Digital marketers today love to talk about the customer journey. While badly overused, this term conceals a hidden truth: journeys take a long time. A trip to the grocery store is not a journey. A walk to the corner shop to pick up a coffee is not a journey. Journeys take planning and effort.
Nonetheless, “customer journey” feels quite right for how people have digitally shopped, and especially in the West. Amazon and its many Shopify-fueled contemporaries are great for considered purchases. When marketers talk about reviews, experiences, advocacy and evangelism, they are not discussing how people buy chewing gum or a pack of spaghetti. They’re talking about investigating something shoppers want to get right: electronics, a high-end cooler or a pair of sunglasses.
By contrast, corner stores are all about impulse buys. You go in for a coffee, see a roll of breath mints and realize that you are out of them. You grab them, even though they had been the furthest thing from your mind when you walked in the store.
Impulse buying certainly can happen in digital. In China, for example, livestream commerce is highly popular and profitable. During events that often resemble entertainment awards shows, celebrities and influencers pitch products at steep discounts, which are then snapped up by eager consumers. While it’s not certain why this particular model has become so popular in the country, it has not caught on as much elsewhere.
Nonetheless, Western marketers shouldn’t lose hope. A range of new developments is making it much easier for them to sell in the moment, and especially in places where people are consuming content today: podcasts, eSports events, social media platforms and even inside creator communities.
Until now, these platforms have been much better for awareness and commerce. They’ve been a good place to put a logo or partner with the popular content creator rather than actually sell. Part of the reason is that they are quite sticky: people don’t like to jump off a podcast or creator video to view a product, no matter how enthusiastically it is promoted. That creates an air gap between experiences that weighs heavily on conversion rates.
So let’s look at a few ways marketers can get around this:
New fintech. Budgeting can be a big barrier to purchasing in the moment. Consumers, especially in inflationary times, need to know exactly how much something will cost them over the long term. Companies like Affirm, Klarna and Afterpay are known as “buy now, pay later” services, but they also make borrowing costs transparent and easy to understand. That is in turn producing more confident consumers at the point of purchase.
Shoppable everything. The world has had shoppable marketing for a while (the idea is to have a banner or other kind of advertisement that enables purchasing). But the ability to buy within an experience is growing every day. You can buy on popular social media platforms or through any number of widgets. As a result, people are able to complete a transaction, including shipping details, quickly and get back to what they were doing before.
Q-commerce. The rise of quick Q-commerce is enabling consumers to get goods fast, often in less than an hour. This means that consumers can benefit from a purchase almost immediately, increasing satisfaction and improving the chances they will buy on impulse. The Checkers Sixty60 app, which has 1.5 million downloads, offers grocery delivery in less than an hour across much of South Africa — and it has numerous in-country rivals.
Live commerce. For more considered purchases in the moment, you can now directly connect potential consumers with sales agents, often without leaving the content they are viewing. Known as live or conversational commerce, it can occur either through chat or video, enabling people to get answers and information fast.
Taken together, these different technologies should enable brands to hasten customer journeys — and perhaps stop calling them “journeys” at all. Instead, they will be able to offer a more fluid and flexible set of possibilities that can take a person who was not even a prospect and turn them into a shopper quite rapidly. In other words, they can enable impulse buying.
The final point is that although impulse buying has a bad rap, it really shouldn’t in digital. Rather than a passive experience, digital impulse buying works only when it empowers the consumer with all the information needed to make a purchase in the moment. As a result, the customer controls the experience and gets a more satisfying result, quicker than ever before.
Dragorad Knezi, CEO and Founder of eyezon, is a marketing communications expert with 15 years’ experience as a strategic planning director and CSO in the most prominent international advertising networks in the CIS and CEE. Building product and brand strategy from scratch for some of the largest international advertisers, such as P&G, Unilever, Loreal, The Coca Cola Company, Mars LLC, Renault and Audi, Knezi is also an advisor and mentor to several AdTech and MediaTech accelerator programs in Eastern Europe. A strong and insightful conceptual thinker, he combines his mathematical education with a degree in Philosophy and History of Art.