Bridging The Gaps On The Customer Journey
Every day we take part in a journey. It doesn’t require train or bus tickets and we don’t need to make sure there is enough petrol in the car. The journey that I am referring to is the one that billions of us as consumers make when we decide or find the need to purchase something. It is the customer journey.
Unfortunately, similarly to some of our other travel experiences, many of us have less than smooth experiences, leaving us disgruntled and vowing never to make the same mistake again.
The typical customer journey is comprised of six stages:
- Discovery and consideration (through word of mouth, content or advertising)
- Research and evaluation (both online and offline)
- Purchase (both online and offline)
- Product returns, exchanges or maintenance
- Customer feedback, which fuels the discovery and research stages of the journey of another customer
Getting the customer journey right requires planning, a high level of commitment and a certain amount of empathy to avoid any pitfalls along the way. After all, we are all passengers at some point.
Avoiding flaws at each leg of the journey
At each stage of the customer journey, there is a risk that the brand could lose the customer if they don’t sufficiently engage with them and meet their requirements. When a shopper encounters a flaw, retailers become open to the risk that the customer might be tempted to switch to a competitor who is better able to engage with them, or may even abandon their intent to purchase all together. This means that having even one weakness along the customer path could dissuade potential customers from continuing on their purchase journey, harming other marketing strategies which have been implemented along the way and hindering ROI overall.
It’s therefore crucial that brands engage with customers along each stage of the purchase journey. And while engaging with consumers has become more difficult with the advent of online and mobile shopping, technology has enabled us to develop multichannel marketing solutions that will support brands looking to optimize their customer’s journey both online and in-store.
The importance of seamless connections
A recent study by Accenture, which offers some insight into the customer journey, highlighted the importance of a seamless customer experience:
- 37% of UK retail shoppers still cite a seamless customer experience as the main area for retailer improvement. This is down 17% from last year, indicating that the seamless customer experience is improving
- Retail stores remain an important part of the seamless experience, as customers are increasingly opting to shop in-store: 28% of shoppers surveyed globally are planning to shop more in-store in the future
- Webrooming (a concept we commented on earlier in this blog) is growing and has become more prevalent important than showrooming: 79% of UK shoppers have webroomed in the past year vs 71% who have showroomed
- UK department stores, mass merchants and home improvement retailers scored very highly in terms of capability assessment, whereas consumer electronics and a few large apparel retails lag behind the seamless leaders
To help create a seamless customer journey, research by Capgemini published last year clearly stated that brands should invest in digital tools to support the ‘clicks to bricks’ journey. The company identified 13 digital services which customers can use across the purchase cycle. These include: store locator solution, store happenings, e/mcoupons, product locators and click & reserve services, appointment booking system, online personal shopping, m-payments and multichannel loyalty programmes. In today’s digital age, while customers have come to expect these tools, they are surprisingly still not implemented by a significant part of the businesses: the IAB UK Mobile Retail Audit, released in June 2013, found that only 48% of the top 50 UK retailers have a store locator on their mobile site.
Improving the customer journey
While the Accenture research shows that there has been an improvement in seamless customer experience there’s clearly still a long way to go to achieve complete customer satisfaction. The latest UK Customer Satisfaction Index reveals that satisfaction has continued to fall among UK customers, leaving people more unhappy with their customer experience now than they were in January 2011.
Our advice for a brand to ensure it is providing a seamless, smooth customer experience is to consider the following steps:
- Map the customer journey out to identify the gaps and frictions
- Identify what gaps to bridge first through customer research. Expect some surprises, as you might experience discrepancies between the customers’ expectations and your perception
- Address these gaps by implementing solutions and services that meet customer expectations
- Review the implementations’ impact and continuously optimize
Solocal Group’s mission of connecting brands and customers is strongly linked to the customer journey, and this is a topic we will continue to investigate and discuss during several upcoming industry events including Internet Retailing Customer Experience Research Briefing (October 22) and Local Search Today! – The Customer Journey (December 16) – hope to see you there!