4 Tips to Optimize Search-Centric Purchase Cycles
The Internet hasn't just provided a new place to shop; it's also changed how we shop. The traditional model for consumer shopping behavior is literally straightforward: Consumers follow a linear path down the funnel from awareness through consideration and intent to purchase.
Over the past few years, as online shopping has become mainstream and offline shopping has been influenced by online habits, this funnel has been radically altered. Now consumers can—and often do—immediately jump online to research a need, and options are instantly and constantly ranked and refined right up to the moment of purchase. Search results drive awareness and establish the consideration set. As search has become integral to all parts of this shopping process, a "cycle" has replaced the funnel.
Why is this important to marketers? Because traditional marketing has been built around the idea of a purchase funnel. In the traditional purchase funnel, there was a bright-line distinction between "awareness" and "purchase," and correspondingly, companies drew a bright-line distinction between brand marketing and direct marketing. Distinct budgets, strategies and tactics emerged for each "type" of marketing. With the emergence of the online purchase cycle, this bifurcation has become a liability. What had been distinct consumer touchpoints—awareness and conversion—have merged. Marketers must adapt their strategies to meet this new landscape.
For marketers who understand this shift, there is a tremendous opportunity to generate better results. Here are four consequences of the search-centric purchase cycle every marketer should know—and embrace:
1. The impact of mass media is lessened. Online, mass broadcasting is simply less effective. Consumers are overwhelmed by advertising and have become increasingly attuned to only those messages that matter to them. Large-scale, difficult-to-measure awareness campaigns can be replaced with easily optimized, targeted, individualized messaging. Marketers must be able to segment and target visitors in order to deliver meaningful advertising, but if they can do so effectively, their marketing spend becomes much more efficient.