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How marketers can drive engagement at every phase of the purchase cycle

It’s not just the moment of purchase that matters. To successfully build customer loyalty requires fresh marketing strategies at every phase of the purchase cycle: before, during, and after.

Before deciding to spend their hard-earned money with your brand, consumers receive countless messages that detail product announcements and ways to save money. To break through this noise, a streamlined and efficient engagement strategy is critical.

At the time of purchase, on the other hand, with consumers facing options from dozens of competitors, brands must change the shopping game to aid consumers in making an educated buying decision.

Finally, after a purchase is made, your brand has a choice of either allowing the customer to walk away in anonymity or continue the conversation by creating an identified and meaningful ongoing relationship.

Whether it’s before, during, or after, there are various tactics that marketers can utilize to effectively engage with consumers along the path to purchase. Read on for our tips at every transaction stage.

Pre-purchase

When it comes to a pre-purchase marketing strategy, getting consumers’ attention is key.

While a brand may feel their message is valuable and compelling, consumers have so many brands vying for their attention that it becomes hard for a brand to stand out.

Instead of the old school approach of pushing a marketing message out to consumers, brands need to create campaigns that are more about mutual value rather than the simply telling a one sided story.

Once a brand establishes mutual value, it can then inform consumers on specific products and features that help raise brand awareness and situate the brand top-of-mind with consumers before they make purchase decisions.

Madewell’s ‘Are You Madewell?’ campaign exemplifies the kind of pre-purchase strategy that grabs consumer attention.

Instead of a one-dimensional product recommender as a way to learn about consumers and recommend products, the brand designed a personality test that asked questions such as “your dream Saturday afternoon would include…” and “what’s your biggest pet peeve?”

In creating a personalized test experience with a curated product recommender, the brand provided interesting, valuable information to consumers about themselves, Madewell products, and how they relate to the Madewell brand.

Once a consumer is aware of a brand’s products, the next phase of the purchase funnel is ‘consideration’ where consumers decide between their most likely purchases.

In Pier 1’s recent ‘Pin It and Win It’ campaign, the home decor brand encouraged consumers to design Pinterest boards featuring the products with a chance to win their design.

‘Pin It and Win It’ is really a digital and social shopping experience. The experience of having consumers visually select their favorite products that they would like to win is the same consideration process of selecting the products you’d like to buy but without requiring the purchase hurdle.

While only a handful of consumers will win, all participants have gone through the process of identifying the products that they would like to own.

By educating your consumers in an interesting and engaging way before the purchase, they will be much more inclined to consider your brand when making the decision to buy.

During the purchase

Most consumers have busy, fast paced lives, and have developed shopping habits as a means of efficiently using their time.

The challenge for brands is how to change shopping habits to steal a consumer away from their competition or to drive incremental purchases from existing consumers.

Old Navy’s ‘SnapAppy’ mobile campaign demonstrates an excellent way to get consumers to change their shopping habits.

Consumers download the Snap Appy application and can unlock fun surprises by snapping pictures of specific icons that can be found in a variety of locations in-store and at oldnavy.com.

This multi-platform solution provides an experience and an incentive to change a consumer’s heads-down habit based shopping experience both online and in-store. Getting consumers to change their shopping habits is the first step to generate incremental sales.

For brands with a physical store presence, engagement at purchase time cannot be achieved without help from store-level employees.

With its ‘Corner of Healthy and Happy Sweepstakes’, drugstore giant Walgreens provided a digital experience that enabled store employees to learn more about the brand’s new positioning.

Employees played a multi-question online and mobile trivia game about the history of Walgreen’s and finished by submitting a statement about how they helped others stay happy and healthy.

The store employee is perhaps the most important representation of a brand’s marketing position and this unique effort from Walgreens successfully educated and engaged employees, created a more fulfilling shopping experience for its consumers.

Whether online, via mobile, or in-store, changing consumer shopping habits and involving employees provides the backbone of engagement efforts during purchase.

Post-purchase

While it may seem like the work is over once the purchase is complete, driving engagement does not stop there.

To use a dating metaphor, do we simply say “goodbye” and hope they call us for another date or do we seize that moment and put a little thought and effort into creating an ongoing relationship.

Open forums for feedback are excellent channels to connect with consumers after purchase, gain insight and turn purchasers into advocates.

In Taco Bell’s ‘Tell Us What You Think’ campaign to support its new Cantina Bell brand, the brand asks consumers to reveal what they really think about menu items, and then displays the percentage of consumers that are ‘believers’ in the Cantina brand and the percentage of consumers who are ‘skeptics’.

Additionally, Taco Bell displays Tweets from both ‘believers’ and ‘skeptics’. By providing a fully transparent way to engage with the brand, Taco Bell generates compelling and authentic product validation.

If Taco Bell had elected to cleanse the feedback and only provide positive responses, the platform becomes a packaged marketing message instead of a credible forum.

Loyalty programs are valuable platforms to help your brand connect with its audience post-purchase by getting to know the consumer based on past interactions and creating ongoing, personalized communication.

In cosmetics company Bare Escentuals’ ‘Friends and Benefits’ customer loyalty program, the brand tried something new. Instead of asking consumers to accrue points or keep track of discounts, Bare Escentuals uses personalized gifts and invitations to special events to develop emotional bonds with customers and keep them coming back.

Even better, the loyalty program provides insight into consumer preferences and allows Bare Escentuals to make business decisions based on the information they receive.

Tapping into mobile is an extremely effective way to drive customer loyalty post-purchase.

For example, Toys ‘R’ Us mobile CRM strategy asks consumers to join the brand’s mobile program by texting a short code, for special offers and deals, keeping the conversation going with the consumer after the initial sale is made.

Like Bare Escentuals’ loyalty program, Toys ‘R’ Us mobile program provides extra information on consumer interest, allowing the brand to adjust its business strategy accordingly.

Taco Bell, Bare Escentuals, and Toys ‘R’ Us demonstrate how effective post-purchase engagement strategies can be. Take advantage of customer advocacy, loyalty, and mobile CRM to continue developing relationships with your consumers even after purchases are made.

Increase engagement before, during, and after purchase

Developing a pre-, during, and post-purchase strategy is essential to fostering meaningful relationships with consumers.

Going beyond traditional campaigns, especially by incorporating data, mobile, and in-store tactics, can help your brand guarantee valuable engagement with consumers and drive customer loyalty.

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