As digital marketers, we work really hard on gaining people’s attention, on getting their click, their engagement and where relevant, their purchase. But in many industries, the path to purchase isn’t straightforward and unfortunately, a customer doesn’t go directly from interacting with the brand online to becoming a customer. It might require physical interaction, an instore visit, samples, intermediaries etc. And what happens when the interaction moves beyond a click and it's out of our control, out of our sight?

Identifying a leaky purchase process

Unless an organisation is effectively managing every touch point in the sale, the path to purchase becomes leaky very quickly. Ideally organisations are working across teams in achieving KPIs around sales, revenue, profit etc as this will keep people focused on common goals, however I’ve seen a few examples recently that I think we can all learn from, of where that obviously hasn’t been the case. Here are some of my observations and ideas on how we can make sure we've followed the purchase path all the way through and can add value at some of the drop off points. Take a look at these three examples of a leaky purchase process: We were looking at some options around building a house and after researching quite extensively online, we decided to go to some display villages. Based on our research and criteria around size, style and approach we selected many show homes to go through. You may recall the way a show home is laid out, so that you have to pass through the office area and say hi to a consultant as you enter/exit. A few times we spent up to 15 minutes asking questions and talking to the on site advisors about the house plans as we went through. Despite the time invested from both parties, out of all the houses we visited (over 30 houses across 3 display villages), only one of them asked for our name and details. Five weeks later, there has been no contact, no follow up, not even a generic email. A friend of the family has been researching a new car to buy. He has looked at many car websites, watched several YouTube videos and reviews and then went into a dealer to look at the car with his family. Just before he left the dealership, they told him that they could let him test drive the loan car for the rest of the afternoon if he wanted. He simply needed to provide some ID and then leave his keys and car there while he took the demo car. He proceeded to do that and had the car for the next 4 hours. It was a good experience and he enjoyed the car – and then he dropped it back. He never heard from the dealer again and proceeded to buy a completely different car three weeks later. We have been considering moving and invited some agents to our house to give us a valuation and tell us how they work. Over a few weeks, four different agents visited. They all spent at least an hour with us, initially going through the house and then talking about the research they had done and how they work. Of these agents, only one of them has since stayed in touch and some never came back to us at all. These items are all big ticket sales and yet in all of these circumstances, there were big leaks in the sales process that potentially cost these businesses many thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of dollars. In both cases, the potential customer started off online, researching options, consuming content, reading reviews etc. All activities that someone in marketing put a lot of time, money and effort into nurturing. But then, once the consumer moved beyond the device and moved into the real world, instead of being converted into at least a name, record and a serious prospect to be communicated with, they were lost. What’s more, in all the examples, the customer also took up a lot of one-on-one time of a team member on the ground. What a missed opportunity!

What happens after the click?

Your organisation may not be selling products in these industries, but these experiences certainly made me stop and think about what happens after the click. How many digital marketers are considering the process beyond their initial involvement and what can we do to improve? Let’s think about some steps that could be put in place to minimise these leaks for these organisations: Firstly, all companies, need a process for collecting customers details once a conversation has started and they need an appropriate way to do so. This can be as simple as collecting their name, email and perhaps address and the consultant could also add some further details around the type of product they wanted or their personal requirements (what problem does this purchase solve?) In the examples above, simply asking for the customer's details (or documenting them) would have been enough (no incentive needed). If put in place correctly, that simple step can then open up several opportunities for follow up:
  • The customer should be added to a sequence to help them to complete a sale – this could be personalised based on the product/offering they are after and where they are in the sales process. This sequence could be the joint responsibility of sales and marketing working together and could be either offline or online.
  • The salesperson should have followed up with a phone call. With the car, if they had called first thing on the Monday morning, they probably could have taken an order. The house is definitely a longer term play but staying in touch and developing a relationship and comfortability around the offering would definitely help.
If you’re a marketer and you work with on other teams to complete a sale, here are a few things you can do to make sure the process beyond the click isn’t leaky:
  • Make sure prospective customer information is captured at the point of inquiry and that you have a process to feed that information back into your marketing systems.
  • Talk to your sales team about a sequence that would work in with their follow up plans. Map out what communications will happen when and the role it plays. At a minimum add them to your email subscribers, but ideally, there should also be something more personalised to their situation and stage in the immediate term.
  • Talk to the sales team to determine if there is follow up information (either digital or physical) that you can create to send out to a customer on the purchase path
  • Ensure that you can also get data about when customers do complete a purchase so that you can alter your communications to them.

Joint responsibility

Although we aren’t all selling houses or cars, many marketers do have physical or offline interactions to take into account. Make sure you consider things beyond the click as part of your remit, in many cases, you’ve already nurtured this customer and spent time engaging with them, now’s the time to make sure the end to end process is complete and that you continue to contribute to get them across the line. After all, while marketing and sales are separate, you can't have one without the other and they need to work hand in hand for success.