The Consumer Decision Journey in Survey Development

Consumer Decision JourneyExpanding access to global markets and advanced technology have drastically changed the way consumers and businesses interact. A new concept, the consumer-driven decision journey, is quickly replacing conventional concepts about marketing and relationship building.

Getting your product or service in front of potential customers at the right time is essential for success. To effectively manage distribution channels and marketing efforts, business leaders must leverage new technology and tools within a framework that provides a better understanding of who customers are, what they need, what they want, how they use products, and what triggers lead to purchases.

The primary goal of marketing — to connect with consumers most likely to use a product or service at key moments that heighten influence potential — has not changed. The decision-making journey has evolved. Traditional concepts assume that customers start the buying experience based on prior knowledge about brands and products; then gradually eliminate competitors based on personal criteria.

Research shows that today’s customer may or may not start the buying process with prior knowledge. Consumers reach out to social networks and invest time in researching products before they engage with brands. Unlike the traditional funnel analogy that assumed the most important touch point is at the beginning of the buying process, consumer-centric marketing recognizes multiple touch points throughout the journey.

The model for a customer-centric decision-making process suggests a circular pattern is more representative than a funnel.

  • This circular journey starts with initial consideration based on recent experiences (touch-points) or perceptions and then moves to a research phase, where customers gather more information and compare products.
  • During the second phase (evaluation) customers may add more brands and eliminate brands chosen during the initial phase.
  • After a period of evaluation and research, the customer selects a product to buy. (Closure)
  • In the final stage (customer experience) the customer uses the product or service, shares details about the experience with friends and family, and interacts with customer service. During this phase, actual experience creates a brand perception. This perception either bolsters loyalty, encouraging future purchases, or hinders relationship building.

Developing marketing strategies based on a consumer-driven decision journey recognizes there are more touch points than the traditional concept — and actively seeks to connect with potential customers throughout the journey. Research shows that during the second phase consumers are pulling information from social networks, in-store marketing campaigns, Internet searches and prior experience with brands to evaluate products.

There must be an organization-wide effort to connect with consumers at all points during the journey. Since the Internet plays such a huge role in decision-making in a customer-controlled environment, website design, social media campaigns, mobile alerts and coupons, and other digital marketing efforts should be  merged with traditional advertising, store promotions and customer service training.

Dynamic interactive tools and Internet technology that captures online conversations about brands and products give business owners unique insight into what people are saying about their products. Leveraging these tools to develop consumer-driven marketing strategies is wise.

Accurate qualitative and quantitative information about current and potential customers is perhaps the single most important asset for marketing teams.  Without relevant information, and the ability to dig down into the data, your firm may be spending marketing dollars at the wrong time, in the wrong place.

The more you know about what consumers want and expect from your brand, and how they interact with social networks and other brands, the better positioned you are to connect at crucial touch points during the decision-making journey. Surveys are instrumental in gathering data for deeper understanding. It’s important to approach survey development within the context of the consumer decision journey. When designing a survey that captures the information you need, it should be short enough to hold participant interest, user-friendly and consumer-centric.