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Published July 06th, 2017 by

How Consumers Use Different Digital Channels to Search

All marketers know that users search to discover new things and learn new ideas. Did you also know that when consumers are ready to buy, they search?

The last place users go tends to be where they can gain direct contact with the business, but this not always the case. It is also common for consumers to check sources to confirm their decisions. Understanding the channels people use to search for this information will help you continue positioning your brand as the best option until the very end of the buyers journey.

Local Purchases

A Local Search Association (LSA) study this year looked at what digital channels consumers turn to when they are ready (or almost ready) to complete a purchase from a local business. The LSA asked 8,000 US consumers which of 13 media channels (five traditional and eight digital) they use before buying.

The study found that consumers prefer digital media by far 72 percent of consumers said they carry out digital research. The most popular methods are looking at company websites (27 percent) and using search engines (24 percent). Just 10 percent of consumers said they ask a friend of family member, 9 percent rely on ratings and reviews, and 8 percent turn to circulars, emails, and coupons.

It is worth noting that these channels are where consumers go to check they are making the right decision or to find information they need to make a purchase, such as an address, phone number, or contact form. They may still buy from another channel.

Generational Differences

Looking deeper into the data, differences in search behaviors begin to appear according to the age of the user. For instance, Millennials use a wider range of channels than Baby Boomers and Generation X consumers, both online and offline.

A study by Salesforce of 4,000 consumers found a strong preference toward business websites to finalize a decision: 72 percent of Millennials, 71 percent of Generation X, and 61 percent of Baby Boomers. However, other channels are also popular for Millennials mobile apps, social media, and email were all used by just under half of consumers.

Generation X also relies on other channels but less so than Millennials. Just 37 percent use email, 30 percent social media, and 28 percent mobile apps. Numbers are even lower for Baby Boomers: only 26 percent, 14 percent, and 14 percent, respectively.

These data show that other channels can be useful in providing consumers with the information they need to complete a purchase. However, if your target market is anything other than Millennials, these channels play only a minor role your focus should be your website.

Support With Purchases

One final point to note is that many consumers like to have the option of receiving support with their purchase, if necessary.

One study found that 31 percent of consumers want to be able to research and buy online unassisted but like to have the chance to receive phone support in case an issue arises. Another 12.5 percent said they would want someone to walk them through the process. Only 10.5 percent said they wanted to carry out the sale alone with no assistance.

How to Ensure Consumers Find You

Knowing where consumers are searching when they are ready to purchase is only beneficial if you use the information to your advantage. Bearing the above in mind, there are a few ways to make improvements to search marketing to ensure that when consumers are ready to buy, they do buy.

Tell Users to Buy

Telling users to buy should be easy for e-commerce sites, but it is common even for these businesses to focus more on educating. When a consumer is ready to make a purchase, you need to make it as simple as possible to complete the sale. Never require users to search for product pages; add tabs that lead to products and include buy nowbuttons.

If consumers need to come to you for the purchase (such as if you are a local business offering a service), provide them with clear instructions on how to do so. Include a contact page with your address, open hours, phone number, and a map.

Improve Your Checkout Process

Another factor e-commerce sites should take into account is the buying process. If it is confusing or involves too many steps, you may find that the majority of your shopping carts are left abandoned.

Examine your current purchase process to ensure you are asking only the minimum of users. For example, it almost always unnecessary to require users to create an account on your website. You should also check that you are only asking for information that contributes to the purchase.

Add CTAs to Your Content

Many users will arrive at your website via a Google search. They may come to consume a final piece of content that cements the decision to purchase. For content aimed at the very end of the sales funnel, include a CTA that encourages consumers to buy and explains how to do so.

Use A/B Testing

The only way to be sure that your website is optimized for sales is to test several designs. Through A/B testing, you can run two versions at the same time to see which leads to the most conversions. Keep testing minor adjustments to constantly increase sales.

You could use A/B testing to change the design of your CTA button the color, the wording, and its location on the page. You could also try different layouts of contact information, purchase forms, and navigational elements to figure out what best helps users find the information they are searching for.

Offer Free Shipping

Often, users are looking for a final push to go through with the sale. Free shipping is a great incentive and can cost you nothing if you simply account for shipping in the sale price. Make sure you clearly advertise the perk of free shipping on your website.

If free shipping is impossible (for instance, you have international customers), at the very least make sure that shipping costs and conditions are easy to find. Customers will appreciate knowing how much they can expect to spend from the beginning, before they reach the checkout.

Add Security Badges

Anyone buying on an e-commerce website wants to know that payments are secure. Make sure it is clear to your customers that they can trust your site by adding well-known security badges like Norton Secured, AllClear, or McAfee.

Offer Live Chat

To please the customers who are looking for phone support, include live chat on your site for anyone who runs into problems. Include live chat in logical places, but not everywhere you want to avoid annoying other users. On e-commerce sites, live chat is ideal for product pages, whereas for local businesses where customers need to visit you in person, you may like to include it on pages that explain the purchase process.

Ask Customers to Spread the Word

Although they only came in third place on the LSA survey, recommendations still play a role in search before a purchase. Therefore, it is worthwhile to harness this potential to drive sales. You have little sway over what customers say to their friends and family members, but you can still encourage them to spread the word about your products and services.

The best way to ensure that customers tell others about your business is to offer an incentive. This could be in the form of a referral bonus, a discount, or a freebie. Another great way is to stand out from competitors by offering an exceptional service. You are in a particularly good position to do this if you are a local business and interact one-on-one with customers.

Gain Great Reviews

Review sites are another channel that has a smaller, but significant, impact. Just as for word-of-mouth recommendations, to a large extent reviews are out of your control, but you can still have some influence. For one thing, you can ask customers to leave reviews and rate your business.

If you have an e-commerce site or you nurtured users through email marketing, you already have customerscontact information. After a purchase, send an email with a link to the most popular (or influential) third-party review site in your industry. This could be Google Business, TripAdvisor, Yelp, Trustpilot, or another site.

Follow Up with an Email

The last channel that is worth utilizing to some extent is email. Consumers often turn to their inboxes to check for offers they may have missed or forgotten about. Use your emails to offer a final push to consumers who may be on the verge of completing a purchase and need a little extra motivation.

A few good ways to use email include:

  • Offering an exclusive discount
  • Reminding shoppers about an abandoned shopping cart
  • Suggesting similar products or services to what the user was considering

The Takeaway

Whenever you are optimizing your website, creating content, or engaging in other digital marketing activities, remember that when consumers are ready to buy, they search. For this reason, content, SEO, and reviews are not only important in the early stages of the buyers journey but all the way down to the purchase stage. For more helps on creating web content or social strategy, check out the resources available at BoostUniversity!

Kelly Shelton

Kelly Shelton

Vice President of Marketing at Boostability
Kelly Shelton has served as our Vice President of Marketing since June 2011. He began his marketing career in 1996 at Financial Freedom International, Inc. where he spent 12 years serving in various executive positions, including Licensee Manager and VP of Marketing. He later served as Marketing Director of Family Financial Education Foundation, a nonprofit 501 (c)(3) organization. Kelly has successfully managed large marketing departments and budgets and has handled major growth in each of the companies he has worked for. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Latin American Studies and Business Management from Brigham Young University.
Kelly Shelton

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