The Modern Customer Journey with Small Businesses

30 Sep, 2020

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This year Forbes forecasts U.S. online sales to reach $709.78 billion, this represents the largest total in the history of e-commerce and only the beginning; Nielsen forecasts that e-commerce spending will more than double in the next 5 years. Yet many small businesses have faced difficult times in recent years, even before today's current challenges.

Small businesses with little or no online presence are perhaps the most vulnerable. This is not because people don’t still love local businesses: In the USA, every month, there are around 20 million searches for the term  ‘food near me’, a million searches for ‘Coffee near me’ and ‘ bars near me’ and, for the romantics, over half a million searches for ‘flower delivery’. The problem is that modern consumers are not able to find these businesses in the places they are looking online

In America, 80% of the total population and  96% of 18-29-year-olds own a smartphone. These numbers are increasing across the globe. These devices have totally changed the way we find anything that matters to us. The next time you want to find a new place for lunch, you will likely do these three things : 

First: you’ll Google places serving the type of food you want. 

Second: you'll identify a few nearby restaurants from Google Maps

Third: you’ll narrow your choices down to one, using recommendations from local directories and online reviews.  

Any business that doesn’t show up well at all three stages of this search process, or appears unfavorably, because of bad reviews or inaccurate business info, will lose the opportunity to serve you as a customer, it’s as simple as that.

We don’t just follow these three steps when we’re hungry. These are the steps we take whenever we want to do anything that matters. These three steps are part of what marketers refer to as the modern customer journey. Small businesses have not adapted their marketing strategy to fit with the habits of the modern consumer.

A recent study from Deloitte found that 81% of SMBs in the United States do not have 

- Access to data insights to market and personalize products

- Access to advanced marketing tools such as SEO

- An advanced website that is able to process domestic and international sales 

*From Deloitte's study The performance of Small and Medium-Sized Businesses in a digital world

So what can small businesses do to solve this problem? Let’s take a closer look at the modern customer journey and find out

The Modern  Customer Journey

Marketing experts have a variety of different takes on the number of steps that exist in the modern customer journey but all of them refer to the following key areas.

The Modern Customer Journey: A Broader Approach  

The multi-channel nature of Digital Marketing means that the number of channels consumers use to find out about new businesses is broadening every year. Here are some of the most important channels that every business needs to have a well-managed presence on 

-Organic results on Search Engines (especially Google)

-Paid ads on the Google Search Network

-Social Media

-Local Directories and online review sites

-Online maps

Anyone of these channels could be the one that modern consumers use to find a business. So the first goal of local businesses is to improve their presence on as many of these channels as possible. Those times when just having a listing in the phonebook was enough for small businesses are long gone!

The Modern Customer Journey: The Changing Role of Location:  

Most of us use the maps and navigation features on our phones to find our way around. This in itself is an important reason why businesses need to have all their important information online and be found on Google Maps, but this is not the key role location plays. What the modern consumer finds online is entirely dependent on their location, especially when it comes to searches for products and businesses nearby. The modern customer journey is more focused than ever before on the user's location. To make sure small businesses achieve the right visibility in local searches they need to have

-Consistent listings in all the most important local directories for their industry

-An SEO strategy that factors in the right keywords for local searches

-A professional presence on local maps and Google My Business

-Creating this is the best way of ensuring that customers in your area, searching for your services, find you.

The Modern  CustomerJourney: Reviews & Research

After a business has been found online most potential customers won’t type in their credit card details or make that trip into town until a business has gained their trust. We know that 40% of consumers will not use a business with negative reviews and 94% of customers have gone elsewhere because of bad reviews. To stay in the game small businesses need to professionally manage their online reviews and social media. They should 

-Track negative and positive references to their business on Social Media to encourage positivity and resolve any issues that could turn into bad reviews

-Respond quickly and constructively to  negative reviews

-Make sure they have clearly visible profiles in all of the most important review sites and encourage satisfied customers to leave reviews

Doing this won’t just lead to more conversions it will also help the businesses to outperform their competition. Many customers use reviews as the deciding factor when making comparisons. A strong review profile will also help businesses to be found by more customers. Positive reviews are powerful signals for search engines like Google, contributing to better ranking and increased visibility in searches. 

Becoming Part of the Modern Customer Journey

rankingCoach 360 is specially designed to make small businesses visible in all the places crucial during the modern customer journey. For an affordable price, you can now get top SEO rankings, create Google Ads campaigns to generate traffic and leads, manage your business’s social media profile, reviews, and local directory presence, and of course, keep an eye on the competition. You can do this easily yourself with the few minutes you have to spare each week, with no prior Digital marketing experience required. 

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