Recent research by Google and The Behavioural Architects found that when it comes to buying laundry detergent, the average customer can navigate up to eight different touchpoints. When it comes to booking an international flight, this figure is 259.
The non-linear purchase journey is a reality for modern marketers. Customers go to search for products they want to buy, only to end up down a completely unrelated rabbit hole hours later.
In the latest episode of Rethink, a podcast by Think with Google, host Rachel Corbett chats with a range of industry leaders to make sense of this ‘messy middle’ – a term used to describe the journey of an online customer from when they decide to buy a product to when they click purchase.
When it comes to the non-linear purchase journey, there is some method to the madness, according to The Behavioural Architects founder Mike Daniels.
In his conversation with Corbett, Daniels maps out the seven key principles that influence consumer behaviour – even if they don’t know it.
The principles are: ‘brand presence’, ‘heuristics’, ‘social norms’, ‘authority bias’, ‘the power of now’, ‘scarcity bias’ and ‘the power of free’.
“They can operate altogether at once to influence decision making,” Daniels said about the principles.
“And what’s really exciting about them is that if you as a marketer apply these behavioural principles in an intelligent and systematic way, you use them to reinforce your brand position.”
He likened this customer journey to a shopper walking into a bottle store on the search for a whisky.
“When people are looking at a wall of whiskies, the first thing they do is screen everything out. They don’t see the range of everything – their eye goes to familiar brands that they’ve seen before, the rest of it just get screened out,” he said.
“So brand presence becomes important, the authority bias, if there’s a label or an award. So that’s a category where Messy Middle happens. Then price comes into play and potentially it gets popped into the basket as well.”
Also joining Corbett on episode three of Rethink is Google Australia and New Zealand director of specialist sales Rhys Williams.
Williams discusses the power of exposure for brands looking to influence a customer’s purchase decision.
He pointed to data which shows one in three customers will choose their second choice brand over their first choice one, simply if the second choice brand is there and the other is not.
“There’s this concept of exposure,” said Williams.
“We’re exposed to brands all the time – just in the world – there’s stuff you already know about brands that your family friends tell you.
“You have all your own biases already and you probably have some preferences. And it’s true for big purchases like a home loan or small purchases like buying something from the shop.”
Williams also revealed how the COVID-19 pandemic had changed customer behaviour – and which of these changes will stick.
With many retail stores closing amid the pandemic, 63 per cent of shoppers said the way they shop had changed a bit, while 15 per cent said it had changed a lot.
Most interesting was the fact that 30 per cent of Australians said that they would continue shopping online, even after COVID-19.
“Some of those behaviour changes we might see stick,” Williams said.
“It’s not new that people are researching online, that’s been around for quite some time, I think what’s new is now that when stores are closed, there is only one way to buy, which is online.”
Fighting COVID-19 with the messy middle
While marketers can use concepts associated with the ‘messy middle’ to alter consumer’s shopping choices, they can also use these principles to influence mass decision making.
This has been demonstrated with COVID-19, where governments around the world were forced to convince citizens to stay home and enforce social distancing measures.
One country that has had outstanding success in this fight is New Zealand. Leading New Zealand’s ‘Unite against COVID’ campaign was Gemma Bevan, who speaks on the latest podcast.
“The campaign had four key roles- to inform, to ensure compliance, to reassure and to enable,” Bevan said.
With this objective set, Bevan and her team worked to create messaging that was relevant, informative, and most importantly, empathetic.
“I think the effort on the ‘why’ was useful,” she said.
“So, for example, we didn’t just say make sure you wash your hands regularly. We’d say wash your hands regularly because it bursts the bubble around the virus and it will help you kill off the virus if it’s there.
“We knew it was going to be messy from the outset and we knew that we had a lot of different people that we were speaking to. We came to the development of the message knowing that we had to be really agile and we needed to be able to tweak and amend as we went along.”
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