Consumer Habits Remain the Same

As you evaluate your consumer audience, there are two key points to keep in mind. The first is that although the technology has changed, consumer shopping habits remain the same. One-click shopping has achieved broad acceptance, but consumers are as conservative as they’ve ever been when it comes to making significant purchases. Most consumers today take a thoughtful, research-based approach before making a major investment, and the Web serves as their main resource. This creates an excellent opportunity for marketers to reach and educate prospective customers with the right content as they make their way through the purchase funnel.

The second point is that consumers generally fall into two equally important categories: those with intent, and those without, also known as future buyers.

How do you influence each type of customer? Part of the answer is good content. The other is presenting the right content at the right time depending on where the customer is in the purchase funnel. This can be done with both a smart content advertising strategy as well as website tools that engage the consumer with recommended content once they land on the site. This approach matches quality content to a particular user’s interests and actions.

Two Paths to Purchase

Let’s consider how a brand might guide two buyers regarding a new curved high definition television.

Buyer A is the future consumer -- a very important target because reaching and engaging these consumers helps keep the sales funnel full. This consumer will buy, it’s just a matter of timing. For this consumer, it’s all about awareness.

A closer look at Buyer A's browser and purchasing history shows that this user is an electronics enthusiast. This tells us that we want to appeal to this user’s emotions. We can do this by serving content that appeals to their sense of being an early adopter or one who embraces cutting edge technology, providing content that educates and begins engagement. In this case, promoting branded content could be more effective in getting this future buyer into the sales funnel.

Be mindful of banner blindness. Make your ads rich and engaging by placing links to your best branded content right within the ad unit and let the consumer decide what they want to zero in on. You’ll see better engagement as a result.

Buyer B has the intent to buy a curved HDTV. This consumer is in research mode, also called the consideration stage of the sales funnel. A smart content advertising strategy will use behavioral data to identify this buyer and then present him with additional information that will influence the purchase. For example, an ad unit that contains links to the five best third-party reviews on the curved HDTV would be a better strategy than a simple display advertisement. And remember that ads should not be placed only on electronics sites. Use behavioral data to place your ads where your consumers spend their time.

In both cases, the consumer is led to a destination site. Once there, you want to keep them on the site for as long as possible. By using content recommendation tools, a brand can guide the user by presenting additional, relevant information at just the right time. Buyer B, who has intent, could be presented with an offer, leading to conversion. Meanwhile Buyer A, the future buyer, should be presented with more content that pushes them toward consideration. The key is to use tools that are designed to keep the user clicking, sharing and dwelling on that content.

As marketers and consumers settle comfortably into a world that extends beyond brick-and-mortar shops, content marketing has the chance to more readily and directly to guide consumers based on their individual compasses. By combining sound strategy with the right technology marketers can connect users to content more effectively and accurately, and in the process win over the hearts and minds of consumers, regardless of where they are in the selling cycle.

Title image by Adam Cohn (Flickr) via a CC BY NC ND 2.0 license