It’s not exactly breaking news at this point that consumers are carving their own path-to-purchase.
The retail world is imploding.
We all know people don’t shop the same way.
The question now is... what do we do about it? How do we influence purchase decisions and keep those customers?
Over the next two months we’ll be tackling these questions as we take an in-depth look at the new path-to-purchase. We’ll chat about at some of the challenges at each stage, give ideas for marketing campaigns, and look at real world examples.
For now, let’s take a look at the first step along the path-to-purchase: the inspiration stage.
Step One: Get Their Attention
Before you can influence consumers to buy your stuff, they have to know you exist.
That’s where the inspiration stage of the path-to-purchase comes into play.
Traditionally, this is the stage TV and magazine ads target; pushing "inspiration" at consumers while they're relaxing.
But as Deloitte pointed out in their annual report, that’s not an effective strategy anymore:
[R]ather than pushing information at consumers through advertising to inspire them in moments defined by the retailer, retailers should instead identify the steps in the shopping journey where the consumer is most likely to be inspired, and then deliver that inspiration through the consumer’s preferred channels of engagement.
In other words, you have to hang out where your customers hang out, and make sure your products are present there.
Step Two: Make a Connection
It sounds simple spelled out like that: just hang out where your customers are.
But we all know it’s not that simple. Because it’s not just you hanging out with your customers. It’s your competition.
So how do you make sure customers connect with your brand — and not your competitors?
Don’t Make it All About You. No one likes the person at the party who talks endlessly about how great they are.
Give Them a Reason to Care. Ask yourself: what’s in it for them to engage with your content? Why should they click through to research your products?
Be Unique. The same recycled brand messaging that could be from any of your competitors isn’t going to inspire customers.
Keeping those general guidelines in mind, here are some ideas for inspirational campaigns.
3 Fun Marketing Ideas for the Inspiration Stage
1) Social Media Campaigns
With the average person spending over 2 hours a day on social media, promoting inspirational content on your pages just makes sense.
However, because social is a great low-cost option for reaching customers, the space gets crowded quickly. Your content has to be targeted and unique to make an impact.
Use a Branded Hashtag. This links all your inspiration posts together, so if a customer clicks on the hashtag, they're exposed to more relevant images.
Show Examples of Your Products in Real-Life. People are on social media to see what their networks are up to. Make your photos mirror pics that consumers might take.
Add Value. How do your posts help customers? Are they useful? Exciting? Entertaining? Try to add extra value to your posts so they’re not just product announcements.
Example #1: Sobeys
How delicious do those pancakes look? This post is a great example of providing useful and inspirational content — with a link to a recipe that encourages customers to buy the products.
Example #2: Garage Clothing
Garage caters to young women — and you can definitely tell from their social media.
They consistently use the hashtag #iweargarage, which links all their inspiration posts with pictures of their customers wearing their products.
Their instagram feed is full of outfit inspiration and clever copy (activewear for the not-so-active is a call straight to my lazy heart).
2) User Generated Content
User-generated content (UGC) is great because it acts as a duo of social proof and inspiration. As a consumer there’s something satisfying about seeing how real people use products rather than models or brand shaped messages. Plus UGC makes it easy for you to get a whole ton of content for fairly cheap.
You can easily get user-generated content by soliciting pics from your fans and sharing on your own pages. But a better way to get a ton of content all at once — and make some noise — is with a UGC contest.
Ask for the Right Pics. UGC works best when you ask people to share pictures they would normally already share. Think pics of food, pets, or themselves. And make sure to keep the focus on them -- not your brand.
Moderate, Moderate, Moderate. Internet trolls are alive and well. Make sure you moderate the entries you get -- or you risk some inappropriate pictures showing up in your contest.
Choose a Hashtag Carefully. If you’re running a UGC on your social pages, you’ll want a hashtag to link the pictures. But choose carefully. If people can find a way to turn it around and make fun of your company, trust me, they will.
Example #1: Canadian Tire
Ever look up a how-to video online? Canadian Tire hooked onto this trend with a UGC contest that asked shoppers to share videos or pictures of their DIY projects.
This is a good example of asking for the right content — people like to (a) seem knowledgeable, and (b) share things they're proud of accomplishing, and this contest hit both on the nose.
Canadian Tire ended up with a ton a content that showed their products in action — and the #YouGotThis hashtag was even trending on Twitter during the contest!
Example #2: Starbucks
Starbucks’ #WhiteCupContest is an iconic UGC campaign at this point.
But it’s a great reminder that if you ask people to share pictures of things they’re proud of, they’ll happily do it.
This contest in particular was cool because it reimagined something that all Starbucks customers are familiar with (the white cups) in new & interesting ways.
Also, how sneaky is it that Starbucks’ logo is in every single one of those pics? Can’t ask for better branded UGC.
3) Gamified Product Environment
Not all product inspiration happens on social media sites. In fact, Deloitte reported that:
That means it’s not enough to share inspirational posts on social. Your website also needs to have inspirational content for shoppers to browse.
One of the most exciting ways I’ve seen brands do this is with a gamified product environment.
The cool thing about gamified product environments is looking for products (a part of the shopping journey that can quickly become overwhelming) becomes an enjoyable experience. And it lets you expose customers to specific products instead of hoping they find things they like on their own.
Make it Rewarding to Explore. Turning product exploration into a fun game already makes the experience more enjoyable. But you can make it even more enjoyable by rewarding consumers for exploring products -- either as part of a contest or through your loyalty program.
Personalize Exploration. Product recommendations are the digital equivalent of a great salesperson. Searching for the perfect product can be overwhelming, so tailor customer experiences with quizzes and recommendations to make it easier and more fun to check out your stuff.
If you’ve ever set foot in a Sephora, you know the sheer number of products they offer can be incredibly overwhelming. Two of their digital tools do a nice job of combatting that.
The Beauty Uncomplicator tool makes it easy to find products based on specific needs, while the Swipe It Shop It tool provides inspiration for new makeup looks — and of course an easy way to shop the products used.
The Bottom Line
Consumers may be more self directed than ever, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need help navigating the sea of options available to them online.
It’s up to you to provide the right information at the right time — starting with the inspiration stage — and nurture consumers through to purchase.
In the next post in this series, we’ll unpack the Research Stage — including best practices for educating consumers about your products without boring them to death, and some real-world examples of successful research stage campaigns.
This is the first post in the our path-to-purchase blog series. Read the other posts below: