The benefits of a pre-purchase engagement loop
Are you looking to buy something every time you pick up your phone or jump on your computer? I know you aren’t. But, you are almost always looking to be entertained or looking to solve a problem.
Brands that are only creating ads designed to help a customer find what they are looking for (search ads), pay for what they looked at before (retargeting), or create an impulse buy (social ads), are assuming that shoppers are… always shopping.
Today’s top brands know that they need to create engagement with the customer long before they actually make the purchase. I call this the Pre-Purchase Engagement Loop and it’s the first step in a strong ecommerce retention strategy.
Someone won’t buy from you every day but they might consume your content daily.
What is a Pre-Purchase Engagement Loop?
A cycle of activities that shoppers can continually engage with before they make a purchase.
This is the loop you create with activities that are designed to provide ongoing value to potential customers before they even purchase from you. This is usually done through social media or through content production.
The goal is to give shoppers a reason to engage with you before they are ready to make a purchase. This is almost always done by being entertaining or educating potential customers.
Here are two examples of a pre-purchase loop using very different mediums:
The Benefits of a Pre-Purchase Engagement Loop
One of the most common objections I get to building this loop is that it takes too long to see the results. Those same people will be calling me in 1 to 2 years trying to solve a ridiculously high cost per acquisition and razer slim margins.
When you give shoppers a reason to be engaged with your brand even when they are not actively shopping you always have their attention. That comes with a TON of long term benefits and an inexpensive acquisition engine.
A daily reason to engage with your audience
Establish your brand as the authority on a topic
A low-cost acquisition channel
Higher retention rates
More referrals (even from those who haven’t bought)
Building this loop is very similar to building a customer community, which Eric Bandholz of Practical Ecommerce and Beardbrand sums up really nicely in this podcast episode.
Building Your Pre-Purchase Engagement Loop
You now know what this loop is and the benefits. So… How do you build one? Glad you asked, let's dig into that.
1. Choose your medium
Choosing where you want to build your loop or community is a daunting task. Many brands get so caught up in picking the right place to start that they forget to pick at all. There is no right medium, only the right one for you.
Some mediums are more popular than others in ecommerce like Instagram, Facebook groups, and Youtube,but popular also means crowded.
I have seen many brands see crazy success building their loop on Tik Tok, as well as channels that are seen as more B2B marketing plays like Linkedin, a blog, or an email newsletter.
Pro tip: Choose one or two and start building. It's hard to keep people engaged across too many channels and consistency is key. Pick one and stick with it, results will take time.
2. Choose your theme
If you are just getting started with content, I recommend you create a super niche. Be as specific and narrow on a topic potential customers care about. This seems counterintuitive but with so much content already out there, you will have a hard time standing out if you don’t.
Here’s what I mean:
Men’s Fashion ❌
Men’s Street Style ❌
Men’s Street Style for Dads ✅
As you gain clout you can expand what you cover but to kickstart your pre-purchase loop starting narrow/niche is best.
Pro tip: Don’t try to be salesy with your pre-purchase loop. You want to be educational and entertaining. The goal is to give someone a reason to pay attention every day, not try to sell something daily.
3. Build a cadence
Decide how often you are going to produce something. This will vary greatly depending on the medium you chose. Whether it's daily or weekly, stick to it. Consistency is what gets results with content and community building.
Pro tip: Be realistic when you start, don’t over commit before you know what you are doing. It will just become demotivating.
4. Provide an easy path to a purchase
Remember, this is not designed to be a “advertising channel.” You don't want to be constantly pushing your products. That said, you don’t want to be hiding them either.
Make sure that you are always providing an easy path for people to discover your products and your site. Instead of a blog post on “why my widgets are superior to others” try a post that goes over the materials you use and why they are superior.
In the blog post example above you can have a link in the header that goes to your full catalog of products and have links in the post that go to specific product pages. Allow people to discover your product once they are engaged rather than forcing it on them.
Pro tip: If you are sending traffic to your site from a loop you created on a social platform or other domain, use UTMs to track those shoppers once they hit your site.
You won't be able to measure your pre-purchase loop with metrics that are common in acquisition and advertising. It's difficult to look at ROAS of your time producing content or conversion rate of a post.
Instead of trying to measure each thing you create, I recommend starting with easy ways to measure how effective the strategy is overall. If you have ecommerce tracking set up in Google Analytics this is dead simple.
Just make sure that you build a UTM for any paths from your content/loop with a specific campaign name. That way you will be able to see how many people end up making a purchase from you that came in through these paths (also allows you to evaluate many conversions along the way).
Everytime you see a sale come from this pre-purchase loop you know that you are reducing your dependency on social ads, reducing your overall CAC, and building the foundations of a business built for long term success.
The Key Takeaways
The above was a lot, I get it! That is why I always include the key takeaways for you to grab at a glimpse.
No one will buy from you every day, but they might consume content daily
A pre-purchase loop keeps engagement till someone is ready to purchase
The biggest benefit of this loop is higher customer retention and repeat purchases
Choose one or two mediums and get started
Consistency > perfection
Be narrow at the start
Entertain and educate
Don’t try to measure everything pick one thing and measure it for the next few months