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How Digital Marketing Influences Sales for Small Businesses

Understand your customers' purchase journey

Understand customer purchase journeyWe all know that marketing your product online is vital for a product based small business. In 2013, 72% of all adults bought goods or services online, up from 53% in 20081. The number of people who buy online in 2016 is set to be even higher. The challenge for you as a small business comes when trying to decide the most effective online channels to spend your time and marketing budget on. This is when it helps to understand your customer’s purchase journey. Armed with this knowledge you can then plan your sales strategy intelligently.

You might be surprised to know that a potential customer may visit your website many times before actually completing their purchase. Initially your potential customer needs to know that your product exists. This awareness raising phase is the beginning of your customer’s purchase journey and is unlikely to lead to a direct sale there and then. Some marketing channels, such as social media, can be vital methods of awareness raising at the beginning of your customer’s purchase journey, but they rarely show up in the stats as triggering a sale. Look at these two graphs from ‘Think With Google’, which demonstrates the big impact social media and Google Adwords can have at the beginning of a customer’s purchase journey:


Customer Purchase Journey via Social Media   Customer Purchase Journey via Paid Search 

Once aware of your product your customer then needs to consider their purchase, so keeping in touch with them using methods such as Display Ads, newsletters and social media is vital. As you can see from the graphs above, social media and Google Adwords also play a vital role in reminding your customer about your product as they consider their purchase, as does email:


Customer Purchase Journey via email 


By the time your customer is ready to buy, a week may have elapsed and, as your can see from the graph below, they may visit your website directly to complete their purchase.


Customer Purchase Journey via Direct

Images from Think With Google.


As you can see from the graphs above, although 36% of customer purchases from a small shopping business come through a direct visit, 42% of customers began their purchase journey on social media, 39% from an Adwords campaign and 35% via an email.

To find out more about the route customers take to complete a purchase on your website, you need Google Analytics installed. You can then access data to see which online traffic sources led to sales. Here’s one example:


Digital Marketing Conversion Paths from Google Analytics


In this example, although all of the purchases were made by customers coming directly from an organic Google search or a direct visit,  social media (social network) and Google Ads (paid search) played a vital part in triggering interest in the product at the beginning of the purchase journey. 

So what can we learn from analysing our customer purchase journey?  As you can see from the images above, different marketing channels have different roles to play at different points in your customer’s purchase journey. It is vital to cast your net as widely as possible to reach your potential customers and to keep in contact with them whilst they are considering their purchase.

Use this handy online tool from Google to view the impact of different marketing channels at the beginning, middle and end of your customer’s online purchase journey.


Marie Leverett


1 Office for National Statistics


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