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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.

Matthew Kates

Published 5 February, 2014 by Matthew Kates

Matt Kates is Vice President, Strategic Services at HelloWorld and is a contributor to Econsultancy.

19 more posts from this author

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Crystal Leaver

Integrating mobile engagement into every step of the purchase cycle is another strategy to consider. With smartphones within reach almost every hour of the day, retail mobile apps can increase loyalty and engagement. For example, the Lowe's app has shopping lists that shoppers can make before their trip, a product locator and store specific search for use in-store, and integration to the MyLowe's loyalty program for post purchase benefits.

almost 3 years ago

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Aryan

I agree all the above strategies are good, but somewhere in the process i doubt that companies are not focusing on people who are not much tech friendly. Many senior citizens don't use tech gadget and they still prefer old mediums but no one would like to focus on traditional method of selling. What you say ?

almost 3 years ago

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Barbara Hoover

Thanks for sharing these tips Mathew. It's very worthy to read.

almost 3 years ago

Pete Austin

Pete Austin, CINO at Fresh Relevance

Brands must also stop customers from being stolen by the competition, during the purchase process. This is why real-time email marketing such as cart and browse abandonment are so effective, with our data showing a 10% sales increase.
http://www.triggeredmessaging.com/blog/real-time-marketing-report-for-january-20142

Just one scenario: when brands are available widely but have limited supply, such as air flights or fashion goods, a shopper may find your site via google, browse through the available products and put one in your cart to reserve it, then leave for a few minutes to check with friends and family. When she returns, she googles for the product and ideally finds your site to complete the purchase - but what if she finds a competitor site? Then she will buy from them and you've lost the sale. Unless of course you sent a real-time abandonment email to call her back.

almost 3 years ago

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Rida Musbah

Thank you Matthew, it is really helpful. Just want to take the advantage of being here and ask you this question; which phase of this purchase cycle - before, during, and after - is the most important in maximizing brand's sale. In other words, which is worth more profitably; bring a new consumer or develop a strong relationship with an old one?

almost 3 years ago

Matthew Kates

Matthew Kates, VP, Strategic Services at HelloWorld (formerly ePrize)

Aryan – good point on not overlooking the less tech savvy consumers. This post was focused on how digital can impact the path to purchase but it's only one piece of a holistic marketing mix. Many times companies make the mistake of thinking of digital versus traditional as two separate marketing execution decisions. The optimal way of looking at it is how these two forms complement each other by extending reach or enhancing an experience. A brand should never leave a key demographic out of their overall marketing efforts but at the same time that shouldn't stop them from taking advantage of new technologies to create richer engagement experiences for specific segments. As for less tech savvy senior citizens, while there is truth in what you say, an interesting fact is that one of my company's biggest client's is AARP - so while digital might not be as pervasive as it would be for people in their 20's, it definitely continues to expand its reach and impact.

Thanks for your feedback,
Matt

almost 3 years ago

Matthew Kates

Matthew Kates, VP, Strategic Services at HelloWorld (formerly ePrize)

Hi Rida – Good question ("which phase of this purchase cycle - before, during, and after - is the most important in maximizing brand's sale. In other words, which is worth more profitably; bring a new consumer or develop a strong relationship with an old one?").

Depending on who you ask, most people will say it costs 4-10 times as much to acquire a new customer than it is to retain an existing one. Because of the high cost of attracting new customers, you want to maximize the value of the existing customer relationship. You can do that at every phase of the purchase cycle.

Additionally, one of the best ways to attract new customers is by leveraging your existing customer base for things like advocacy, referrals and product feedback. There have been several studies that show that referred customers are more profitable and more valuable than non-referred customers. In one Wharton School of Business study, they found that the average value of a referred customer is at least 16% higher than that of a non-referred customer.

Thanks for your question,
Matt

almost 3 years ago

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