Driven by the increased adoption of mobile devices and social networks and the way we market products and services, the customer-to-brand relationship has changed dramatically in just a few years. As an example, just look at the list of products or services that did not even exist in 2006: iPhone, iPad, Android, Instagram, WhatsApp. The influence of social media is larger than ever and these changes influence various industries, including the retail industry:

Touchpoints

One of the many models of a typical customer journey contains several stages. The buyer has a problem or desire and is may or may not be aware of a product that can fulfil those needs. The consumer takes notice of a solution by banner, newsletter and catchy sales messages and the journey through classic advertising media continues until the buyer decides whether or not to buy the product.

This classic and widespread model is by no means outdated, but the number of touchpoints to close a sale, the goal of every retailer has increased significantly. Driven by the large number of channels, customers hop from one step to another and influence the buying behaviour of further consumers within a short time.

We are overwhelmed with advertisement, because besides the classic advertising media, such as newspaper ads and banners, there are now various ads published on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Instagram to attract attention of potential customers and arouse interest in the brand’s products. Retailers make use of the variety of platforms and visualise discounts, innovations and events in a creative way. That reflects for the first time, how many touchpoints today’s customers have with a brand, before they buy a product. They receive personalised advertisement, based on their transactions and search results on social media channels and transferred to the brand’s website, a specific product or service. Compared with a few years ago, consumers now have the opportunity to use comparison portals and read product reviews to find the most suitable product.

The role of social media

One way to share experiences with a specific product, service or even a retailer, are social media platforms. The comment fields on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and much more platforms make it easy for customers to share their experiences with products and the oftentimes constructive criticism casts a better shopping experience with improved products. This shows that social media channels can change buying behaviour and have large impacts on brands.

There are also lots of positive impacts, the large quantity of touchpoints has on the success of retailers. They have the chance to present their products in a direct way to a very specific audience and work together with influencers, especially on Facebook and Instagram. This consideration stage, to apply it to the mentioned model of the classic customer journey, is still applicable, but include much more steps backwards and forwards across various channels. On average, it takes approximately five to seven touchpoints before retailers close a sale. This number is an affirmation of the large influence of new technologies and is likely to rise in the next years.

Conclusion

All these points show that we have moved from a linear journey, where the customer progresses from one step to the next, into a more networked environment where the customer hops from one place to another and influence the buying behaviour of others. That means retailers should implement a symbiotic relationship between social media platforms, digital stores and physical stores to be prepared for the increasing influence of technology and social media platforms in the next years.