Google recently assembled key findings. With the power of mobile devices, customers are officially research-obsessed.
These emerging, mobile-first, in-the-moment inquiries are giving customers the ability to do more than discover options and solutions. They’re guiding them to optimize forthcoming real-world experiences. To clarify, research is unlocking newfound customer sensations, giving them the ability to start their experience earlier in their journey. This creates anticipation and unearths new opportunities for brand engagement to help customers explore, imagine and plan their endeavors ahead of time. Beyond that, these digital steps advance the sensations of a physical experience, thus becoming part of the experience itself.
According to Google, these early stages of research help customers “curate their experiences before they go,” and “helps them get excited, lets them feel more confident and less anxious, and makes them feel like they’re getting the most out of every moment.” In other words, customers are expressing intent and their desire to learn more is creating valuable portals for assistance and engagement.
I’d argue that for most brand experiences, these powerful moments are left to chance, to the customer’s own devices. This means that there are missed opportunities right now. This also indicates that there are tremendous opportunities for brands right now.
To understand customer behavior is an act to get to know them. Once you start to realize what they do and why, you gain an appreciation and hopefully inspiration to introduce new touch points or guideposts to better assist them and build anticipation.
In its research, Google found three reasons why people want to learn and know more leading to their upcoming experience.
1. Research helps them get excited
If you’re like me, when you search for local restaurants, you also explore the menu to find out what you would order, look at pictures to see what it’s like and where to sit, read reviews to learn the ins/outs and gain a preview of what’s to come. According to Google’s research, these sorts of activities build excitement.
For example, Google learned that when planning a dinner, customers will search “best thing to eat at a restaurant,” or to find a “restaurant with good desserts.” Or, when they’re planning a vacation, hey might look for the “best things to do in Fiji” or “reviews of top restaurants in Maui.”
These activities focus their research to help them personalize and optimize their experience.
2. Research gives customers confidence
Time and resources are precious. People want to get the most from their experiences and set out to learn everything they can beforehand. As one customer shared with Google, “…I just don’t like looking or feeling lost. It just gives me anxiety.”
In one example, Google found that mobile searches for “wait times” is up 120% in the last two years. Personally, I do this for pretty much anything where lines are likely, popular restaurants, theme parks, new movies, etc. The reason why we do this is that we want to manage expectations or learn about better windows for when to visit.
Google also shared spikes in pre-travel research, where mobile consumers are learning everything from the value of local currency to whether or not they should tip service providers as a way of understanding local customs.
According to another customer who spoke with Google, it’s all about confidence, “I try to look up information beforehand because it really helps save time and you’re much more confident when you’re going to a particular place knowing where, exactly, you’re heading.”
3. Research helps customers have the best experience
What this all boils down to is that customers are taking control of the experiences they want to have, and technically, they are buying. They are also looking to discover something new, different, or less-known. One such customer revealed why, “I feel like I need to research so that we don’t miss anything big, and so we can find those hidden gems that make a trip special.”
Customers are informed, empowered and are choosing not to take a traditional brand’s “word” for the promised experience. Connected customers are educating themselves to ensure they get the best experience possible and to avoid a negative encounter. Research helps curtail buyer’s remorse. This sentiment was shared by another customer, “I wanted to research so I wouldn’t have regrets.”
It’s time for brands to rethink the customer journey, the touch points and the marketing that define the customer experience today. The only way to do so is through the perspective of customer. After all, this isn’t as much about “customer experience” as it is the customer’s experience. What we’ve learned from Google’s ongoing research is that the customer’s experience starts much earlier in the journey than most marketers recognize.
Brands must move beyond traditional marketing and customer experiences to become part of the consideration. The key here is to map engagement beyond conversion. To win, brand must also deliver value at critical stages between early discovery and the actual experience.
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