Business growth revolves around cycles, the most obvious being a new consumer becoming a repeat customer – or not. It’s your job as a business owner to keep that cycle fluid, and influence the path your consumers take in engaging with your business.

In order to influence a customer’s journey with an end result of driving them into your store and making a purchase (and returning), you first need to understand the path that customer took to get there – and what aspects of online marketing can be used along the way to convince and convert them.

The Customer Path to Purchase

For they majority of customers, they are touching your business multiple times before that potential customer converts. Those touchpoints, whether it’s discovering your business from a friend’s Facebook post or seeing your ad in a print directory, all connect you with that potential customer – and either strengthen or weaken the likelihood that they will choose your business over the competition.

In order to bring that customer into your store, you want to make sure that you’re delivering the right message to them at each point throughout their journey. However, measuring the success of each one of those opportunities can be a challenge. Unfortunately, customers don’t tell you every time they interacted with your business online, but there are a number of ways to gauge the effectiveness of your efforts by exploring each of the main aspects of the purchase path.

We look at the customer path to purchase as four parts:

  1. Trigger: a consumer finds your business and becomes interested becoming a qualified buyer.
  2. Research: they look online through your content, social media profiles, search and/or directory listings.
  3. Conversion: They decide to – and make a purchase – from your local business.
  4. Retention: You continue to build a relationship with this customer, creating a long-term brand advocate for your local business.

1- A Qualified Buyer is Born

The first phase of a customer’s journey is where someone becomes a qualified buyer. Some sort of event or experience triggers a need, whether it’s looking in the pantry and seeing you’re out of cereal or something more significant like getting engaged.

This first phase can also involve hearing about a product/service from someone and becoming intrigued enough to visit.

After the experience occurs, the potential customer begins searching for product/service providers.

2- Research

When the potential customer starts searching for products/services, they’ll most likely use a combination of different resources to base his/her decision on.

You want to make sure that your business has a presence in these major areas so that the potential customer sees your business and adds it to the mix. This is one of the most critical moments from a marketing perspective, as you have the direct opportunity to influence customer decisions based on the messages you are presenting across the channels.

3- Conversion

After researching all their different options, the potential customer will take an action and convert.

That conversion can take many forms:

  • Appointment
  • Visit
  • Purchase
  • Info captured

However, just because a customer converted doesn’t mean the journey is over!

4- Retention

After a conversion from a potential customer to a paying customer, you want to keep them coming back.

Once you’ve created a base of loyal customers, this group will actually help you bring in new customers who are in phases 1 and 2 of their journeys by becoming advocates for your business.

Word of mouth and personal recommendations are the silver bullet of marketing — and by having a solid group of advocates for your business, you’ll be able to reap the benefits of these two highly-effective earned media methods.

By understanding your customer path and then being able to influence it, whether it be in how you market or in the services or product your business provides, the more successful your business can be.