The path-to-purchase is getting shorter: Consumers are not only making purchase decisions faster, but also, condensing customer journey stages to mere moments.

For example, consider the instance that ‘awareness’ and ‘consideration’ stages happen in the same moment. Among the 100 billion searches Google processes every month, a growing number of those searches are queries of extremes. New data from Google shows a significant increase in consumers searching for products ‘to avoid’ and ‘the worst’, increasing 1.5x since 2015, and mobile searches for ‘the best’ have grown 80%.

This seemingly subtle change in behavior signals a more dramatic shift in the content consumers want when making purchase decisions, as well as their expectations when receiving that information. Amid the wealth of content available and its proximity to consumers today, consumers are able to research and validate their consideration for products they need or desire within moments of their initial discovery.

Consumers’ need and expectation for in the moment validation indicates a new language of trust and desire for transparency is driving digital commerce that marketers need to communicate in the moment of consumer demand, as well as an accelerated path-to-purchase.

With consumers expecting in the moment validation, marketers must make sure that they’re communicating with prospective shoppers across all touchpoints, and doing so in ways that build trust.

Consumers Seek Out and Rely on Influencer-Generated Content (IGC) and User-Generated Content (UGC) at Each Touchpoint, Accelerating Intent to Buy at Every Stage of the Path-to-Purchase

consumers accelerated path to purchase

Influencer-generated and user-generated content positively impacts every touchpoint of today’s modern customer decision journey, proven to drive discovery, increase consideration and purchase intent, and even prime consumers to be more receptive to brand advertising. And every positive interaction not only continues to reinforce the behavior of relying on influencer-generated and user-generated content to make a decision, but also leads to more positive brand engagement overall.

According to recent research published by Northeastern marketing professor Koen Pauwels in the Journal of Marketing, not all social media is created equal. Owned social media—that is, a company’s own tweets, Facebook posts, or YouTube videos—is likely to increase brand awareness and customer satisfaction but not purchase intent. Rather, what consumers say about brands on these channels—is even more valuable, potentially increasing all three consumer mindset metrics.

This is effective because of who and how consumers trust today. According to Rachel Botsman, the leading expert on consumer trust in the digital age, “Trust and influence now lie more with the people – families, friends, coworkers, even strangers – than with top-down elites, experts and authorities. [Today’s] an age where individuals matter more than institutions, and where customers are social influencers who define brands.”

Simply put, from Botsman, institutional trust was not designed for the Digital Age. With trust in all four major institutions at an all time low, what marketers say about a brand is no longer seen as credible.

Trust is highly contextual, with the convergence of modern tech, digital commerce, and social media driving a fundamental shift in consumer behavior towards democratized influence and distributed trust, power and information that flows laterally across digital communities among consumers (most who have never met in real life).

As a result of this shift in trust from institutions to individuals, the impact of influencer-generated and user-generated content when shared at specific touchpoints is significant. As such, marketers have developed influencer, advocacy, referral and loyalty programs in response at rapid rates. But as singular tactics, that impact is limited to that one touchpoint at that point in time – hardly enough to be able to adapt to today’s accelerated path-to-purchase.

The potential, more substantial impact of these influence-led marketing tactics remains not in their singular execution – but in the cumulative impact of all together executed as a cohesive content strategy.

But how to leverage and achieve that potential? The third playbook for our Influencer Marketing & Relations in 2018 series – Accelerating Trust & Transparency in the Customer Journey Using Influencer-Generated Content – details how influencer-generated and user-generated content produced as a result of seemingly disparate word-of-mouth marketing programs validates consumer confidence and communicates transparency at every touchpoint. As such, we also share how you can use influencer-generated and user-generated content to make smarter marketing decisions, and the adaptations you can make today to align and operationalize your current influence-led programs with your greater marketing strategies to execute all in concert, together, in order to accelerate the path-to-purchase. Download your copy, here.