Content marketing is no longer solely focused on raising awareness for the consumer of the latest and greatest. Content needs to provide assurance, drive engagement and deliver knowledge and understanding. Simply housing content on your site, like a blog or a series of product pages, and expecting them to deliver is a sure-fire way of approaching the increasingly non-linear customer journey in the wrong manner. For content to be truly effective, you will need to establish a content strategy that can provide the right content at the right time.

The path a customer takes on their journey to making a purchase, and the need for relevant information and support at each incremental stage, naturally vary by product and service. However, there are key transferable elements that can be used to identify the relationship between creating content and catering for the customer on their journey. Understanding these stages will allow you to create appropriate content for your target audience as and when they need it.

From the perspective of the customer, their journey can be simplified into three stages: discovering the brand; be it via a search engine, social media campaign or branded newsletter, researching the best or most suitable product for their needs and finally, purchasing the product. From the businesses’ perspective, the corresponding stages are: raising awareness; via your branded platform or social media accounts, asserting your expertise and credibility and fundamentally, making the sale. To get to this crucial third and final stage, you need to ensure your potential buyer is provided with compelling content that offers a solution at every step.

Making the discovery/Raising brand awareness

At the beginning of the customer journey, the prospective customer is searching for a solution and you want to be the company that they plump for to solve their query. At this stage, your aim should be to provide rich, informative content that sets you apart from your competition. There are numerous ways to present your business to potential customers: unique blog posts, high-quality infographics and rich video content, all promoted via your social media accounts, are among the most effective pieces of content to help you get your products and services noticed.

Whilst creating dynamic content is important, assessing its effectiveness is also vital for boosting conversions and building relationships with your customers. Measuring the data behind your content can help your business become more responsive to the ever-changing needs of your customers and keep up with emerging trends within the industry. Analysing data can be a daunting process, but by using an online analytics tool, the process can become more intelligent, organised and the software can help you capture important metrics that may have previously been out of reach, such as; campaigns, in-site search and on-site user behaviour. Google Analytics is the most popular tool used by online marketers in measuring metrics, tracking social data and analysing trends for improved SEO.

You should also ensure your branding is consistent across all of your online platforms. Your website, logo and ads all play a significant role in boosting your visibility and consistency assures the customer of your visual approach. Your online presence is essential, if potential customers cannot see you, they cannot think of you when it comes to the next step: researching the appropriate product for their needs.

Conducting research/Asserting your knowledge

Once the customer has identified the product or service they need, ensuring they have sufficient credible information on hand allows them to make an assured decision about what is right for them. Content at this stage of the customer journey offers a developed insight into the product or service itself, exploring features in-depth, demonstrating provenance and assessing the response of those who have previously purchased the product or similar.

A 2013 case study carried out by VWO (Visual Web Optimiser) highlighted the considerable potential of implementing third-party review add-ons to a web page in a bid to boost credibility and conversions. In their A/B test, they added a small widget to e-commerce store, Express Watches’ website, with genuine customer reviews added to each product page. The test was a success for the business, with the positive customer reviews reducing initial buyer apprehensions, highlighting their success and boosting sales by 58 percent.

Credibility and user trust is something that is established and earned over time as you build up your customer base, but there are ways to increase the trust level of your website, even on a basic level if you’re a new business starting up. This can involve:

  • Building relationships with influential social followers from your field – assuring the customer that their peers approve of your products.
  • Client testimonials – offering intimate recommendations to alleviate hesitance. ·
  • Implementing visible SSL certificates – allowing for secure connections from server to browser and secure payment transactions.

Purchasing a product/Making a sale

The final stage of the customer journey is naturally the most important for any business, but also the most difficult to achieve. If you’ve done a good job establishing your viability to the customer throughout the journey, the final stage should result in a natural conclusion. The customer will have invested into your business and the products or services you have to offer and be ready to proceed on their journey. However, there is still a possibility that your content during the latter stages of the journey could result in the customer referring back to your competitors if the quality diminishes.

As of Q1 2014, 60% of online activity is mobile and mobile is quickly becoming the customer’s instinctive platform. This increase has dramatically transformed customer expectations and if there is a dichotomy between desktop and mobile platforms, the customer could miss out on important content during the final stages of the journey. A way to combat a stark contrast between platforms is to invest in responsive design for your website. Responsive design allows for a unified user experience across multiple platforms and ensures the customer receives a mirrored experience throughout the journey. Some businesses choose to opt for desktop and mobile-friendly sites, others for just one or the other, but more often than not, a lack of consistency diminishes any effort put in by their development team and can harm conversions long term.

The nature of web design means that those purchasing via a desktop site will have a different aesthetic experience compared to those purchasing on their mobile or tablet. However, aside from visual changes, perhaps the most concerning issue is the difference between the pages displayed across the mobile version of the site. The consumer could potentially miss out on delivery information and support forms – all vital pieces of content that enable a smooth customer journey, reduce confusion and increase the likelihood of the customer returning to the site post-sale. More worryingly, if there is a disconnect between desktop and mobile, users may miss out on enquiry forms or subscription services – two fundamental on-page elements that boost engagement and increase conversions for your site. Tracking these events via Google Analytics can offer impressive benefits for any site, so ensuring users on both desktop and mobile can view these pages across both platforms is vital.

Moving forward, to excel in your industry and build a core trusting audience will require the ability to engage with the customer throughout their journey, reaching out across multiple platforms with engaging and informative content that is rich, rooted by data and measured for efficiency. Rather than relying upon one preferred marketing method to drive business and increase conversions, we must inherently focus on digital marketing as a whole and focus upon the bigger picture.

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