Three New Ways to Think About the Customer Journey

by Laura Schierberl

posted on 07-21-2016

At the end of the day, we all want happy customers. Given the high expectations of today’s customers, this is no easy task. People want brands to know them and to connect the dots as they constantly move between channels and devices. In fact, according to Infosys, 86 percent of consumers say personalization plays a role in their purchasing decisions.

Have you ever researched a product online and called to ask a few questions only to be treated as a brand new customer when you decide to purchase a month later? No bueno.

The real question is: How do you achieve this level of familiarity with every single customer at every single stage of the customer journey? It takes more than connecting your marketing technologies and internal teams (which is a huge challenge in and of itself, don’t get me wrong). What I’m talking about is really understanding — and tapping into — the latest trends and technologies that are impacting the way your customers behave and interact with your brand.

Creating a consistent, seamless customer journey is one thing, but being able to do this while delighting and exceeding the expectations of your customers is marketing nirvana. Here are three fresh ways to think about connecting with your customers along their winding paths to purchase — with real examples from brands.

Use Mobile to Be More Human.
I know, I know — everyone has gone mobile. You know that already. What’s interesting is the way people are using their phones to connect with other people and the world around them. From the augmented reality of Pokémon Go to the immediacy of Facebook Messenger or Snapchat, your mobile phone is no longer where you painstakingly click around with fat fingers. You can have immersive, connected, beautiful experiences via mobile — and the brands that can find authentic ways to tap into that as part of the overall customer journey will benefit.

For example, check out how AT&T used Facebook’s 360º video to create a racecar driving experience on mobile that transports you. It quickly makes you feel human emotions like excitement, fear, and anticipation. And, the #StrongCan hashtag gives you a way to easily dial into the conversation online if you choose to.

Create Consistency Between Online and Offline Channels.
Today’s customers don’t think about being online or offline. They’re just thinking about how to best get whatever they need at a particular moment. As a result, consumers are switching between devices and channels like never before. According to Google, 90 percent of consumers use multiple devices to accomplish their goals throughout their paths to purchase.

So, as marketers, we need to think of online and offline engagements in a more cohesive manner. It’s not enough to know our customers at the beginnings or ends of their journeys — we must know them throughout. This means knowing — and acting on — their preferences, what they clicked on or called about, and how close they are to purchasing.

For example, Tuft & Needle claims to have the #1 rated mattress for the absolute best value, and they do a great job of spreading this message across channels. They know where you are in the purchase funnel and give you the right messages and resources across the channels and devices you use, ultimately driving you toward a purchase. Lots of other great brands have put together effective omnichannel marketing strategies too.

Have Real Conversations.
When we need to make big or complicated decisions, even the most advanced chatbots can’t hold a candle to a human conversation. In fact, in a recent survey of 2,000 US adults, Invoca found that more than twice as many people use their phones to call businesses in a month than fill out online forms, and millennials are three times as likely to call businesses than they are to tweet at them. Conversation is a bigger, more impactful part of the customer journey than I think most marketers realize, and we should be treating it like we treat every other marketing channel (e.g., email, social, web) in terms of being a critical step of the customer journey that we optimize for and measure.

If you need more validation about the rise of conversation, Facebook recently announced its Offline Conversions API, which enables marketers to optimize their Facebook advertising based on offline purchases (e.g., in-store or over the phone). Here’s a video explaining more. I would expect to see some brands taking advantage of this soon.

A Few Closing Thoughts
The customer journey will never be linear nor constant. It is the forever-evolving, driving force behind your marketing efforts. Avoid letting this overwhelm you by striving to do what’s right for your customers — not those of your competitors or peers. Make sure you’re creating seamless, consistent, and memorable experiences for your customers. Your customers will thank you, and the experiences you create will pay off.

Topics: Campaign Management, Digital Transformation

Products: Target