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6 Factors Influencing Customer Behaviors in 2021 (With Original Research)

With fast-evolving customer experiences and technologies rolling into the market what feels like everyday, only one thing seems to consistently remain the same: Consumer behaviors, expectations, and needs never stop changing.

 

Cultural, social, personal and psychological forces influence what consumers do and why. And as consumer behaviors change, marketing strategies must change, as well. But for brands and businesses to craft the customer experience that can lead them through the next frontier of business, they must first understand what customers are truly prioritizing.

Better marketing comes from better understanding consumers.

According to our recent research report, here are the top six factors that are changing the customer experience design game today:

1. Convenience

Convenience is consistently the most significant way consumers are evaluating companies post-pandemic. It turns out that consumers like some of the adjustments they had to make as a result of the pandemic. For example, 31% of those surveyed said they will still use grocery delivery services even after restrictions are lifted in their area. Consumers want purchases that are easy to make. That doesn’t stop at simply digitizing offerings. It also means upgrading customer service experiences so consumers can get help when and where they want it.

 

Keep in mind that consumers aren’t necessarily looking for virtual-only experiences. They are keen to combine the best of digital and personal touchpoints to do whatever is easiest. That’s why “buy online, pick up in store” (BOPIS) has become popular. A total of 68% of our survey respondents indicated they have tried this approach, two thirds say it made them feel somewhat or more positive about the company that provided it. That’s because convenience rules the day. Companies that can blend the best of their offerings to create the most streamlined experience are winning post-pandemic.

2. Safety and Well-Being

Most age groups we surveyed indicated that safety and well-being are a major factor in their decision-making process. Excluding Gen Z, every other age group voted safety as their second biggest concern. Safety and security— both physical health and data— must become the standard operating procedure for businesses. Cleanliness and a focus on well-being are no longer extra steps that businesses are taking during “unprecedented times” but the expectations that are leading the way in every customer experience.

3. Immersive in-person experiences

The decline of physical retail shopping has accelerated in the pandemic, but marketers have found a way to bring customers in-store to develop loyalty: experiences. The concept of retailtainment has been gaining traction, with 52% of millennials saying they spend on experience-related purchases. Experiential marketing is more important than ever, especially as customers emerge from the pandemic and are hungry to make up for missed experiences.

 

In the digital-first world post-COVID, a lot of general shopping will be ordered via recurring subscriptions or deliveries. Capitalizing on the appetite for experiences, businesses can entice customers to come in-store with valuable experiences that educate and connect. As a bonus, a truly immerse experience can help earn coveted word-of-mouth and organic social presence.

The pandemic has highlighted social inequalities in daily life and consumers are choosing to vote with their pocketbooks to create change.

4. Social Responsibility

Customers are increasingly loyal to brands with a conscience, especially as the global pandemic has hindered the well-being of so many people. It’s clear that customers expect brands to lead with kindness and empathy, even at times using their resources to fill gaps left by local governments or to support social causes.

 

In a survey that assessed consumer perceptions of corporate social responsibility, three out of four respondents said that the way a company looks after their customers and employees during COVID will impact their loyalty to the company post-pandemic. The pandemic has highlighted social inequalities in daily life and consumers are choosing to vote with their pocketbooks to create change.

5. True and Ongoing Value

It’s clear that consumers are even more sensitive to value realization now than before the pandemic (learn about value realization here). At some point during your customer’s journey there will come a time when the value of your product or service is fully realized. This can set the tone of the future of your customer’s experience with you. Not only do they need to see value early, but it needs to be consistent throughout their lifecycle in order to increase your customer lifetime value.

 

Also read: Developing Nurture Strategies That Decrease Time to Value

 

Wary of a possible recession in the wake of the pandemic, in addition to increased inflation, consumers are prioritizing the value you bring before they’ll part with their hard-earned cash. Your products and services need to be well-priced and solve a real problem. Premium add-ons are less of a priority for consumers, unless they target other specific desires such as social responsibility or safety.

Ratings and reviews help build this confidence in a way that feels legitimate to wary consumers.

6. Trust and confidence

Third-party and peer recommendations are deeply integrated into the buying process, especially post-pandemic. New data rates rankings and reviews as the number one most important factor impacting purchase decisions, above price and even free shipping. Nearly one in two customers read between one to 10 reviews before making a purchase decision, and 68% of customers say they prefer products with at least 26 reviews.

 

It’s clear the pandemic has caused consumers to lose some faith in traditional institutions and they are consistently relying on communities of like minded people to act as thought leaders. Ratings and reviews help build this confidence in a way that feels legitimate to wary consumers.

Bottom Line

Synthesizing all of these consumer changes to carve a future path requires companies to take a strong look at their to take a step back and understand the problem they are trying to solve, the “why” behind reimagining their products and customer experience. This can help realign with what consumers are expecting today. We walked through this same process with a leading travel brand, taking the time to define what it means for them to be in the travel business in the first place. Using those answers, we were able to define success. Then, we looked at what changes would be in scope for the brand. You might not be able to accomplish everything you dream of or know customers want, but defining changes that are within your ability is a good first step.

 

Implementing changes is the purpose for all of this research and brainstorming, which is why the last step of the process is understanding what partners will be necessary to help innovate. Iterating on your products, services, and overall customer experience isn’t easy and making cross-functional changes can be challenging, but given the massive shifts in consumer preferences post-pandemic, it is more important than ever to understand these factors and adjust to ensure value realization.

Need help understanding your current and future consumer’s needs? Contact us today

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Customer Engagement

Developing Nurture Strategies That Decrease Time to Value

Whether you’re nurturing prospects or guiding product qualified leads through a free trial, intentionally crafting their journey allows you to coach potential buyers toward a purchase decision. Weak points in your nurture could be the cause of a low conversion rate.

 

Understanding the mechanics of a great nurture hinges largely on the concept of time to value (TTV), which refers to the time between when a customer takes an action and when the value of that action becomes obvious to them. TTV can help you diagnose where your nurture might be weak. For example, if you’re seeing low conversions from your free trial, it could be the case that your TTV is actually longer than the trial itself. This concept could apply to many points in the customer journey. Marketo found that 96% of website visitors aren’t ready to buy based on their initial visit. That’s when nurturing strategies come into play. Your nurture strategy helps to move customers through the marketing funnel with touch points that help communicate the value your product or service provides.

 

Tweaks to the nurture strategy can improve the customer experience and increase customer engagement and conversions. We worked with a SaaS company to revamp their nurture strategy to do just this. Originally, their customer onboarding experience had an ambiguous timeline and the high value actions weren’t made clear. We recommended changes that pivoted to an action-based nurture that reduced friction and personalized touch points. By identifying three critical stages in the trial onboarding period, we divided actions between what we called work, play and commit. We then frontloaded the sign up friction in the work stage. That allowed us to reduce the TTV and move customers through the play stage and toward commitment.

Also read: Uncovering the Root Cause of Low Conversion Rates to Unlock Continual Growth

 

If you’re trying to improve your customer nurture journey, there are some key best practices to incorporate. Here’s what to know.

Best Practices

Statistics show that 74% of companies are prioritizing improving conversion rates over the next 12 months, indicating this is a more important business need than driving traffic to their websites or even increasing customer lifetime value.

 

Here’s what to keep in mind if you are looking to revamp your nurture strategy to optimize your conversions and increase customer engagement:

 

  • Personalize: No one wants to feel like they’re receiving a cookie-cutter message from you so take the time to personalize your messaging based on customer actions. This goes beyond simply addressing them by name and takes into consideration where they might be in the journey.
  • Segment your lists: You can’t personalize if you aren’t segmenting, so be sure to divide your list by specific data points. There are many ways you can do this beyond the basic demographics of age and gender. You can create segments such as location, transaction history, web browsing history, and even device type.
  • Get creative and specific. Create multiple touch points: You should think of your nurture as greater than just one email. Consider all the channels you can use to nurture your customers — email, text message, retargeting ads. Make your communication ecosystem work together to create a world that pulls your customer in.
  • Include a call-to-action: In all your messages there should be a clear call-to-action that helps your customers understand their next steps. Keep it short and compelling.
  • Split test: Develop the practice of being data-lead by A/B testing all of your messaging. It’s hard to be entirely sure which subject line, call-to-action or topics will resonate with your audience, so let the data lead the way.

No one wants to feel like they’re receiving a cookie-cutter message from you so take the time to personalize your messaging based on customer actions.

Common Mistakes

We’ve noticed some commonalities among nurtures that aren’t doing a great job proving value. Here’s what to watch for:

 

  • Lack of data and research: When beginning the process of overhauling your nurture, it’s important to use both quantitative and qualitative research methods to diagnose what is missing and where your opportunities to optimize are. Your goal should be to help your customer get the value they are seeking faster by sending the right message at the right time. In order to solve this challenge, you need to research.
  • Not optimizing your call-to-action: One major mistake companies make with their nurtures is not including a sales pitch at all. Don’t do this. Not only should you specifically include a sales pitch as part of your nurture, but each touchpoint should have some type of CTA. All CTAs should be optimized. It’s smart to test different CTAs to determine which ones perform better in different situations. Remember to keep your CTAs direct and make sure each CTA is pointing to the most relevant link or next step.
  • Not knowing when to bring sales in and when to let your nurture work for you: Statistics from the Harvard Business Review show companies that get in touch within an hour of receiving a lead are seven times more likely to convert. Automating elements of your nurture can help craft this experience without the added pressure on your sales team. Additionally, customers or leads may not be ready to talk to someone right away, depending on their stage of the journey. Nurture allows you to build that relationship with the customer while slowly qualifying them before bringing in additional resources like sales.
  • Not constantly iterating: Remember that strong nurtures are an iterative process, and they change as customer preferences evolve. Constantly test and update your nurtures to ensure they are performing at their highest potential.

5 Types of Common Nurture Strategies That Improve Time to Value

Reducing time to value is the name of the game when it comes to increasing conversions. Here are five strategies we’ve seen companies use that can help you attain this goal.

Onboarding Signup

The “onboarding signup” is a nurture that encourages users to complete the signup process. This helps them get the work out of the way so they can start to enjoy the value of your product or service.

 

Purpose: Use the onboarding signup to gather data that can segment users in a sales class, or that can help you obtain other information to create segments specific to your business.

 

Strategy: Integrate your onboarding signup into the verification process with form fields that users have to complete. Fight the temptation to ask too many questions at this stage. Stick to the most relevant information that will help you properly nurture customers through their trial.

 

Success metric: If a user completes the signup process and advances to onboarding.

Trial Engagement

How engaged your users are with your platform during the trial period can significantly influence their time to value and your ultimate conversion rate. Creating a nurture throughout the trial that is optimized based on user actions can help improve their experience.

 

Purpose: Encourage users to explore features that are most likely to help them achieve their goals while also proving the importance of upgrading.

 

Strategy: Create engagement with your application by highlighting features and connecting case studies to the personalized use cases of your customers. Work toward scheduling a call with the sales team so you can create an even more personalized sales pitch.

 

Success metric: If users have used at least one of the features available in the trial.

Make your communication ecosystem work together to create a world that pulls your customer in.

Product-Focused Campaign

Educate potential customers on everything your product can help them achieve with a product-focused nurture that highlights your most important features.

 

Purpose: Become a trusted thought leader for your prospects as they advance through the sales cycle.

 

Strategy: Highlight features that solve pain points using case studies, white papers, and internal data.

 

Success metric: You’ll want to determine if customers are using the specific features you’re highlighting for them in your nurture. This can tell you if the features you’re explaining are resonating with them or if you need to find more relevant features for their goals.

Competitive Campaign

A competitive campaign is more aggressive than other nurtures on this list. For this type of a nurture you’ll get specific about what differentiates your product, and what users have to lose if they choose one of your competitors.

 

Purpose: If you have a main competitor that customers are constantly weighing against you, a competitive campaign can work to overcome their objections by educating them about how you are better positioned to help them achieve success.

 

Strategy: Use specific information gathered during sales calls to address main objections without coming across as negative. Any press you’ve obtained or industry intelligence that proves your worth can be helpful here.

 

Success metric: Count actions such as signing up for your trial or upgrades to determine the success of this campaign.

Promotional Nurturing

Promotional nurturing can help move prospects across the finish line with a limited time, exclusive offer that encourages them to act now.

 

Purpose: Promotional nurturing helps you close a sale when you are in the purchase stage of the cycle.

 

Strategy: If you’re working with a big account that could significantly impact your business, offer special pricing or access to upgraded features based on what you know their needs are. For smaller accounts, adding a discount to your email nurture toward the end of the trial stage can inspire users to upgrade.

 

Success metric: For account-based selling, assess how many times you are able to close the sale. For product qualified leads, review how often your discount code has been used.

 

Also read: Optimizing paid media strategies to continually increase leads year over year

Your goal should be to help your customer get the value they are seeking faster by sending the right message at the right time.

How to Assess & Redesign Your Nurture Strategy

Improving your nurture strategy starts with assessing user behavior to identify where you can aid with value realization. This might include collating more data on your users so you can do a better job segmenting your nurtures. It could also include competitive research that helps you identify other journeys your users might be experiencing as they compare your service.

 

Use this research to map your entire customer conversion experience to identify opportunities to increase customer engagement. Then, identify gaps in content and specific trigger points that could reduce the time to value. If you find quick wins, implement these immediately while preparing your campaign overhaul.

The Bottom Line

There are so many ways you can nurture your relationship with your customers to increase engagement, prove your value and turn trial users into paying clients. The key to it all is constantly iterating by using data to understand what your customers are experiencing at each step in the journey. Customizing your messaging to respond to their actions and experiences will help you personalize each nurture touch point, increase customer engagement and prove the value of your product or service.