Over and over again it has been repeated that today’s marketing teams and brands must be customer focused in order to deliver an optimal customer experience. But what does it mean to be customer-centric? And how can brands actually create a marketing strategy based on the needs, actions, and expectations of their customers?
At the risk of being repetitive, a good customer experience derives from having positive interactions between the customer and brand. And an interaction is the output, or dependent variable, between two or more independent variables, which in this case are the brand and the customer. The customer comes into the equation with a purpose to accomplish something, whether it be a purchase, trying to find a solution to an issue, general knowledge, and so forth. The brand must be able to respond to the customer’s request immediately by providing the relevant information. If the brand succeeds in doing so, then it has been a successful interaction and positive customer experience. The challenge is figuring out what the customer needs ahead of time. And the only way to do this is by understanding the customer’s journey.
The Buyer Journey
Although we have established that the funnel is dead and that the buyer journey is non-linear, we can’t argue the fact that the buying customer will always go through the three main stages: Awareness, Consideration, and Purchase. How? Because no matter how sporadic their interactions are with the brand (entering the buyer journey mid-way, regressing buyer journey, jumping from place to place in buyer journey), they always start and end at the same point.
Each stage serves a different purpose for the customer and the combination of all these stages, from start to finish, are what create the buyer journey.
And as stated previously, the purpose or end goal of each one of these stages is to provide a positive interaction between the brand and the customer, which means that the brand must be able to give the customer what he or she needs as soon as they make a move. The issue is figuring out what move they are going to make, and in this case, a move is the equivalent of asking a question to find out more information on behalf of the customer. In short, the brand needs to know what questions the customer is going to ask before the customer does depending on what stage they are in in their buyer journey. Once the brand understands the customer’s incentive, it will be able to assist them with clear, relevant, and precise answers to any questions they may have.
So really, at its most basic, the buyer journey is comprised of a list of questions the customer will have at any given stage. And the brand’s responsibility is to figure out what those questions are, what the answers are, and how to deliver the message in a convenient and clear manner to the customer.
Imagine you are planning a cross-country road trip. There are three major decisions you must make before you leave for it.
- You must figure out a basic layout of the places you want to visit.
- What you want to accomplish, see, or do at each place.
- What route you will take to get to each site.
The basic layout of the places you want to visit represents the buyer journey. It is a very high overview of your journey and marks each spot you plan to visit before reaching to your final destination. What you want to accomplish at each spot is the interaction. It involves having a specific need that must be satisfied at a specific time and place. This interaction, exactly like the one described in the opening paragraphs, represents the touchpoint. The final decision involving the routes represents the channel you will be using to reach those touchpoints.
The touchpoint is the interaction between the customer and brand (both directly and indirectly), based on the needs of the customer.
And because the touchpoint plays such a large role in defining the relationship between the customer and brand, brands MUST know what the needs and expectations are of their customers. There is no orthodox method of uncovering what a customer’s needs are and how a brand should deliver it to them. Rather, brands must create a strategy that is comprised of seven steps to ensure they achieve a holistic perspective of their customers.
1) Understand what information should be supplied at the difference stages of the buyer journey
2) Integrate all your data sources
4) Adapt offers, pricing, and messaging according to customer segment
5) Take the most impactful variables and use them for predictive analytics to make the best educated assumptions about future conversions
6) Track, monitor, and analyze how customers access their information to determine which channel will bring in the best results
7) Get as much customer data as possible to continue improving marketing for product and services
Digital Marketing Channels
In order to have enough data to fulfill some of the equations in the previous section, you must already have some data in your system which includes a majority of the variables such as digital marketing channels.
A channel is the medium in which a brand communicates with a customer.
There are a plethora of marketing channels available to marketers, but depending on the brand and its goal, certain channels may be more relevant than others. No one can predict which channel is going to work the best without some trial and error, and that’s where the imperative need for data comes in. By tracking and measuring the results from your different marketing channels, you can plug the data into the equations to figure out what works best and what you should be spending most of your resources on.
The buyer journey may seem unpredictable, but with a little patience and data analytics you are sure to find a pattern amongst your customers. No matter where they start in their buyer journey, there is always a solution to providing them with valuable content and information that can push them towards a purchase.
It is vital for marketers to track and monitor their customer’s movements and interactions with the brand as much as possible in order to see which variables bring in the best results. These variables could include channels, segments of the population, content, and so forth.
But once you are able to gather your data and put it to good use, you will be able to understand and potentially predict what your customer is going to want before they know it. And that is the key to building a long-lasting customer relationship.
AdClarity is a Marketing Intelligence tool which provides online marketers with actionable insights about their competitors’ advertising activities. Driven by big data and proprietary behavioral content discovery technology, AdClarity unveils brands’ campaigns, ad creatives, impressions, and spend data across multiple channels, including Display, Mobile Web, Mobile Apps and Video. Data is collected across 20 geographies and covers over 50M URLs daily while discovering over 40K new campaigns every day. The AdClarity product suite is used by over 7,000 media and advertising professionals globally in Fortune 500 Brands, Agencies, Ad Networks, and Publishers.