01 Mar Online Search Is Where Consumers Turn To Get Answers & Your Business Internet Marketing is What Answers Their Questions
Consumers today expect experiences that are consistent across every touchpoint. According to Salesforce, 76% of customers now report that it’s easier than ever to take their business elsewhere — switching from brand to brand to find an experience that matches these expectations.
Building your martech stack in service of channels rather than these diverse touchpoints is a marketing mistake. But even the quest to manage touchpoints misses a discussion of how and why consumers find a business in the first place. Why do consumers end up visiting a brand’s webpage, or clicking through a series of Yelp reviews? Where does the customer journey begin?
Every journey now starts with a search. This shift in consumer behavior has made search experience foundational to — and perhaps nearly synonymous with — the digital experience.
Shifts in the search paradigm have altered the digital experience.
Customers interact with businesses online because they have questions they want answered and needs they want met. Here’s a simple example: a customer doesn’t read your healthcare organization’s website or download your app for fun — they do so because they have a question about their health or because they need to see a doctor.
How does that tie into search? Online search is where consumers turn to get answers to their questions — and they’re doing so more than ever.
Advances in natural language processing have allowed people to interact more organically with search engines, and as a result, they’re searching more than ever. On average, people search 3–4x per day, and 90% of consumers report using search at every stage of their customer lifecycle. Google now sees more than 2 trillion overall searches per year, up from 73 billion in 2004 and 1.2 trillion in 2012. NLP has made search engines capable of answering even our most complex questions, and because of that, we want to search even more.
Search has also become the basis of every subsequent action we take. To return to the healthcare example, think about the process of booking an appointment with a new doctor. If we don’t have a doctor in mind, we search for a practice. If we already know a practice, we might search for physician reviews. Even if we navigate directly to a practice’s website, we’ll likely search on-site for a phone number or address. These digital touchpoints — from Yelp reviews, to Google Maps directions, to asking Alexa for a phone number — are ruled by search.
This happens throughout the purchase funnel. The customer journey no longer starts with a trip to the store. It starts with a question, and it encompasses the non-linear path that follows — meaning that search is redefining the marketing funnel.
Your search experience is now your DXP.
So, how does this all relate to your martech stack?
Let’s think about the concept of a Digital Experience Platform (DXP). Gartner defines a DXP as an “integrated software framework for engaging a broad array of audiences across a broad array of digital touchpoints.”
As Bloomreach shared in a blog post, the full definition of DXP is technical and multi-layered, but there are a couple of core principles that stand out. First, the need “to control a wide span of [digital] touchpoints” and second, “the need for one central platform to be the control center for this expanded experience.”
But as your customers search more and more — both on your website and across third-party services — any conversation about touchpoints must be centered around search experience. Engaging your customers means creating a captivating and seamless experience throughout the purchase funnel. To do this, your business must meet your customers at key moments throughout their journey, which means delivering answers wherever they’re searching.
Perhaps the most efficient way to manage your digital experience is through a platform that functions as a control center for the main way your customers discover and engage with your digital properties in the first place — search. In that sense, your search experience is your DXP.
If you aren’t managing your search experience as a foundational part of your marketing strategy, you’re missing one of the biggest ways customers today discover and engage with your brand.