If you're like most eCommerce website owners or marketers, the most important metric is your close rate on visitors to customers. You're paying a lot in PPC and want to make sure that you convert as many of your visitors as you can. Although this is a critical way to think about your business, it is also very limiting in the fact that the vast majority of your website visitors are not at a stage where they are ready to make a purchase.
So what happens is all of your messages, call to actions and copy is written around those people ready to make a purchase, however, this really is only speaking to 1-3% of your website visitors. This leaves a gap where you're missing out in connecting with the 97% of your visitors.
So how to do you engage with the 97% of visitors who are coming to your website? Well let's take a step back and examine they typical buying cycle to see why people are coming to your website in the first place.
There are 4 stages in the buying process that people go through as they are moving towards making a purchase.
Realize Problem or Need
This is where it all begins. Whether it is a conscious or subconscious decision, your prospect starts thinking that they may have some sort of problem or need. They aren't quite sure if they do but have an idea they might. So they start doing research about the general topic to learn more and make a decision if they in-fact do have a problem or need.
They have no desire to buy anything at this stage so all your offers for free shipping, discounts, etc. does not affect or inspire them. Instead, your goal at this stage is to be as helpful and informative as possible. We want to offer them as much information and content as possible to help them uncover if they indeed have a need or problem.
Many times this discovery occurs through reading a blog, interacting on social media, searching on Google or as a recommendation from a friend. This is their first point of contact with your brand and a good first impression is critical.
At this stage your prospect knows that they do in-fact have some sort of need or problem they want solved and are now starting to research and collect information about the topic.
It's your job to become a trusted wealth of knowledge and expertise in your particular industry. You should be the first place they think of and visit when looking for any kind of information on a topic within your industry.
You build this trust by becoming a non-bias teacher about everything relating to your area of expertise. This information must be exactly that, informational and not tainted with any sales messages. It's ok to have a call to action at the beginning and/or end, however, the meat and potatos of the content must be free from intrusive sales messages.
You can build this knowledge base in a number of different ways including blogging, online resource website sections, ebooks, webinars, videos, podcasts, etc. The medium you use to communicate this information will really depend on your audience and what works best for them. You may use a totally different medium for an 18 year old persona than an 80 year old.
This is also where they will make their first official conversion event when they fill out some sort of form for a premium content download. This will convert them from a prospect into a lead and also trigger lead nurturing and marketing automation.
Establish Buying Criteria
Here your lead now understands that they do have some problem or need but doesn't know exactly what to do or where to go for a solution.
You job in this stage is to help educate them on how and what to look for in a vendor. As tempting as it is to send them promotional information about your products or company this is not the time for it. It's too early in the process and can cause your lead to get scared off or build negative feelings towards your brand.
Instead, leverage non-bias webinars, seminars, ebooks, whitepapers, etc. to further educate them on how to make a decision that is the best fit for them. It's ok to use your product to help bring a point across but the focus should be the "point" and not your product.
Your lead now has decided they have a problem and now know what solution they need to solve it. Here they are evaluating who should be the company to provide that solution. Typically they will be evaluating you and 1-2 other competitors.
This is typically the stage the savvier ecommerce marketers start thinking about and try and build differentiating factors such as product reviews, case studies, testimonials, etc. This is also where things like product demos, free trials or sample product works very effectively to give your lead a taste of what both your brand and product is all about.
Please keep in mind that although this is the lifecycle stage where they start looking at different vendors, this should not be the first place you start trying to make a differentiating impression in your lead's mind. You should be establishing trust, authority, personality and expertise from the first time you interact with them so that when they get to this point they already have a "warm" feeling towards your brand and subconsciously already know they want to buy from you.
Making the Purchase
The big day has come! Your lead moved through the entire purchase decision making process and is finally ready to make a purchase. This is the stage that the vast majority of ecommerce marketers and website owners think about. This is not bad and is an extremely important focus to have, however, there are 4 other stages that rarely ever get any attention.
Ecommerce marketers can focus on conversion rate optimization, abandon cart reclamation, one-page checkouts, usability, etc. This also includes marketing tactics like sales and promotions to stimulate a purchase.
We don't need to spend too much time on this stage since this is probably a familiar area for you as an ecommerce marketer.
With visitor-to-purchase conversion rates ingrained in their DNA, ecommerce marketers have a hard time visualizing pre-transactional conversions, however, moving forward it will be a critical part to growing a successful ecommerce business.
Please keep in mind that the above lifecycle process can happen in a matter of minutes to months depending on how complex and big of an item you're selling. However, the process still applies no matter how big or small the items are that you sell.
It is a whole new world for many ecommerce site owners. A world that includes marketing with blogging, premium content offers and lead nurturing, but this new world also mean much higher conversion rates and overall business growth. It's an exciting time to be in ecommerce!