Think of items you’ve purchased in the past month. How and where did you purchase these items? Did you speak with anyone before, during or after the process? Now, think of how you would have shopped for these same items just 5-10 years ago. What’s changed?

A quick observation of the past ten years alone reveals that the traditional shopping journey has evolved dramatically – disrupted by the proliferation of mobile devices and Internet connectivity. Still on the fence? Check the numbers:

  • Over the past decade, online shopping has taken hold in North America, keeping pace with Forrester Researchs prediction that e-retail sales would grow from $263 billion in 2013 to $414 billion in 2018.
  • The average shopper used 4 sources of information to make a decision in 2011—a number that nearly doubled from 5.3 sources in a one-year span.
  • Shopping cart abandonment grew from 60 percent in 2006 to more than 71 percent in 2013 according to BI Intelligence.

Cool stats, but what does this mean for marketers? What can you do to ensure your company is still considered in this new dispersed buyer’s journey? And, most importantly, how can you move interested consumers through this shopping journey to final purchase?

Relationship Status: It’s Complicated

Contrary to what you might think, online shopping has gotten more complicated over the past five years. True, some aspects of the process have improved, like the ultimate transaction and receipt of the ordered goods, but the actual purchase decision has become a long and often indecisive journey. Are you creating more and more content trying to hedge your SEO bets and be one of the sources of information customers consider? While you might be increasing traffic to your website, the haystack of content you are asking shoppers to sift through is stifling! The rising volume of product content isn’t empowering today’s consumers; it’s overwhelming them.

There’s a reason Robert Irvine of Food Network’s Restaurant Impossible frequently tells restaurant owners to pare down their menu options to one page (looking at you, Cheesecake Factory).

TIP: SIMPLIFY. Don’t overcomplicate the purchasing process by adding even more generic content. Instead, consider curating your experience by implementing narrowing tools to meet shoppers’ exact requirements.

TTYL, G2G ZMOT

Whether you’re buying a new car or a new pair of shoes, it’s no longer as easy as going to the trusted neighborhood store owner and asking for advice because of #BrandLoyalty. Today, when a shopper decides she needs a new pair of hiking shoes, chances are her shopping journey doesn’t start when she walks into a store—it starts on her computer or mobile device. And when she opens up her Web browser, she’s not going to be clicking on links to your carefully worded marketing materials. Instead, she’s going to be looking for content created by people like her that can help her make an informed purchase decision.

This time of research and seeking validation is what Google refers to as the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT), which they define as “the precise moment when [consumers] have a need, intent or question they want answered online.” Their research specifically found that “84 percent of the shoppers said that ZMOT shapes their decisions.”

TIP: Understand your shoppers and who they consider to be niche experts within their trusted communities. Help them find these trusted third-party experts, as they are the source of trust needed to validate their purchasing decisions.

Recipe for ZMOT Success

Simple buying path + third-party validation during ZMOT = success. Got it. But now what? Are marketers expected to find these third-party experts on their own? Once you find them, how can you integrate them into your shoppers’ purchasing journey?

Golf manufacturer TaylorMade regularly delights its customers by putting them in touch with experts who can answer incredibly detailed technical questions that would often stump even the most experienced customer service rep. If you’re a golfer, trying to find the right club that compliments your style of play and existing clubs in your bag is a tall order. Getting advice from professionals that know the game and have played the clubs is an invaluable seal of approval to validate your purchase. Especially when the connection is made right on the product page. #BrandLoyalty

TIP: Shorten your buyers’ online shopping journey by giving them access to trusted, third-party advice while on your site. Easy access to knowledgeable experts who have ownership experience with the product they’re considering, gives shoppers the confidence they need to make a purchase now.

Next week: Come back to learn more about the growing trust deficit in online shopping.


About The Author

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Needle, the leader in advocate-powered e-commerce, strives to make online shopping more personal and trusted. Needle provides a marketing platform that enables online retailers to leverage their most passionate fans and connect them with their future customers. The result is a truly awesome customer experience that builds trust and increases satisfaction with customers while delivering increased sales and better online experiences.