The Online Customer Journey: The Research Experience
By Christie Flanagan on Jan 16, 2013
Yesterday, we began taking a look at the online customer journey and the primary stages of it that should be carefully considered as you develop your online strategy. Today, we’ll take a closer look at the first stage in which potential customers begin to research solutions to fulfill a need or solve a problem, and what that means in terms of how you should approach your online presence.
While social networking sites have become frequent online destinations for people today, company sponsored brand websites still play a central and critical role in the online customer journey. In fact, brand websites remain a preferred source for information gathering during the purchase process, second only to search engines in popularity.1 Not only is the brand website a preferred source for information, it is also a highly trusted one. Nearly 60% of online consumers trust the information they find on company websites, a percentage that far exceeds that of all other forms of paid advertising.2
Since the brand website is such a highly preferred and trusted destination during the customer journey, you’ll want to assure that it delivers a truly engaging experience as your site visitors research your products and services. At this stage in the customer lifecycle, you want to focus on informing, educating, and developing interactive relationships with prospective customers so that they’ll seriously consider your brand as a solution that addresses their needs.
Part of this engagement equation will depend on your content strategy, in other words, you’ll need to assure that you have the right mix of thought leadership, product/service information, videos, testimonials or other marketing content to address the needs of prospective customers at this stage of their journey. The other part of the engagement equation involves web experience management (WEM) technology, and how you leverage it to drive relevancy and promote interaction across online channels using the content you’ve developed. From my perspective, there are three key ways in which WEM can help your business facilitate the research phase of the customer journey and deliver content in more meaningful ways to promote engagement with your brand:
Relevant and Personalized Online Experiences
Today, it’s no longer acceptable to deliver a one-size-fits-all online customer experience. Instead, you must demonstrate that you know your customers by providing them with a relevant and personalized online experience that takes their preferences, behavior and past history with your brand into account. More relevant online experiences can lead to greater site stickiness, more repeat visits and higher conversion rates. They can help prospective customers more easily find and understand how your products and solutions can help them meet their particular objectives. A WEM solution can provide you with easy to use segmentation and targeting capabilities that will empower you to deliver a more personalized online experience using your marketing content.
Social and Interactive Online Experiences
Customers expect their online experience with your brand to be as social and interactive as their experiences on social networks like Facebook and Twitter. To fulfill these expectations, you must provide your customers with plenty of opportunities to interact socially with your brand. This means incorporating user-generated content capabilities such as ratings, reviews, or comments into your web presence and integrating with social networks to facilitate participation on your site using social login and to promote social sharing of information from your site. To achieve this, make sure that you use a WEM solution that allows you to easily incorporate social computing features into your online experience drive engagement and foster community, while also providing robust moderation and management capabilities so you can assure that all user-generated content benefits both your community and your business.
Optimized Experiences for Mobile
The online experience is an increasingly mobile experience due to the ubiquity of phones and tablets. To meet the needs of mobile customers, you must optimize your web presence for anytime, anywhere delivery to the thousands of different mobile device types that are available. Your WEM solution should help simplify mobile delivery by enabling you to centrally manage both your traditional site and mobile site using the same content, navigation and authoring interface.
Today’s customers expect an experience is both relevant and interactive across web, mobile and social channels. By focusing on creating experiences that demonstrate how well you know your customers, that promote social interactivity, and that allow for anytime, anywhere access across web, mobile and social channels, you’ll engage prospective customers during the early phases of the customer life cycle, thereby unlocking the door to greater sales and loyalty for your business.
You can learn more about Oracle’s web experience management solution, Oracle WebCenter Sites, by downloading this free white paper, “Creating a Successful and Meaningful Customer Experience on the Web.” Return to the Oracle WebCenter blog later this week as we look at other stages in the online customer journey.