or industry information can quickly elevate your reputation with your customers. Try sharing lifestyle photos or discussing the release of upcoming lines. Sometimes, just providing helpful tips for getting more out of your products can endear you to your followers.
- Use dynamic ads to retarget. The wide variety of advertising formats available to e-commerce sellers on social media makes it possible to connect with consumers in ways that aren’t possible on other channels. Facebook and Instagram offer especially robust options that can help shrink the path to purchase from weeks or months to days or hours.
For specific tips and tactics you can use to get ahead on social media, use these guides:
Digital Touchpoint #4: Additional Marketplaces
Amazon may be a popular destination for many consumers, but it’s far from the only marketplace stop on consumers’ paths to purchase. Shoppers are frequently turning to a fast-growing array of other e-commerce marketplaces.
For some purchases, consumers use multiple marketplaces to compare prices. For others, the shopper might be exploring items in a particular niche such as fashion or electronics. Regardless of the reason, the implication is the same for every brand and retailer: Your consumers are using numerous e-commerce platforms — and you should be, too.
By keeping a few best practices in mind, you can make the most of these highly important digital touchpoints:
- Identify the best marketplaces for your products. Whether it’s Walmart and Google or Newegg and Overstock, finding the right platforms will help ensure your products meet consumers where, when and how they want to shop.
- Optimize product content across channels. As you expand to new sales channels, check your data feeds to ensure your product titles, descriptions and keywords match the requirements for each individual marketplace.
- Leverage Google Shopping Actions. This program lets you get your listings in front of millions of consumers as they weave their way through the entire Google ecosystem. It helps ensure your products are displayed across multiple touchpoints including Google Express, Google Search and the Google Assistant.
Check out these resources for step-by-step guidance as you work to expand your marketplace presence:
- Reaching Wider Audiences: A ChannelAdvisor Review of 7 US Marketplaces
- 7 US Marketplaces for Niche Audiences
- Google Shopping Actions: Why You Need to Join Now
Digital Touchpoint #5: Reviews and Ratings
It’s no secret that ratings and reviews play an integral role in the shopping process. More than 90% of surveyed consumers are in the habit of referencing reviews before making a purchase. In fact, it’s been said that 85% of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, and that even a product with negative reviews sells better than a product with no reviews at all. They’re a must if you want to remain competitive. Here are our top recommendations:
- Enable and encourage reviews. Whether it’s on your own webstore or a marketplace, inviting shoppers to rate and review products after purchase is always a good idea. Many sellers have success requesting this type of feedback through email campaigns.
- Monitor. Questions and issues around customer service, fulfillment and other aspects of a transaction will often arise in customer reviews. By regularly monitoring feedback, you can stay tuned in to areas where improvements may be needed.
- Respond. It’s not just what your customers are saying, but how you respond to their feedback that matters. Consumers listen to other consumers, and that affects your bottom line. Keep a close eye on your reviews and ensure that you’re dealing with requests quickly and efficiently.
For more ways to reach consumers through reviews, as well as other marketplace specific tips, download the eBook:
Digital Touchpoint #6: Fulfillment Experience
Once an order is placed, your fulfillment experience will directly influence customer satisfaction, repeat purchases and loyalty. In fact, this may just be one of the most important digital touchpoints. More than half of consumers will abandon a shopping cart if shipping is too expensive, and 26% will cancel an order if delivery is too slow. Several key strategies can make it easier to meet expectations for fast, free shipping:
- Automate your fulfillment by getting processes in place that allow you to quickly identify fast, low-cost options and route each order to the most cost-effective carrier. Automated fulfillment is one of the best ways to protect your margins while meeting consumer expectations for fast delivery times.
- Use shipment tracking that’s both intuitive and timely. Use a system that notifies the buyer each time a transition occurs, but be careful not to set the frequency too high or send regular updates regardless of where the package is. (After all, seeing that an order hasn’t yet been moved from a mail center will only frustrate your customer.)
- Don’t overlook returns. An equally thorough, meticulous returns process can be your ticket to more customer connections and sales.
For more fulfillment tips, take a look at the eBook:
In conclusion: There’s no one clear-cut path to purchase for today’s consumers. Developing a multichannel, multifaceted strategy will ensure your brand is accounting for all digital touchpoints in the shopper’s purchasing process. From browsing and buying to delivery and returns, you can have a big impact on consumers at every stage.
Editor’s Note: This post was last updated in May of 2016 and has been further updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.