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The changing face of customer journey & how it affects digital

2020 has begun with a huge challenge. It’s the same one from 2019 and from 2018, but amplified. There is how to tackle it in your digital campaigns and through understanding the new and ever more complicated customer journey.

 

What it means to be digitally-oriented

Digital transformation has taken the stage during the past year. 2019 was THE year businesses have realized that everything has to be personalized. Compared to the analog era, now customers first research products and services online. So much so, that the biggest search engines when it comes to products are already branched out depending on different industries.

Customers in the US market research products directly on Amazon. The world has embraced IoT – billions of devices are now connected and transmit consumer data. The future is automated and digital adoption in the business models is not optional anymore.

But digital transformation is not just about an online presence; it goes much further than this. It means that processes should be digitalized into functional wireframes that help customers as well as the internal staff prioritize quality.

Insight-first innovation is a type of approach that focuses not just on solving the pressing matters, but on maximizing long term chances of success through sustainable strategies. While digital advertising is merely a component of this MO, it does play a key role in the brand positioning and the message it conveys to customers, in a world where having a high-quality product is simply not enough anymore.

 

Digital interactions increasingly complex

What is a customer journey anyway?

Customer journey is the series of interactions between your customer and the brand from the first contact with a product or service until purchase. Of course, ideally it goes further than this – you’re supposed to invest in delighting your customers so that they return to your company and, eventually, become loyal to your business. There actually exists a lot of research supporting the idea that, business-wise, it is more intelligent to invest in delighting and maybe upselling to your existing customers versus acquiring new ones. If nothing else, because it is much cheaper this way.

The customer journey used to be linear and, so, predictable in a way. You used to hear about a brand, then ever so conveniently see ads or branded content and interact with them long enough to convince you to make a purchase.

Journey mapping is the science behind trying to understand the customer behavior and its intricacies – what the most important touchpoints are, what thought processes your customers go through.

The first classification that comes to mind is the one between B2B and B2C customers. B2B decision makers are more informed, they want to validate their decision through information-based processes (and the B2B decision-making process has been very far away from linear or from a funnel for quite some time), while B2C decision-making is more personal, more emotional. In other words, the sheer quality of your products is not enough to drive purchases.

It takes a lot more association between your customers and your brand to convince them they want to endorse you and validate your business through their purchases, especially now that customers have begun to be aware of their power to control the ever-shifting market.

Forrester’s buyer journey describing the complex funnel is not available anymore, as it depicts a reality in which the customer interacts with the brand in a predictable manner when, in fact, the marketing mix looks more like a maze.

The customer behavior is changing as fast as technology evolves, which is why brands have to be authentic and purposeful in order to maintain relevance.

Digital purchase - pay by phone

Why journeys are not linear in 2020 anymore

To begin to grasp how fast the digital consumer behavior has modified and has altered the way people interact with brands, it’s enough to take a look at the number of touchpoints consumers have used to interact with brands over the past two decades:

  • 2000 – 2 touchpoints (about 66% of consumers in the US), with only 5% needing an average of 4 touchpoints
  • 2015 – 74% of consumers were using between 3 and 7 touchpoints to interact with brands
  • 2020 – the digital world is so divided by industries and categories that it has become impossible to calculate an average of touchpoints for all industries.

This is how far we’ve come. The touchpoint ecosystem encompasses now more instruments and channels than ever: from customer service to e-commerce, from websites to stores, and from social media to word of mouth, it has never been more diverse.

The journeys cannot be represented simply as funnels anymore, especially because research is multi-platform and multi-format, which turns every purchase intent into a web of actions. And as people become more aware of how much their experience matters in the process of purchasing a product for the brand’s business goals, they also become more demanding. Approximately 83% of consumers are even willing to pay more for a better customer experience.

So the challenge remains: can we still draw lines in the sand between marketing, sales and customer service when everything is part of the digital conversion process?

 

What this means for you

a) Customer satisfaction and customer loyalty are two different things and they are to be treated as such.

Customer satisfaction refers to a user happy with your product. Let’s say we found some shoes on sale. Their quality is good, we’re happy wearing them. However, customer loyalty means me purchasing repeatedly the same brand of shoes because I believe in what that brand does in the world. Or because I’m really a huge fan of those shoes. Either way, I’m a fan and will go to great lengths to associate my image with yours.

 

b) You can finally focus on loyalty and retention. On what matters.

Assuming you’re nailing it, a well-mapped customer journey that brings meaning into the life of your consumer is what will make people loyal to your business. Because offers expire and promotions go away, but a person in alignment to your brands’ values and mission and behavior is someone who will stand for your business and will become your most honest advocate. THAT should be your goal.

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