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Using social listening to understand the buyer's journey

By Rion Martin  •  April 18, 2016

  

Using social listening to understand the buyer's journey

Posted by: Rion Martin on April 18, 2016
Rion Martin
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The purchase funnel is dead! RIP 1898 - 2004

If you’re in marketing or advertising you’ve probably seen more than just a few articles expressing this exact sentiment.  

The general consensus is that with more potential touch points, product choices, and easier access to information, the traditional purchase funnel model is now inadequate for accurately mapping the path to purchase.

What has emerged in its place is the buyer’s journey. A new model, with new challenges, and a need to include more sources of qual and quant data.

Here’s how one of those sources, social data, fits into identifying and understanding key moments in the modern, more complicated, buyer’s journey.

 


Recap : What the buyer's journey model looks like

The are many different frameworks for the buyer's journey and the majority have one thing in common, the process is cyclical.

My favorite framework is Nielsen’s “Path to Purchase,” and it lends itself really well to this particular discussion.

Here’s what Nielsen’s model looks like:

nielsen-path-to-purchase-model.jpg
Source: Nielsen Shopper Path to Purchase

 

The model recognizes two phases:

  1. Demand: Focused on the emotional and evaluative aspects of cycle.
  2. Buy: Focused on the physical aspects of cycle.

Within these two phases are two distinct sets of needs:

  1. Consumer Needs (Insights): The features and requirements of the products themselves. Examples include being healthy, durable, filling, tasty.
  2. Shopper Needs (Insights): The features and requirements of the shopping process. Examples include amount of variety, convenience, and overall experience.

 

Within each phase are specific aspects related the journey, including Store Choice Drivers, Satisfaction Drivers, and Social Influences, just to name a few.

Some, but not all of these can be identified, defined, and understood using insights from social data.

Let’s take a look at where this data can be best applied.

 


Where social data can/can't provide the best input 

Just like all data sources, social data has use cases where it can add value and others where it can’t.

Right up front, social data is not a good fit for understanding:

  1. How to maximize spend through product placement
  2. What in-store strategies are most effective for promoting products
  3. How consumers plan their trips and missions to stores
  4. The actual shopper segments that have purchased products
  5. The patterns of shopper consumption

These areas are likely best served by directly observable behavioral data, well-defined survey data, point-of-sale data, or a mix of all three.

Why? Because people aren't likely discussing these topics to any great degree, if at all.

 

what-consumers-talk-about-vs-what-brands-want.jpg

 

That said, social data is an excellent fit for understanding:

  1. How customers feel about the buying and in-store experience
  2. The experience related to using or consuming products (satisfaction drivers)
  3. Post-purchase interactions with the retailer or manufacturer
  4. What digital and social encounters influenced their decisions
  5. Where consumers go most often for information about products and stores
  6. What consumer segments are being activated by the manufacturers and retailers

 

Beyond fitting social data to a standard framework like this one, there exist many more opportunities to add context around the buyer's journey.

  


How social data can fill in gaps in the buyer's journey

“How well do consumer perceptions of our brand match our understanding of how they perceive us?”

For many brands the answer is, “not very well.”

Research by InMoment identified that a majority of brands across multiple industries are completely out-of-touch with how consumers actually perceive them and their products.

 

Brand Perceptions of Consumer Sentiment vs Actual Consumer Sentiment

brand-perceptions-vs-consumer-perceptions3.jpg

 

In this use case, social data offers a particularly strong source of feedback to understand consumers true perceptions of brands.

By understanding not only that consumer perceptions differ from a brand’s expectations, but why they differ and in what areas, marketers have the ability to obtain a more realistic view of the buyer's journey.

Outside of this, social data can also identify things like alternative uses for products, what products people discuss mixing together or combining, new category and industry trends that might impact the journey, and new sources of influence.

 


Key takeways

The move to the buyer’s journey model is a necessary step for more accurately identifying and understanding the moments where consumers can be influenced.

While it has some limitations, there are many areas where social data is a good fit as an additional source of consumer feedback for creating a more realistic model of the buyer's journey.

In particular, social data should be considered to help identify and understand:

Experience

  • How customers feel about the purchasing and in-store experience
  • The experience related to using or consuming products (satisfaction drivers)
  • Post-purchase interactions with the retailer or manufacturers

Influence

  • What digital and social encounters influenced their decisions
  • Where consumers go most often for information about products and stores

Perception

  • How consumer perceptions compare to how brands believe they are perceived

Audience Segments

  • What consumer segments are being activated by the manufacturers and retailers

Consumer Behavior

  • The quirky aspects of consumer behavior that surveys and quant data just can’t uncover

Emerging Trends

  • Trends that are likely to disrupt or impact the current view of the path to purchase 

 


Interested in seeing how social data is being applied to understand the buyer's journey?

 Buyer's journey research case study

 


 

Shout-out to Jordan Hanson for helping conduct the research for this post! 

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