The need states

Content is about fulfilling needs. I don’t just mean need fulfilment in the form of a purchase. Along the decision journey towards purchase, the customer will experience a variety of need states that lead them from touchpoint to touchpoint along the path to fulfilment.  

Need states undulate through a spectrum of emotions: ‘Thrill me, Impress me, Surprise me, Educate me, Help me, Reassure me.’ So, the journey to fulfilment is a bit of a rollercoaster…  

Content strategists analyse online behaviours at each journey phase, inferring emotional need states to be met. Then, we identify key content topics and angles to fulfil these needs and guide the customer forward. Without clear mapping of customer need states, their emotional triggers, and the decision journey they make towards a purchase, we lack understanding of those we’re trying to sell to. Without feeling understood, the customer – who always has the upper hand – will be lost to a more empathetic competitor.

These six emotional need states are mutable, appearing at different stages of the decision journey – depending on the product or service the customer is looking for. The decision journey – the customer’s real lived experience – is, however, fixed.   

The decision journey

The path to fulfilment – that emotional rollercoaster’s rails – is what we call the decision journey. It comprises the entire customer experience, the phases all customers go through as they learn about, choose, purchase, and experience a product.   

Let’s illustrate these journey phases, and the emotional need states along the way. The seamless, well-optimised need state mapping, and the ways that brands guide customers towards purchases is a significant journey to consider and take on board. 

1. Trigger phase

The Trigger phase tends to begin offline, stimulated by external factors in the customer’s life that create the need for a product. As soon as the need for a certain product is sparked – a point coined as the zero moment of truth – the journey begins.   

Your searches and social behaviour data (accessed in your Google and Facebook settings) pick up certain interests, which is how brands can then identify you as their target audience. 

2. Exploration

Once triggered, the customer enters the Exploration phase, where they begin researching information that will expand their knowledge and inform them of their options. This is usually where traffic on your website will build, as potential, researching customers look through to source more information, or even variations, of what they are after. 

It is best when content on a site is helpful, clear, well signposted, and offers tailored information. This overall reassures consumers that the company was legitimate and educational.

3. Evaluation

As their knowledge grows, the customer begins evaluating; assessing their shortlisted options and moving in on the product and brand that best fulfils their need and the experience that they desire. If no option satisfies this need, they’ll return to the Exploration phase – looping between Exploration and Evaluation until they find the right fit.   

While the Exploration phase is expansive, as the customer researches a broad range of content, Evaluation is inherently reductive; time to narrow down the options. During this time is where customers may start to see advertisements for an array of competitors across social media, usually.

This will in turn create some decision-making and weighing-up of options for your potential customers. This is where and why your site’s content – the breadth and depth, voice of the brand, and accessibility – is so significant. It may ultimately be those deciding factors on your site that wins the customer over. 

4. Experience

Once the suitable option is decided upon, the customer acts; they make their purchase. But the journey’s not over yet. A good brand will continue to deliver high-quality content, tailored to the emotional need states of the post-purchase phase and capitalise on that positive customer experience.   

5. Evaluation

The Evaluation phase is the final part of this customer journey and considers many factors. Where a product may be recreational and not a pressing need, for example, customers can therefore take their time to decide what their verdict is. But what tips the balance and often makes people act? Influencer marketing.   

Many things contribute to influencer marketing, including – relatability of the influencers used in video content, the time of year (Christmas-specific content about your product in winter, for example). These simply boost your customer’s positive attitude towards your brand following the help, education, reassurance and thrills they’d enjoyed while learning about your brand and product.   

Where this evaluation is successful, a customer’s experience with your business continues. They will still receive ads and other content (of the same products, or brand new) to remind them that they do intend to buy from you again.   

Don’t underestimate your content strategy

Content strategy contributing to the decision journey.

Consumer journeys are likely the result of a powerful cross-channel, cross-departmental project. While the Audience Intelligence team performs search and social listening to understand sentiment and identify likely buyers, SEO runs deep keyword research. This keyword research forms the backbone of data from which the Content team creates its strategy.   

Content strategists analyse the data provided by the SEO and Audience Intelligence teams, along with the client’s existing on- and off-site content to put together a highly detailed strategy that maximises conversions. The intelligence gleaned from research creates accurate customer journeys, with content mapped to emotional triggers, and channel focus across each journey stage.   

The client can then be provided with recommendations for refreshes to existing site content and for new site content based on the strategy’s findings. Production of visual assets for social media and elsewhere is briefed to the Design team, along with accompanying social copy. The Paid Social team then put together their own strategy, targeting, and promotion to draw in potential buyers at the appropriate stage of their journey.   

Need fulfilment

Every journey and customer experience begins with a need. Sometimes you know what will fulfil this need from the start; other times, you may not realise you even have a need until it’s being met. The enduring human search for satisfaction forms the places you find yourself, the decisions you make, and whose advice you take along the way.   

A successful company has the ability to make customers feel ‘seen’. From its branding and messaging to the content served at each stage of the journey, consumers can feel understood and catered to on an almost personal level

The Content team’s job is to learn and understand the customers’ individual needs, delivering a fulfilling experience and purchase journey at every touchpoint. This powerful digital user journey fosters positive sentiment brand loyalty and repeat purchases. Simple when you think about it.  

Post Views: 689