How to Inspire Consumers and Influence Their Purchases

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It’s not exactly breaking news at this point that consumers are carving their own path-to-purchase.

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?

In this 4-part blog series, 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 and give ideas for marketing campaigns.

For now, let’s take a look at the first step along the path-to-purchase: the inspiration stage.

Step One: Getting Their Attention

Before you can influence consumers, 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. [1]

In other words, you have to hang out where your customers hang out, and make sure your products are present there.

Step Two: Making 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 they connect with your brand — and not your competitors?

  1. Don’t Make it All About You. No one likes the person at the party who talks endlessly about how great they are.

  2. 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?

Keeping those general guidelines in mind, here are some ideas for inspirational campaigns.

3 Sweet 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 contetn on your pages just makes sense. [2]

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.

Best Practices

  1. Use a Branded Hashtag. This can link all your inspiration posts together, so if a customer clicks on the hashtag, they are exposed to a bunch more relevant images.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

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.

Best Practices

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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, they will.

3. Gamified Product Environment

Not all product inspiration happens on social media sites. In fact, Deloitte reported that 76 percent of shoppers look at a retailer’s website or app to become aware of a product or category on their own. [3]

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. [4] And it lets you expose customers to specific products instead of hoping they find things they like on their own.

Best Practices

  1. 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.

  2. 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 enjoyable to check out your stuff.

The Bottom Line

Consumers may be more self directed than ever, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need help navigating the endless 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.

Over the next two months we’ll be taking an in-depth look at each stage along the path-to-purchase. We'll chat about at some of the challenges, give ideas for marketing campaigns, and look at real world examples.

In the next post, 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.

Read the next post in the series here.