A Retail Customer’s Journey


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Many advertising campaigns are built around creating Awareness: Simply letting prospects know you exist and what you stand for – the brand promise. For many businesses, it is a logo, a tagline and an address repeated in as many outlets as possible (including online.) Awareness is the cost of entry to even be a part of a customer’s consideration set when they are ready to make a purchase.

Trial is usually spurred by a promotion or a convenient location.  A promotion is the reason to come into the store NOW.  Coupons, special sales, limited time offers create a sense of urgency and a call to action that get customers to open the door.  Once inside, your brand really comes alive: Greeting the customer, offering helpful advice, an environment that is clean, cheerful and intriguing, a straightforward check out and a sincere appreciation all combine to determine whether the customer will wish to repeat the shopping visit.

Repeat.  Over and over.  For customers, a satisfying first visit leads to second, third and fourth visit only if each trip is consistently appealing. For products with long purchase cycles, the time between visits can be weeks or months.  In furniture, for example, it can be years.  So that impression in the store must be long lasting.  A customer is considered to be in the “repeat” phase for as long as necessary until the customer would say that ABC Store is the ONLY store I go to for my office and printing supplies.  To keep customers repeating, retailers usually continue the promotions that have worked in the past.

A Loyal customer only considers one store to shop for their needs.  One “brand” if you will. They have had such pleasant and consistent experiences, that choosing which store to visit is no longer a decision.  Many brands get to this stage if you think about your own personal favorite brands of toothpaste, deodorant, coffee or shampoo.  Often, these personal brands are held so closely that the decision to buy them is automatic.   It is more about refilling the product rather than deciding which product to buy.  Similar relationships exist in retail when a customer builds a relationship so deep that they literally think of their grocer or bakery as “my bakery” instead of “the bakery.”

Evangelist customers are your best marketers.  They are the people who recommend your store, tell their friends about it and enthusiastically endorse your business.  Clever marketers push loyal customers to become enthusiasts by offering incentives to like us on facebook, review us on yelp or give special friends and family coupons to loyal customers to share out.

But a misstep along the line and customers move backwards along the sequence. It is why stores that were once popular wane because “the service isn’t what it used to be” or “they never have what I want in stock.”  Basic in-store fundamentals that do not meet expectations can ruin years of customer development along the path.  Retailers need to realize that the marketing journey is not just the elements outside the store that bring a customer to a store, but the entire journey.

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