The competition to capture and retain customers is both greater and more challenging today than ever before.

Where in the past a large, well designed newspaper advert and a television or radio advert was almost certain to make you stand out, it is far more difficult to achieve the same impact today because of the diverse, fragmented, online marketing activities that vie for the customer’s attention.

What sets one company apart from another today, lies in how the customer feels after an engagement. Whether via social media, an online advert or your website – the customer must walk away having enjoyed a positive experience.

So how can this be achieved?

Define a streamlined digital customer experience journey…

While we may think that a customer’s purchase decision is a fairly simple process, it is not. What may seem like a simple transaction is in fact a rather intricate set of interactions that customers undertake before making their final selection.

The four key phases that customers take in their decision journey include consideration, evaluation, purchase and post-purchase.

For the purpose of this article we will focus on the first two as not only are they the starting point in your online customer experience journey, but importantly, your website and online marketing directly influences these first two phases.

1. Consideration.

Customers will ultimately take a look at your website to understand more about the product or service that they are interested in, even if they do link to your website via a Google search, social media link or online advert.

Most of us are already well aware of the fact that it is imperative to ensure that visitors to your website enjoy a positive experience – irrespective of the device that they are using to view your website.

We also know that they are likely to peruse a website using a mobile device first and then depending on the nature of what they are purchasing, complete the review and transaction using a desktop device.

This fascinating article explains more on this, while a great report from Google presented findings to indicate that mobile search definitely influences a purchase decision.

Google found that up to 93% of prospects will move on to take the next step in the purchase journey after researching a product or service via their mobile device.

For a prospect to even consider moving on in the purchase journey however, their first experience of your company needs to be a good one. Your website should be easy to view and a pleasure to navigate – regardless as we’ve said, of the device being used to access it. There simply cannot be a better reason to ensure that you have invested in a responsive website for your company.

We wrote more extensively in a previous post about the reasons why your company needs a mobile responsive website. Read it HERE.

2. Evaluation.

During the evaluation phase of the purchase journey, prospects are more open to influence as they have warmed to whatever engagement they have had with you and have therefore gained some level of trust in your company and services or products. Based on this trust, they have decided to explore their options with you further.

To successfully convert prospects to customers, it is critical to have planned how your teams should address every potential customer interaction during this delicate phase.

You must have a deliberate customer service plan

The evaluation phase can take an indeterminable amount of time to develop into an actual purchase decision. The savvy, informed customer of today is spoiled by incredible variety and has access to an enormous amount of information. What ultimately sets one company apart from another as we mentioned earlier, is quality and service. By ensuring a consistent standard of quality and an outstanding level of service, you automatically secure your competitive advantage.

Every touch point with the customer needs to result in a positive customer experience. To achieve this, some judicious planning regarding the customer service experience is necessary. There should always be a clear plan which dictates how your customer will engage with your company at every touch point.

Ensure swift resolutions and professional communications

All too often there is a disjoint between marketing, sales and customer service and this can negatively impact your customers purchase decision, if he or she does not receive the correct information or a timely, professional response to a query. When your second touch point in the customer experience journey is potentially an enquiry from a prospect, make sure that your team is organised enough to manage that query professionally and turn it into a sale.

Manage your online reputation well

Marketing, sales and customer care teams need to integrate seamlessly and those individuals monitoring online engagement and interactions from customers, need to have the resources to respond in a timely manner.

Recommendations from friends and even reviews from strangers have a significant impact on purchase decisions. Platforms such as Facebook and HelloPeter are often used by both disgruntled and happy customers who wish to air their views. Such interactions can, if your customer service plan and quality standards are well managed, result in a quicker route to purchase.

It is imperative to manage your online reputation in a pro-active manner. No matter how flashy your website may be, or how slick your customised Facebook posts may look – without a solid customer service plan and outstanding quality, you run the risk of seriously damaging your business.

Create the plan, reap the rewards…

A comprehensive online marketing strategy will include not only the various online touch points through which your prospects will engage with you, but will also include detailed planning in regards the first two phases of your digital customer experience journey.

Even if your company has an in-house sales, customer service and marketing team, fresh insights and perspectives from an external team of experts, such as our online marketing team at The Formula, can make an incredible difference to your overall online marketing success.

Our exceptional team is able to assist your company in all aspects of your marketing – both online and offline. Our diverse experience enables us to assist you to define every detail within the sales, marketing and customer service processes of your business.

Contact us today to set up your free online marketing consultation – the first one is free. Our objective is to help your business to grow and succeed, no matter how large or small you are.

Call Garth or Shiraz on 021 556 5661 or email us: to set up your online marketing appointment today.

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