Whether you are a marketer, sales representative, web developer, or any professional with ties to the ecommerce space, you have most likely bought something online. This means that you’re two things: a shopper and a normal human in the 21st century.
CQL lives and breathes ecommerce development, but sometimes, we’re blind to our own experience as consumers who purchase products online. We focus on leading buyers to becoming purchasers while forgetting that we take on this role often in our own lives – especially during the current COVID-19 global pandemic. From searching something online to comparing products and reading reviews, we make a conscious choice to purchase a product. Even though we all have different lives, interests, and career paths, we all play a role in what marketers call the “marketing funnel”.
So, what is this marketing funnel? How does it work, and why are you, me, and most everyone a part of this funnel? In this article, we will dive into how the B2C marketing funnel works, how it’s created, and how we all fit into its structure and flow.
The Search for Product Information
Much like any funnel, the B2C marketing funnel casts a wide net at the beginning and finishes at a finite point; a conclusion, or an action, in this case. For the sake of this part of the article, we’ll start at the very beginning.
Let’s imagine a consumer-focused thought experiment. You are interested in the outdoor grill your friend was talking about over the weekend. You mull it over and decide to look it up – after all, Spring is on the horizon and it’s almost grillin’ season. You remember your friend saying she bought hers from Woodland Direct. You search “woodland outdoor grill” and see the following search result (or something similar):
The search results provide dozens of links to companies that manufacture, sell, and install outdoor grills. This, my friends, is the beginning of the marketing funnel – your search for the perfect outdoor grill.
This is where brand awareness, SEO, and paid search become key for online retailers. Your business’s online ranking is continuously determined by Google’s algorithms (learn more about Google’s new search tools and features), which are trying to point shoppers in the right direction to move farther down the marketing funnel.
If you want to do a better job at positioning your business’s products in front of consumers, then you’re going to need to take search seriously. An SEO professional, like one of the experts on staff here at CQL, can offer a clear strategy for improving your online search, which may come in handy and give you a leg up on your competition. Combine that with a clear brand message, a focus on structuring your webpages for search engines, and relatable, fresh content, and you are suddenly providing a clear path for your consumers (like me **wink**), to click into your site.
For more insight into optimizing your site for your users to better find you, read our blog on “Optimizing Your Site’s Design with Internal Links, Schema, and More.”
Now, back to the consumer. You have these grill options at the mercy of your delicate fingertips, so you’re ready to dive in.
Learning More About the Products
You have now moved from searching for a product to learning more about that product and its brand, which means you’ve moved further into the funnel. Since your friend recommended Woodland Direct, you give her the benefit of the doubt and click the first link – a Google ad for Woodland Direct that sends shoppers to their main site: www.woodlanddirect.com.
Right off the bat, you are introduced to an alluring image of a stone-framed fireplace in a living room setting. It’s important to remember that the start of your funnel has to not only look nice but also entice shoppers to move deeper into your site.
Notice anything else enticing? As a consumer, you immediately want to filter through their main menu to find out more about “Fireplace,” “Fire Pits,” and “BBQ”. You want to learn more about Woodland’s products and deduce whether they fit into not only your personal style but your actual lifestyle. Unknowingly, you are already learning more about this brand.
From an ecommerce perspective, this is the best place to structure your site for the user. Providing a clear direction for the shopper to not only search your products within the site but also introduce your brand is a great way to educate them on your product. This is where your site’s architecture, UX design, and content really shine. You are building the customer journey for the user and appealing to their desire to know more. Be sure to check out our article on building a perfect site architecture and gearing your site for the user.
Now, back to you. Have you spent enough time reviewing products? Do you feel that you know enough about Woodland, and do you trust the website? Let’s say yes. You find a killer grill, perfect for barbecuing this summer, and it’s available in the exact finish you want. Boom:
Next, you want to know if this grill is the right grill for you. You need to know if it compares to other grills you have found online. This, ladies and gentlemen, leads you into the next step of the marketing funnel: comparison shopping.
Considering Your Choice and Comparing the Product with the Competition
This grill is great, really – well done (I can already smell the charred brisket and juicy burgers). However, how does this grill compare to the one your husband had his eye on last week at Home Depot? You are now entering the consideration phase of the B2C marketing funnel.
This phase is crucial for retailers. Why? This is the last consideration the shopper will make before adding an item to their cart. So, what goes into building a case for the shopper to make that important step? Let’s take a look:
Reviews: We live in the digital age where we can not only like a product, but see how it fairs with others who purchased said product. Users have second-hand insight from those who completed the marketing funnel. According to Northwestern University’s Spiegel Research Center, “about 95% of customers read reviews before making a purchase.” For businesses, this is a key insight into user behavior. Online retailers have the opportunity here to add third-party integrations that enable buyers to review their products – integrations like Yotpo, Bazaarvoice, TrustPilot, and PowerReviews (all trusted integrations CQL implements).
Testimonials: Much like reviews, testimonials help build a positive case for your product. Unlike reviews, they have solicited comments from specific buyers. These testimonials are often used in marketing materials and are supported by videos or lengthy descriptions on how the product benefited them, specifically. For the customer, this provides detailed insight into the product they are considering.
Pricing: For most everyone, pricing matters. Does the price reflect the quality of the product? Is the price of the product competitive with a similar item? Lastly, are there any promotions available if I make this purchase? These are all things your user may be asking themselves. However, consideration comes at a price, and that price could be losing a customer or moving them along the marketing funnel to eventually becoming a buyer. As a business, it’s imperative to do your research on the competition and offer incentives for customers to choose you!
Warranty: A warranty offers peace of mind for your consumer. Should the product fail or be defective, a warranty provides assurance that your business will cover a full replacement or replacement part for a product. Although a warranty may never be used by a specific buyer, it builds brand loyalty and credibility in your favor.
All of these considerations go hand-in-hand. Sometimes one outweighs all others when it comes to the buyer. Sometimes, one affects the other. A bad review on a product could lead to a better review later down the road if the product is covered by a warranty. As a business, it’s important to realize that when these all work together, you are stacking the odds in your favor when it comes to the marketing funnel.
Back to the grill. With all things considered, you favor Woodland’s pricing, warranty terms, and reviews over Home Depot. You are prepared to move down the funnel.
Placing Product in Cart with Intent to Purchase
Now that you have considered all of your options, you click the “add to cart” button. In the marketing funnel, this is called, “intent”.
Merriam-Webster defines intent as “a usually clearly formulated or planned intention: aim”. At this point, you are motivated and planning on making the purchase of this grill. You have every reason to believe it’s the right one for you.
As a business, you want the user to intend to purchase. However, this could be a stopping point. The user could get distracted, find a better option on another site, or doubt their previous steps in the funnel. So, how do you move them along?
This is where motivating features, like payment options, shipping incentives, and cart clock (retiring cart items against a set time) come into play. From here, businesses can propel the user to take action by instilling a positive motivation with easy payment options, like Paypal and AfterPay, or with a quick turnaround on shipping with no extra cost to the consumer.
Additionally, by adding a timer on cart items, you can entice your user to “buy now” in fear they will miss the opportunity, and have to add the item back later. Similar to this, adding an inventory count to particular items, such as “Only 2 Left,” can add an extra incentive for your customer to buy now. These options all come in handy when leading into the near-final level in the marketing funnel.
Last-Minute Review Before Purchasing
Alright, you have added an item to your cart – what next? If you are like most shoppers, you want to review your purchase before clicking that final, “Place Order” button. Below you will see Woodland has a helpful, easy-to-read checkout. You have an “Order Summary,” a reviewable PayPal payment option, and an opportunity to ask product questions with the “Need Help?” phone number above the order summary. Reviewing all of these options are part of the next stage in the marketing funnel, “Evaluation.”
Businesses have the opportunity here to make check-out streamlined and intuitive for the customer. Extra incentives, like a promotional code, and clear navigation to checkout almost guide the shopper to the final “Place Order.”
Converting Shoppers to Buyers – The Ultimate Goal
Finally, you made it! You put in the brand research, compared this grill to other top-tiered brands, considered the product reviews and warranty, added them to your cart with the intent to purchase, and conducted a last-minute review. You place your order – the final step of the marketing funnel. Congratulations, you will soon be the grill master of your dreams – throwing BBQ dinners and pool parties (we can dream, right?) with your “kiss the cook” apron.
From the business perspective, this consumer is now a customer. So, how do we keep them interested and coming back? After all, a buyer with loyalty to your brand is more likely to return for a future purchase.
There are many opportunities here to keep your new customer interested. An effective marketing strategy that includes product follow-up emails, like order confirmations and tracking details, as well as new product launches and promotions, will help keep your customer in the loop while building trust. Targeted social media and Google Ad campaigns (like the one we clicked on for Woodland) can also aid in keeping your brand in front of the shopper, reminding them about your brand, and keeping them abreast of current promotions and incentives.
Are You a Business Owner Interested in Harnessing the Power of the Marketing Funnel?
Businesses like Woodland Direct come to CQL for our expertise within the ecommerce ecosystem, plus our breadth of knowledge with custom platform integrations. All of this experience comes in handy when your goal is to convert shoppers into buyers. If you are interested in knowing more about CQL and its digital marketing, development, and UX services, then contact us today!