Search Intent is Reshaping Consumer Journey Mapping
Digital marketing changes most when it comes to the marketing funnel.
Consumers have moved past a linear path from awareness to consideration to purchase. They are distilling and broadening their purchase process in unique and unpredictable mobile moments. More than ever perspective buyers are relying on mobile devices to get immediate answers. Each time this happens, they are expressing intent and reshaping the traditional marketing funnel in real time.
What is Customer journey mapping?
It’s the process that helps a company to understand and personalize the individual’s customer experience from they begin to consider a purchase to buying. It maps the target buyer’s search intent when they first research a product and continues through the stages and across devices until they reach a solution.
Across the globe, marketing funnels have reshaped and companies must tailor processes to engage each customer individually.
Be Consumer-Centered to Understand Your Customer’s Journey
Review your marketing strategies and update to deliver a better user journey, end-to-end.
We are all forced to learn how to deliver better-personalized experiences that are connected across channels. We must redefine the marketing funnel.
Technology Powers Digital Transformation: But the transformation itself is dependent on business results and people. When these worlds come together, that’s what brings business transformation – when a business can truly influence the customer journey. You may have the perfect customer-centric strategy, but for it to drive real revenue improvements, it’s vital to keep a fluid approach in order to evolve along with changes in user experiences.
Most businesses need a cultural change to do so at the pace needed. Since Google has learned how to determine search intent, the customer journey is no longer triggered by keywords nor is it static. How consumers search for information and make purchasing decisions is often based on emotional impulses. This, in turn, demands personalized responses from the business.
This level of change is hard—won. Buying a new technology program is easy in caparison. Changing the behavior of people and how your marketing team thinks, remains agile, and executing the right task order takes a lot longer. Digital technology is meant to serve the business, and the business focus is the customer.
Once there is unison as to what business results you’re trying to drive, and you have mapped how you will lead a customer to what they came to you for, then think about what technology would be of value that is currently missing.
There is a direct correlation between the time that consumers spend time on a page to your investment in improving online content to facilitate the consumer’s journey. Investing the time it takes to stay current with changes in users’ search preferences and digital marketing’s best practices, your business will most likely see a positive movement in the SERPs.
A product for services being sold will attract the right audiences better and faster by focussing on the search intent behind each phase. When we think of digital marketing, we used to think of reaching the #1 position for our target keywords and getting the right content in our knowledge graphs. While this is important and can drive relevant traffic, we can no longer ignore the rest of the buyer’s journey. Google’s machine learning algorithm is growing savvier as well as the consumer. But what exactly does this mean for marketers? And how do we adapt?
Multi-Modal Messages in Natural Language
The first and last interaction now is most often voice. New Metadata standards seek to reward publishers who answer questions. When you are in a voice environment it is fundamentally different than when users are on a screen. Attribution across the consumer journey to to purchase is more complex with spoken search queries.
Businesses that embrace multimodality communication practices are able to connect with consumers by using textual, aural, linguistic, spatial, and visual resources – or modes, used to compose messages.
People are conducting easy conversational search queries in language that is natural to them. This means they ask more pointed, specific, and personal questions about the products and services on their mind at the moment. Prospective buyers want to move quickly past online noise and obtain precise answers. Let them know that they’re getting exactly what they need.
United States Consumer Purchase Journey
The buyer journey is all about answering a series of questions to inform the consumer.
United States eCommerce marketers face the challenge to keep pace with where and how consumers browse, seek answers, and purchase online. A new report reveals:
- How consumers discover products is shared evenly across retailers and search engines
- How to connect your messaging semantically for optimal e-commerce performance
- How to show when users rely on Conversational AI
Budget planning is stressful as teams compete across their verticals for the dollars needed for their jobs and it’s not everyone’s favorite list. Business must account for growth by being willing to invest. People like a sense of freedom when buying retail online. They don’t want the Internet to take up their time and take them down rabbit holes. They want just the information that they are seeking at each phase of making a purchase decision.
Staying ahead of the curve and being in front of your niche audience means taking advantage of opportunities that others may not have picked up. Diversify to future-proof your brand and get out of traditional SEO bubbles. Rather, only produce fresh content to meet user’s needs and align with consumer behaviors. Organizations should move off legacy devices and out-dated applications to embrace a growing segment of marketing teams that need better collaboration, mobility, and technology that matches the pace of changes in shopper’s search intent.
In our world of nonstop communication and market saturation, how digital marketers build relationships with customers and make sure our voices are heard is rapidly changing. We now must send not only the right message but utilize the consumer’s preferred channel at just the right time.
How Search Intent Influences our Consumer Journey Mapping
1. Identify Which Consumer Actions Are the Core of Your Business Growth
Today’s buyers are non-exclusive in their purchase journey. A startling amount of marketing spend is severely off-beat with consumer behaviors. The purchase journey shifts based on the product category that best meets the prospective buyer’s search intent. It’s key to developing the ability to know your target audience inside and out. If you are monitoring your data and conducting surveys, it helps to marry up user behavior with buyer attitudes. This knowledge lets you work from precise in-the-moment insights versus opinion.
A solid business growth plan needs a dual focus:
- How to acquire more new customers
- How to improve customer retention
Each focus has a unique customer journey. Few businesses have all the time and resources in the world and therefore must find a smarter way to maintain growth while achieving a high customer retention rate. The cost of keeping your customers coming back for more will result in a greater ROI that is much cheaper to gain. The Semantic Web is a vital extension of the current web in part due to the way URI provides the capability to move a reader along the purchase path, enable content sharing, and the reuse of machine-readable data with little integration costs. Plan your landing pages wisely to meet the viewer at the right point in their experience with your brand.
Leverage AI Intelligence for digital audience insights to understand key online and offline touch points in the customer journey.
“One single interaction can hardly engage a customer, so a brand has to connect with its customer or prospects at different touch points.”
2. Let the Purchaser Lead throughout Their Marketing Funnel
Flex with the consumer; today marketing funnels take many shapes.
In order to advance further and improve your consumers’ purchasing experience when engaging with your brand, introduce crossover solutions. This involves the method of creating content and taking delivery that is led by the purchaser. This is what cross-channel marketing means.
For example, could you offer your customers the option of ordering and paying for your products online or by mobile and later coming to your physical store location to collect the items? Conversely, if they are already at your premise, in order to let buyers choose from more catalog items, in addition to what’s display on your floor space, is it viable to provide interactive terminals?
This way items can be ordered and later delivered to their homes. Because of how highly effective this is from a marketers point of view and creates ease of shopping for buyers, it is worth the challenges that cross-channel presents at each stage of buyer intent to logistics specialists.
Determine customer satisfaction level as each touchpoint and find ways to improve. Your basic chart may look something like this:
Writing down your customer journey and communication touchpoints is a great place to begin. Do more and create a visual map of it. There is no need for being elaborate. Simply write each touchpoint down and determine the best sequence to gain a bird’s eye summary of the entire customer journey.
Align new communication touchpoints with buyer’s search intent to improve the customer acquisition journey; implement and test. If your hypotheses seem off, go back to your journey map, reevaluate, adjust, and improve.
Journey mapping processes can be intensive, but the big impact on your business justifies it. Be ready for a change. Customer preferences are likely to adjust; new technology will surface, as well, your business products might evolve. Set your marketing teams expectation to review journey mapping at least once a year and be on top of what’s currently working and what needs re-tuning.
3. Don’t Optimize for the Outcome: Optimize for the Customer Decision Journey
Digital marketers need to centralize, decentralize, automate, humanize, and embrace change. It’s not easy or quickly done, yet your marketing success depends on balancing all of these powerful, yet often paradoxical forces.
Enlist various methodologies to see how customers interacted with your brand in order that your marketing team can make better user-centered decisions.
“Interaction models” help businesses connect on the web, while actually being a chatbot. If you parcel everything into fraggles then its easier for Google to translate on the fly. Messenger bots can help marketers at the engagement stage of the buyers’ journey as they can follow the users up. Use different chatbot building platforms or experiment with Bing’s Microsoft bot framework to build a simple Q&A bot that you can train over time.
Digital marketers may feel like they need to develop a sixth sense to navigate these buyer steps by juggling first- and third-party data, chance variation modeling, or remarketing. But that’s a lot of work and will likely still fall short. Today’s consumers demand more. They want assistance at every point along the path to purchase.
When you understand what they need better than they do, you can be one step ahead of your customers. With little margin for error, it’s possible to anticipate consumer needs irrespective of what point they are at in their journey.
4. Predict Consumer Intent at Scale
Don’t confuse the entry to the journey with last-click attribution. Search data helps marketers access real insights across media to forecast consumer intent at scale. Once the right consumer actions are understood, you can go from fragmented planning and guessing intent to building a process that predicts what people need at every stage in the journey.
Google Ads is better today at automating marketing campaigns with consumer-intent signals. Machine learning can help you tie in a consumer’s purchase history and contextual relevance to customize messages on the fly. This automation can trigger positive user experiences and is just one way that companies can rely on machine learning to drive impactful marketing decisions.
“The reality is the customer journey is nothing short of dynamic. As the journey continues to shift and change shape, it’s becoming harder for marketers to make sense of all the consumer intent signals people leave behind.” – Think with Google
When someone starts searching for what they need, the digital world has become such a large part of the daily routines that they may switch between channels and devices. They may first ask a question on mobile, later move along their purchase journey by watching a video on TV, and finally decide what to buy after reading consumer reviews on their laptop.
5. Create the Right Internal Business Focus
It takes reshaping our approach to produce a more personalized customer experience.
To improve on your customer journey, all team players need to align. The people component is more challenging than any technology. Once everyone understands the objective of being more strategical so that all marketing efforts unify around making it easier for the customer, then technology choices and implementation flow better. The challenge for all of us is gaining open mindsets. Then time is needed to adjust work schedules in order to educate everyone on your new way of defining things.
So for instance, sending fewer emails or switching up some former marketing strategy that worked in the past will raise some eyebrows. But to evolve along with consumer preferences and advancing AI technology demands a flexible and teachable team. For those new to it, and even those steeped in it, machine learning and Artificial Intelligence are hard to grasp and apply. Be bold. Adapt and improve that customer experience to drive better results,
A recent Google Patent gives us insight about how Google’s knowledge graph updates itself through a process of collecting and connecting information about entities. By understanding relationships between our content, collective data, and how they can surface along a user’s journey, it helps SEO and SEM professionals evolve and become more knowledge-rich to answer the right question at the right moment.
“People say, ‘I’m sending out 1000 emails with a 1% open rate and we’re getting a certain return from that. Why do I need to change it?’ The conversation at that point is, “it may be working well today, but look at the trends: people are opening less email, paying less attention to the information being pushed to them, and using more search and social recommendations to go find the information they need.” – Kimberly Collins on Search Engine Watch
It is a practical exercise; staff education is key to helping each individual journey through the change in the same way that we need to educate those with high-buyer intent so the journey to purchase is easy for them. To move the needle effectively, businesses must align their marketing more closely with the questions and priorities of their customers to deliver a personalized approach at every digital touchpoint.
6. Understand Your Buyers and What it takes to Reach a Solution
Maintain a fluid empathy map to understand consumer’s journey.
Whether you sell a product or a service, your business is unique. Make your business website perform better to assist them by answering the following questions:
- Intent: What intent or tasks are searchers trying to complete that your business answer best?
- Questions: What questions do they most commonly ask to meet that intent?
- Emotions: How is the user feeling? What are their emotions while on your site? What matters to them?
- Influences: What people, reviews, social channels, or places may influence the user decisions and actions?
- Pain points: What are the common pain points that most users experience trying to get a solution?
- End Goals: What is the user’s ultimate goal? What can they take away and be satisfied with?
Don’t stop until you can deliver experiences that speak to what your customers want to accomplish. Create a method that works for you and can be repeated on other pages to increase motivation and remove the friction from the consumer’s journey.
To successfully create a user-friendly path to purchase that dramatically shifts behavior, generates faithful client engagement, and promotes a profitable cycle, every size of business must first understand the consumer journey. Consumer empathy is core to every successful product strategy, design, and marketing. This reveals unanswered questions, past unpleasant experiences, and idea catalyzing user behaviors.
But building your business, a new product or service around a single point-in-time understanding of your consumer is destined to fail. To successfully create a digital marketing plan that dramatically shifts behavior, organically generates habitual engagement, and promotes a profitable viral cycle, no one can afford to skip understanding the consumer journey.
* Embrace Voice-Enabled Assistants that are Revolutionizing Customer Journeys
Use search and advertising technologies that are scalable, highly available, and cross-platform for both organic and paid search results.
The fact that people use the Internet to find answers is nothing new; just how people are conducting the search has Internet search.
We can define the difference between voice search and conversational AI (the voice assistance component) in that searches are continuously happening, but voice-assisted search, using your voice to engage with some sort of intelligent technology, is taking over the lion’s share. Individuals now rely on a digital assistant, a chatbot, or even a voice skill to pose a question and gain an answer or to control other aspects of technology in IoT.
7. Ensure that it’s Clear What You Are Actually Offering
Paid search ad creatives to need to communicate effectively at the right stage in the customer’s journey to purchase, they cannot exist for creativity’s sake alone. Use speakable markup around clear concepts that serve your value proposition. Avoid “cute talk” or a play on words that are more vulnerable to being misconstrued. Creativity in advertising and marketing can work to break through online clutter and give your ideal customer a clear understanding of your value proposition. Use Google Ads more advanced features to leverage AI that gives you data at a vast scale to help you make more accurate predictions across your account.
Adding schema markup to appropriate content can explain your content. The most effective Schema type that we see currently working is industry-identifying organizational schema that shows information about local agents or affiliates of larger organizations. Let your tone of voice and markup add a human touch to your business.
4 Ways to adapt messaging to your consumers:
- Adapt to user language in your market.
- Be constantly innovating.
- Reach users by going out of your way to be where they are.
- Optimize for Google Local Maps
The customer journey can begin on Google Maps; make it inticing for consumers to use the new maps follow button. Your products and services should be easy to recognize.
8. Get the Data You Need to Know Your User’s Journey
Advanced analytics are featured within the Google Analytics 360 product and provide a more detailed and data-driven overview of the customer journey. Google indicates that it will become even better in 2019 at revealing how users interact with your online content. We anticipate the announcement of new tools and features that will make this happen.
Consumers have more loyalty towards retail brands that understand their wants and needs, and personalized experiences can help to build those strong relationships. Track and measures user activity at person-level for a people-based marketing approach. Consumers are real people, not just theoretical personas or numbers.
Currently, the 2 key reports to rely on for user journey mapping are:
- The Funnel Analysis feature (it sheds light on the user’s journey as they complete actions on your web pages)
- The Segment Overlap technique (it makes it possible to track how segments intersect with one another)
Both provide data that can be used to build a prospect marketing lifecycle structure that sets up your digital team for success. But you need more than data. Many businesses swim in a data sea and sink. You need a connected and logical process in place to make this knowledge work.
How to Succeed in Data-Driven Consumer Insights:
- Starts by having digital-savvy leaders who value the process.
- These leaders must build-in team capabilities for the workforce of the future.
- Empower staff and freelance support to work in new ways.
- Give day-to-day tools the digital upgrade that is needed. Example: move up to Google Analytics 360 if you haven’t already done so.
- Communicate frequently across teams by both via traditional and digital methods to ensure proper implementation and readings.
This enlarges any business’s capabilities to understand how their audiences integrate with a search. It provides clarity on the user’s characteristics and shopping preferences. Then it requires the compassion and passion within your business to change your communication language to ways that better resonate with consumers.
Now, we get back to those web pages and make improvements.
9. Use Context and Word Co-occurrence to Reach the Mobile Consumer
Improve performance with topic clustering on search queries through word co-occurrence and bipartite graph co-clustering.
Given the burgeoning world of mobile commerce, today’s Internet buyers don’t “go shopping”, but instead make purchases in a vast range of different contexts and settings. It is becoming more complex for brands to understand their customers in context and appeal to the flux in constantly-changing needs.
Discover frequent and related themes from a large number of unorganized search queries and use them to mine insights about aggregated user interests. Typical topic modeling methods for document modeling often are more challenging given there is less search query data due to their shorter length than documents.
To find semantically meaningful head terms in search queries Google tells us to use:
- Word co-occurrence clustering to generate topics from words frequently occurring together
- Weighted bigraph clustering lets you use URLs from Google search results to induce query similarity and generate topics
Prioritize top traffic pages for each stage of your consumer’s buying funnel and create at least 1 quality piece of lead gen content for them.
10. Market to Your Ideal Customer Vs Everyone
Going forward it is less effective, if not impossible, to market to the average person or a wide range of buyers. It is a mistake to keep marketing to as many individuals as may someday buy from you. It is more realistic to know who your ideal customers are and market to them. It is like the money with his hand stuck in a jar because he cannot let go of something.
The cost of marketing can be staggering if you are attempting to reach every possible buyer. Rather, invest profitably. Tailoring your online business to the customer that shows promise. This way, you are both more likely to benefit. Start and stick to where you have a valuable return.
Research first and then pick a niche; learn as much as possible about that unique consumer segment.
11. Get into How Search Intent Impacts the Marketing Funnel
Writing exceptional content, optimizing it, and obtaining trusted incoming links is now only the start for a good ranking position for a keyword. The ultimate goal for Google is to understand the context and provide users results based on their search intent in the moment. Keyword research, choice, and use must now align with the searchers need at each phase.
A keyword’s contextual relevance must make sense for alignment to a search query. And it should be fit for voice conversational searches.
Content curation and marketing efforts should come after spending time and resources to first determine current ranking websites and phrases. If you don’t have a chance to reach consumers with your favored keyword phrase, spend your time pursuing what has a solid chance of working. It is best done with different content and wording for each phase of the buyer journey.
Know what Google is giving preference to, where there is a content gap, what search intent that you can best answer, and where you have a competitive chance to rank. Maybe that is in Google Maps; maybe it is in AdWords. You have too much to do to waste time on communication strategies that present lesser opportunities. Pursue what matters most to the consumer.
Then set up the right CTAs for a clearly tracked and signposted user journey. Make it easy for the consumer, even if it is more complex for you.
By identifying the messages and offers that resonate best at each touch point, retailers can deliver more meaningful experiences that are relevant and personalised. Applying user intent insights means marketers can elevate the consumer experience, drive engagement, improve purchase rates, and build long-term loyalty.
“The shopping journey is becoming increasingly complex, crisscrossing multiple online and offline channels and devices, with consumers now checking an average of 12 sources before making a purchase decision.” – Think with Google
12. Facilitate Impatient Consumers on every Step of their Purchase Journey
Retailers have less time to wade through marketing decisions if they want a competitive edge in this fast-paced and dynamic environment. The path to purchase is increasingly tangled. Most retail marketers find it challenging to understand of what motivates their consumers, what thoughts are in their heads, and what emotions trigger actions.
The bright side is that technology has opened wide the door of opportunity for retailers to better grasp consumer’s intent and their path to purchase. Lowe’s uses technology at all consumer touch points and assesses multi-touch attribution to better understand the role each touchpoint. From broad to deep and narrow segments of consumers, data is available with much greater accuracy for making more effective marketing decisions.
“Consumer impatience across the entire purchase journey provides marketers with new opportunities. But the reality is some brands aren’t always keeping up. While over 60% of people expect brands to ‘“’provide consumers with information they need when they need it,’ less than half of them feel that brands are delivering. Marketers can close this gap between expectations and reality. Brands and businesses that are ready to help at the moment will build trust, be appreciated, and earn the sale.” – Think with Google
According to new ClickZ research:
- When consumers know what they are looking for, 50% of e-commerce journeys start with a retailer website and 50% start with a search engine.
- When consumers are unsure what they are looking for or need, 62% of e-commerce purchase journeys begin with a search engine and only 38% start with a retailer.
What’s behind purchase behavior is complex and varied. Optimize and gain online brand credibility and trust by showing up. You may feel like you are too small and cannot manage the tasks involved. Don’t give up. Those who accomplish it are winning more revenue as online and offline marketing has blurred into one.
Now that our homework is done and we’ve grasped what Google is telling us about the new customer, it’s more likely that when creating next year’s Digital Marketing Plan, you’ll get it right!
A Digital Strategy that Aligns with Consumers
Voice search and chatbot use are important for your business growth. They have generated both an evolution and a revolution for digital marketers. Evaluate your brand’s consumer experiences for our new voice-first world. Seek to drive client acquisition through engaging, empathy-rich conversations.
They reshape the customer pathway to purchase and force the need to be:
- Using the right words at the right stage of user interaction
- Balancing effort and impact with user preferences
- Uncovering consumer biasess and counteract with communications that trigger favorable emotions
- Crafting your message to each market and channel
- Knowing what outcomes your optimizing for throughout their journey
In all of this, artificial intelligence has invaded the Customer Relationship Management arena. While doing the above, there is also the pressure to speed up data entry and respond quickly to customers who demand transparency and privacy controls. Today, we must allow users to view, analyze and decide on which data you have permission to use. If they request it, align quickly with your consumers by making their personal data available in reports.
“The important point (in my eyes) is that this is not a “tweak h1’s, inject keywords, get links” kind of traditional SEO work, but rather you’d want to step back, understand where the site’s audience is & where it’s going, and rethink how you’d like to position the site within the 2019+-web. As an SEO consultant, you’ve probably seen a lot of potential directions, and how they’ve evolved over the years, so you might be in a good place to make informed recommendations. – Google’s John Mueller on Redditt
How Marketing Funnels Work
This funnel means what steps a visitor typically goes through before they can reach a sales conversion.
User research can lead your content strategy at each stage of the funnel. Blog posts, engaging visuals, and calls to action can be useful for funnel steps to reach potential customers. Otherwise, we’re all susceptible to developing tunnel vision when preparing to market a product. We’re immersed in every little feature and every single internal process that goes into it.
But prospective buyers learn about and interface with your product from a completely different perspective. They’ve little reason to learn about your product until you demonstrate what it can do for them. Designers and Developers must understand the context in which the product will be used to generate the consumer’s journey roadmap.
Steps for Creating a Customer Journey Map
1. Learn about the motivation of your users; establish what their intent is.
2. Create a hypothesis journey map for each type of user.
3. Determine the general context of a general search.
4. Map out their journey.
5. Identify the critical points in your user’s journey.
6. Incorporate performance indicators.
7. Determine how to make them actionable for your stakeholders.
The end result is that your business can ease pain points along the user journey to help your users achieve their goals. By evaluating and staying in tune with your customers’ point of view, even if you only discover one critical piece of insight, it may drastically improve your conversion rates and improve your stakeholders’ engagement.
“What makes customer journey maps especially powerful is the ability to layer other relevant information into the map along with the foundational journey elements and the ability to visualize your map in a way that will inform and engage your target audience. In fact, multiple versions of a customer journey map might be the most effective approach to meet the needs of different stakeholder audiences.” – John Quincy of UX 360
Google Search changes from answers to journeys.
Search intent is determining what a user means to accomplish when he or she enters or speaks a specific search term. It’s still like the holy grail of search with each engine seeking to get user’s search intent first and best.
Buyers seldom go from little knowledge about a product to buying it in one single search. Days, maybe weeks or months can fly by before the consumer enters the next stage of the process. By matching your keywords and content to that intent, you can better ensure that your content has a chance to be found at each stage.
Once initiated and tagged, that perosn’s search journey will become the focal point for Google’s future of search. Increasingly, search engines will know where people are in the journey, remember their actions and search history for where they’re most likely wanting to go.
Google has been using an AI method to improve its ability to match words to concepts to journeys.
“We’ve now reached the point where neural networks can help us take a major leap forward from understanding words to understanding concepts. Neural embeddings, an approach developed in the field of neural networks, allow us to transform words to fuzzier representations of the underlying concepts, and then match the concepts in the query with the concepts in the document. We call this technique neural matching. This can enable us to address queries like: “why does my TV look strange?” to surface the most relevant results for that question, even if the exact words aren’t contained in the page.” – Ben Gomes, Google’s VP of Search, News and Assistant
Now user searches without the exact words can lead to the correct answer on a landing page, a quick answer box, or a knowledge graph. It works more by “topic” than being limited to exact wording.
You can no longer just write out your thoughts on a new web page; it is increasingly important to know your topic inside out. Additionally, you need to know the competitive world in which your new content lives and try to learn how the conceptual connections to users are exactly made and what actions they take.
We put our customers at the heart of whatever we do, enjoying the challenge of pushing the boundaries of digital marketing to give them new, ingenious and easy ways to connect online.
Call Hill Web Marketing at 651-206-2410 to Boost User Engagement Through Performance Checks