How Your Digital Platforms Contribute To A Purchase

Canadian e-commerce retailer SSENSE, provide a cohesive customer journey.

With the rise of digital and the ability to sell directly via e-commerce platforms, there is now a magnitude of potential touch points both offline and online that may guide a customer journey to purchase. The vast number of platforms available to both customers and retailers has complicated the task of truly tracking and attributing where a sale has come from, particularly within the fashion industry. While determining the real cost of obtaining an individual purchase was difficult before the rise of digital - think print media, word of mouth, radio announcements, television commercials, etc, the data and varying ways of trying to attribute the purchase from various digital platforms takes this to a whole new level.

The data available through the various digital platforms such as Shopify, Facebook Analytics, Instagram Insights, Google Analytics, and the various email providers, is overwhelming and confusing with every platform claiming to have made the sale. In truth, they HAVE all contributed to the sale. And while it can be useful for budgeting purposes to identify which piece of this digital puzzle was the final push to purchase, relying on that final touch alone doesn’t tell the full picture and nor does relying on the first touch. Without going into every single customer’s journey - including calling them to ask whether they were referred by a friend or saw a billboard on the street - it is extremely difficult to ascertain every single touchpoint a customer may have had with a fashion brand, and which of those touch points is the most valuable.

While there are a number of very useful systems and technologies out there that can pull the data from all digital sources into an easy to read dashboard to help brands garner better insights, we believe there will never be a single best combination of touch points for every individual existing or potential customer. We’re sure the tech is coming to provide the level of understanding needed - we would develop it ourselves if we could, but in the meantime, the most important thing you can do as a brand is understand all of the different stages of a customer journey to purchase and how they work together. Then, with the data available to you, identify which touch points you can control organically and those that you need to develop in order to compete with your competitors.

To help visualise the different stages of a customer journey to purchase, we look at the 5 key stages below through the purchase of a cashmere jersey - a traditionally expensive item that could include 20+ touch points with a brand prior to converting.

1. Problem recognition
It is starting to get cold and a potential customer has realised they need a new winter jersey. They may have already seen advertisements for winter clothing and are beginning to browse across Google and Instagram where they may identify potential brands to purchase from. Because they have started a search, the potential customer is likely to start seeing adverts or organic content across Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, Google, and other networks. Quite quickly the potential customer is at 4-5 touchpoints with a brand - without the brand ‘really’ knowing.

2. Information search
Having identified the need for a winter jersey, after initial research, the potential customer has landed on the solution of a cashmere jersey as a long-lasting, high-quality purchase. The potential customer then begins a more in-depth search of the relevant fashion brands or retailers. Here, the customer is trying to find as much content as possible about the brands they may purchase from. If they have landed on your brand as an option the potential customer may be looking across Google, your social profiles, journals, as well as making a potential visit in-store or online. All of these touchpoints are playing a slightly different role in introducing your brand, especially if there is a visit in-store.

3. Evaluation
In this stage, the potential customer is likely comparing a few options based on the information gathered above - things like price, brand ethos, form, and function begin to come into the decision to purchase. The touchpoints are more limited here and are generally more focused on your website, but consumers may also sign up to an email list during this stage to get more info about the brand. In visiting your website, alongside those of your potential competitors, the customer is likely to be retargeted through Facebook, Instagram, or Google adverts by the various brands or retailers trying to win the purchase.

4. Purchase
The potential customer has now made up their mind! This decision is based on every single piece of information they have gathered throughout their customer journey e.g. brand alignment, cool factor, availability, price, delivery times, etc. While the final retargeting advert or abandoned cart email may have been the channel that directed the customer back to your site, they wouldn’t have got there without the previous touchpoints.

5. Post-purchase evaluation
This stage is one of the most important - have you satisfied the needs and wants of the customer with your cashmere jersey? There are multiple touchpoints at this stage, through to the post-purchase emails the customer receives such as shipping confirmations, through to the actual receiving of the goods. This is often the step missed by brands when they look at their whole landscape, but this is where you can convert a customer into lifelong advocates and encourage their return to purchase in the future through the exceptional experience they had from your brand. Your ongoing EDMs and social media content remain crucial in this stage to ensure you remain front of mind.

We hope this example of a customer journey is helpful in demonstrating the importance of having a strategy in place that covers each and every touchpoint with your brand both online and offline. Every individual customer journey to purchase with you may be different and as such, having control and developing each potential touchpoint is vital to compete in 2020 and beyond.