Understanding your online customers

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Guangzhou, China-May. 11, 2016: Onelink Walk Shopping Mall and the square at night.

Converting inbound leads into online purchases is often seen as a domain of the sales team.  However, marketing has a huge role to play – particularly when it comes to understanding the customer journey – and so the two disciplines should work together collaboratively, to maximise revenue and profit.

There are two key ingredients to successfully understanding your customers.  Firstly, you need to define your target audience and know what your ideal buyer looks like.  Secondly, you will require an insight into the purchase process that they will typically follow.

Of course, it’s not quite that simple.  Not all of the visitors to your website will be at the same stage.  Some may be doing casual research, others may be looking for a specific solution or product and there will be those who have narrowed down their decision to 2 or 3 final choices.  In the online world, you need to account for all the paths which your visitors may be exploring.

Let’s start with the identification part.  What are the demographics of your typical customer?  Have you identified their gender, family status, life stage, occupation, likely financial situation?  Then there’s the psychological aspect – their beliefs, attitudes, perceptions and motivations.

If you don’t have all of this information, then how do you go about obtaining it?  Website analytics are crucial; these will tell you how people landed on your site, what drove them there, what keywords they used in their search engine, where they are located, how they interacted on your site, how a sale was converted and at what point they exited.

But there is more you can do, to help get a more complete picture of your typical customer.  Online surveys, focus groups and third party data sources can all play a valuable part.

With regard to online behaviours, it’s important to recognise the five stages to purchase:

  • Problem/need recognition

A purchase cannot take place without the recognition of the need. The need may have been triggered by internal stimuli (such as feeling hot/cold, tired, pain) or external factors (such as a recommendation or advertisement).

  • Information search

Your customer will go through a research process, which may be done via a combination of online/social media, print or word of mouth.

  • Evaluation of alternatives

Customers will typically compare products and their pros and cons versus one another.

  • Purchase

The penultimate and crucial stage is where the purchase is about to take place and there are two barriers which may hold someone back from committing: negative feedback from other customers and the level of motivation to accept that feedback.  A decision may also be disrupted due to unforeseen circumstances in the buyer’s life.

  • Post purchase

Customers will compare products against their original expectations and this stage is critical in retaining customers.  If they are satisfied, you will almost certainly generate brand loyalty; however if they are dissatisfied then you need to handle it with great care to ensure that it does not affect a decision to purchase from you in the future.  Social media is one of the biggest forums for posting feedback and it’s important that you respond appropriately and positively to every piece of negative feedback, to increase your chances of that customer returning and to reassure your wider audience.

This typical customer journey will influence how your website is designed and what kind of content you should be including.

At 55 Connect, we can provide complete support in identifying and understanding your customers.  Armed with that knowledge, we can work with you to achieve the ideal solutions for maximising sales conversions – and your profits.






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