A successful marketing effort? Understand the customer journey!
Access to data has provided us with unlimited opportunities for understanding customers and sending them on a journey that results in a sale. That means the CMO can take part in setting the agenda for the entire company.
By Lisbet Jantzen, Director of Customer Experience, Sunrise.
A recent analysis of challenges faced by CMOs indicates the customer journey is high on the to-do list, surpassed only by brand strategy. It also shows that the customer journey is where Danish companies face the largest gap between what they want to do and what they actually can do. In other words, everybody agrees that it is crucial to master the customer journey; yet no one knows how this challenge should be tackled. And there is probably more than one reason for that.
Customers’ behaviour and expectations develop exponentially
In a surprisingly short time, consumers have become used to unlimited access to loads of information and the ability to shop around the clock – physically and digitally. In reality, it is no more than six years ago that the Shops Act was changed; however, mentally, it was a very long time ago. Today we expect 24-hour access to most things, and, when it comes to what we buy on the Internet, our impatience makes Tinder seem like romantic slow-dating.54% of us leave a website if it takes more than three seconds to load, and 75% of us expect to be helped within five minutes if a problem occurs. This is the level of expectations a company is up against.
All windows are open
Not only have customers’ expectations grown rapidly; companies have also opened all of their windows to inbound traffic. Today customers can get in when and where they want. And since customers do not think or act linearly, it means there is an almost infinite number of possible customer journeys. Customers jump from one touch point to another, using smartphones, PCs and tablets as they please. For instance, a study shows that 79% of modern shoppers check out products with their smartphones in the physical shop before deciding whether or not to buy them.
Today consumers are not only better informed than ever before; they have also grown more critical and tend to trust brands a lot less than they trust recommendations from friends and family and even from people they do not know. And the fact is, they are frustrated by the many commercial messages and turn away from irrelevant ads, whether it is a TVC, catalogues or web banner.
Understanding and relevance go hand in hand
Success is not simply about being present or making the biggest splash. You also need to understand your target group and its needs, behaviour, feelings and frustrations at all stages of the journey.
And you need to understand how a brand can be relevant across all of the contact points where you potentially meet customers – including those touchpoints where you do not necessarily have complete control. You need to know where and how customers come into contact with your company, and you need to know what they expect. Then you will be in possession of something incredibly valuable in terms of planning and prioritisation of the overall brand and marketing effort. But how is this done?
- Start with what you know: uncover all of the internal hypotheses, myths and gut feelings about your customers. What do you think you know about them? And where are you certain there is something that you do not know?
- Put yourself in your customer’s shoes: explore the customer journey by seeing things from your customers’ point of view. Adopt a qualitative approach – and use ethnography, digital or physical interviews as well as focus groups. Be open and curious and ask them how they navigate in relation to the various steps and why they act, feel and choose the way they do.
- Find the patterns: condense and analyse all of your insights. What are your customers like? What are their expectations and what makes them frustrated along the way? Use the insights to map relevant customer journeys and identify personas.
- Turn insights into facts: validate and quantify your insights through surveys to large samples. Use the responses to make informed decisions– and to demonstrate the difference between knowledge and gut feelings.
- Move from insight to action: identify opportunities for improving the customer journey. Prioritise your activities and prepare an action plan that makes the work manageable. Keep in mind not to change everything at the same time – begin with the things that make the biggest difference to the customer and the business.
- Give your customers a voice: use the insights across the organization to ensure they do not just set the course for your marketing efforts, but for the entire company.
Please excuse the cliché: it is not rocket science. It is an agile search-and-learn process where you get smarter, set up hypotheses, test them in real life, implement the good results and start over again. It is about fostering curiosity in the company about the customers – and about showing that you improve when you listen and learn.
And lastly a little PS – thanks to Google, Forrester, McKinsey and Nielsen for making knowledge accessible online. :-)
Download the new report on CMOs’ challenges and agendas, supplemented by professional recommendations, here.