What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think about customer retention?
If you’re like most people, it’s probably some aspect of post-sale customer service. Something like an effortless onboarding experience, providing excellent support, or following up to see if new customers are happy with their service – all of which are crucial to retaining your customer base.
However, in order to fully optimize customer retention, you need to look back even further.
That is, you need to reframe retention as something that starts at the very beginning of the customer journey.
Better Retention Begins with Understanding Pre-Purchase Behaviors
Tracking who’s buying what is easy enough. But knowing who’s buying what and why? That’s a bit more difficult.
One of the best ways to understand how your customers’ make purchasing decisions is to study their pre-purchase behaviors.
The pre-purchase experience not only influences how likely someone is to become a customer, but also how likely they are to remain a loyal customer.
If you can learn more about the actions that lead your customers from awareness through to purchase, then you can optimize those interactions to improve conversions and retention.
Let’s take a look at the stages of the pre-purchase journey, including what pre-purchase customer retention metrics you should track and why providing excellent pre-purchase customer service is critical to long-term success.
Tracking Online vs. Offline Pre-Purchase Measurements
Understanding the pre-purchase experience means figuring out how (and why) your future customers learn about your brand, research your product, and ultimately decide to make a purchase.
The first step to tracking pre-purchase measurements is recognizing that the modern customer journey occurs both online and off.
Consumers can take plenty of pre-purchase actions online, from comparing products and reading reviews online to exploring pricing options on your website and engaging with your brand on social media.
By tracking product video views, clicks on ads, and other interactions with your website or social pages, you can gain a better understanding of how these consumer actions are linked to completing a purchase.
However, unless your business is based purely on e-commerce, there’s a parallel set of interactions taking place offline.
Depending on your product and market, consumers might encounter your brand at a tradeshow, speak to a sales rep, or visit a physical store.
While these offline interactions can be a bit harder to track, you can use something as simple as a follow-up email survey for new customers to find out more about their pre-purchase experience. For example, ask how they found out about your brand, whether they’ve ever visited one of your stores, how much research they conducted before buying, and which channels influenced their decision.
Remember, the goal here is to collect more data about pre-purchase customer behavior, thought-processes, and interactions. The more you know about how people engage with your business (both online and off), the more likely you can use that information to optimize customer experiences and encourage long-term customer loyalty.
The Pre-Purchase Customer Journey
Now, let’s break down the pre-purchase customer journey and discuss which customer retention metrics matter most at each stage.
Stage 1: Discovery and Awareness
This stage marks the beginning of each customers’ journey. They’ve just discovered your brand and are developing an awareness of your products or services.
Your marketing team works hard to drive this interest in your products and develop your brand image. So, the most valuable metrics to track at this point include ad impressions vs. clicks, website traffic, and anything else that helps quantify brand awareness.
The way consumers perceive your brand influences how likely they are to consider making a purchase. To optimize the customer experience at this stage, you need to consider the following questions:
- How many potential customers have looked at our products online?
- How many potential customers have visited us in-store?
- How many people saw or clicked on our ad?
- Is our social presence or email list growing?
Stage 2: Research and Consideration
At this stage, potential customers seek out information about your brand, product, and pricing. They read online reviews, ask for recommendations, and compare your offerings and product features to those of competitors.
The marketing goal here is persuading potential customers to interact with your brand online. Positive interactions during the pre-purchase journey are key to building long-lasting customer relationships.
So, you should be thinking about how to track and measure inbound traffic, online interactions, and social media engagement. To do so, we suggest keeping the following questions in mind:
- Where is our inbound web traffic coming from?
- How much time do people who visit our website spend on each page?
- How many people use live chat to ask pre-purchase questions – and what are they asking about?
- How often do people engage with us on social media?
Stage 3: The Buying Decision
Once a customer is confident that your product or service is the right choice for their needs, they’re ready to dive in and make a purchase.
At this point, you should be tracking conversions and the actions that take place leading up to the sale. Your goal is to pinpoint which interactions are most likely to result in a purchase.
For instance, tracking micro-conversions can tell you a lot about consumer behaviors and patterns that lead to long-term customers. This might include things like opting in to receive your newsletter, responding to your live chat welcome message, contacting your team by phone, email, or message, or clicking an equivalent of “learn more” to find out about a product or service.
Some of the questions you should consider at this stage include:
- What actions do customers take leading up to a sale?
- How do our pre-purchase metrics impact revenue? (For instance, do certain interactions correlate to larger purchases or longer customer life cycles?)
- What is our conversion rate?
- What factors can be adjusted to improve our conversions?
Tracking customer data and interactions on your website allow you to identify behavioral patterns that inform how you can optimize the pre-purchase experience to turn more consumers into customers.
Tips for a Better Pre-Sale Experience
1. Ask for reviews
Positive reviews and recommendations are a valuable form of advertising that can help you attract, convert, and retain the right type of customers.
A whopping 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations from people they know, so if you can encourage existing happy customer to write online reviews or even provide personal recommendations, you’re on your way to connecting with the right leads.
2. Develop buyer personas
If you’re not targeting the right type of customers, the pre-purchase experience is going to suffer. The more accurately you can pinpoint each customer persona (and the behaviors associated with it), the better you can tailor every aspect of the customer journey to meet and exceed expectations.
We recommend creating buyer personas based on your existing customer data as well as your ideal customer. These personas will help guide your marketing, sales, and customer support teams in providing exceptional customer experiences.
3. Provide pre-purchase support (AKA lead nurturing)
Your lead nurturing strategy should involve treating potential buyers like they’re already customers. And, since you value your customers, you should value your leads the same way.
Depending on who you ask, businesses need to interact with a potential customer 5-12 times before they’re ready to commit to a purchase. This gives you plenty of opportunities to make a positive impression and showcase the benefits of buying from your team.
If they call or message your team with pre-purchase questions, be helpful, friendly, and share self-service resources with them.
4. Maximize the role of customer service
Most companies think of customer service as a post-purchase offering. However, excellent pre-purchase customer service might just be your secret weapon for improving your customer retention metrics.
In fact, delivering amazing pre-purchase support allows you to differentiate yourself from the competition and win over customers who are otherwise undecided. Especially since only 15% of companies consider customer service to be a core component of their brand identity.
So, create information self-service resources (like an FAQ section or knowledge base on your site) to guide potential customers in their decision-making, reply promptly to inquiries, use AI-powered chatbots to offer 24/7 live chat support, and do whatever you can to provide high-quality pre-purchase customer service.
Make Your First Impression Count
The key takeaway from all of this? Customer service plays a vital role in converting potential customers into long-term clients.
If you’re not familiar with Google’s concept of Moment Zero, the idea is that each consumers’ pre-purchase experiences (from awareness to research to deciding to buy) are part of a countdown to the moment they become a customer. Basically, certain actions bring them closer to purchasing and Moment Zero is when the switch flips from pre-purchase to the post-purchase journey.
Building a positive customer relationship begins with the very first interaction. When you start to envision pre-purchase experiences as an integral aspect of the customer journey (rather than a separate journey of its own), it only makes sense to treat customer service and support as part of your pre-purchase strategy.
Create Better Experiences at Every Stage of the Customer Journey
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