Use and Re-use: Inspiring LoyaltyJune 22, 2016
A purchased service or product is great but businesses aren’t built on one hit wonders. Companies need to ensure repeat business in order to build a stable, sufficient turnover – but how can brands inspire customers to keep them coming back?
Providing a quality product or service and meeting the customers’ needs go a long way to defining whether they remain a customer. Going that extra mile can fortify the relationship between business and buyer and cement a loyalty that translates to revenues.
Keep managing interactions
It’s important to ensure all interactions, as previously described stages in the customer journey, are managed post purchase just as carefully as those in the lead up to the customer purchasing. Not only will this help in delivering repeat custom, but also has the power to generate recommendations to other potential customers with shoppers keen to share their feedback with others. Finding ways to maintain the relationship then, while ensuring those interactions are managed is crucial.
In the early stages of the customer journey, marketers will have firmly established who their customer is, created a profile, and will have used this along with data and market research to tailor marketing tactics and SEO to drive awareness. Having acquired this knowledge, it should be re-employed at this later stage in order to loop the process and continually add value for the shopper through tailored communications. What’s more, following purchase, marketers are further exposed to a new set of valuable data about customer preferences that can be used to personalise ongoing interactions – such as highlighting similar interest products when they return to the website, or sending bespoke promotions via push marketing, to engender loyalty.
Personalisation encourages loyalty
Personalisation is an important component of a great brand experience – it supports the customer to feel valued, listened to and important. Personalisations made throughout the journey to ensure interactions are seamless for the consumer and invoke positive emotional triggers, such as localisation of sites, personal offers and appointments – will all support the customer in feeling keen to interact with the brand again. However, it’s important to remember that each time the customer starts a new journey, the experience needs to remain at the same high standard; otherwise they can be easily tempted away by better offers or services.
Finding ways to provide an entirely friction-less path to purchase, which incorporates all channels and interaction points in a positive and valuable way to the customer is the best way to create a great customer experience, and as indicated in the introduction, is now vital for running a successful and profitable business. Brands that make it easy for customers to interact will always win but this is only truly possible by completely understanding the customer journey. There are many organisations still not paying close attention to the customer journey but with the emergence of disruptive technologies luring consumers away from brick and mortar stores, the key to a good experience is increasingly based on an intentional and integrated end-to-end experience.
Please contact the SoLocal Group UK team if you would like to discuss how your brand can take advantage of implementing valuable marketing operations technologies throughout the customer journey.
Influencing the decision to purchaseMay 23, 2016
Having decided on a preference for one brand, product or service over another, the customer will then look to purchase – the third stage of the customer journey. However, even at this stage ‘moments of truth’ still exist and much can go wrong if the interaction is not managed correctly.
Brands should ensure the path to purchase is as easy as possible, providing a suitable amount of information on products or services, and an easy to navigate system are crucial as busy customers can easily look for alternatives if a service isn’t meeting their expectations. Using browsing data can help brands to understand how consumers use the site to make improvements and even, which products or services users are most interested in. Sending incentives to encourage customers to purchase, such as discount vouchers or offers on the products they like is a tool that can be easily integrated into sites and are excellent tactics for converting sales or driving footfall into store to complete a purchase.
Reasons for abandonment
Despite seemingly having made the decision to purchase an item, research suggests roughly 70% of online shoppers abandon items in their baskets – and for many reasons. One report has indicated that a lack of transparency on total cost is the number one reason for abandonment, with consumers discovering shipping rates to be higher than expected. Having the option of free shipping for first time buyers might be a consideration for brands, or alternatively, offering product and store locator features on the site will allow the consumer to instead go into store to pick up the item for free. In fact, increasingly most consumers now expect this to be an available option when it comes to selecting the method of obtaining their purchase. Such is the case; John Lewis announced early in 2015 that volumes of ‘click and collect’ sales had over taken home delivery for the first time.
Payment methods not communicated upfront was also sighted in the same research as being a hindrance, with consumers often not wanting to or having time to create an account in order to make a purchase. Being able to offer a guest checkout option or the ability to register via an existing online account (such as Facebook or PayPal) in this instance is advantageous. Ultimately, providing ‘options’ when it comes to the purchase stage, which suit the customer, is the best way to ensure the conversion from preference to purchase.
Tools to drive sales
Online appointment booking is a useful tool for encouraging customers ‘over the line’. Easy and hassle free, in-store consultations with a knowledgeable staff member will not only help to build a personal connection, but will drive footfall to a physical store and encourage purchase. Real time online booking that is available 24/7 can provide a convenient option for customers keen to buy your products/services without being merely limited to open hours.
In our final post we will examine how implementing the tactics we’ve discussed throughout can help to drive loyalty from customers.
The consumer journey – an insight into purchasing behaviourDecember 16, 2015
This will be the first in a series of blog posts dedicated to the customer journey. Throughout the five part series we will walk you through the stages of customer engagement with brands and how those various touchpoints can dictate the success or failure of a business. The blog series will then be converted into a white paper to be downloaded and shared – providing a guide to customer purchasing and insights to assist businesses with the necessary tools to maximise engagement.
Understanding the power of customer experience
In a competitive marketplace, customer experience has long been heralded as the key to ensuring a business can stand out from the crowd – but more than this, marketers and brands are now realising the power ‘experience’ can have in determining the success or failure of a company. Too many bad experiences between customer and brand will inhibit sales, creating a negative impact on the bottom line. Such is the importance; many of the largest firms in the world now have dedicated customer experience personnel – with some even taking a seat at board level, to ensure customer experience is not a siloed consideration but ingrained within the fabric and strategy of the company.
With much at stake, it’s important for businesses to understand how customers are experiencing their brand in order to close any gaps or make changes. This can be done in many ways, but the best way to create a real framework around charting these experiences and analysing them is in creating a customer journey map (CJM). Largely, customer journey mapping is about understanding the path to purchase and the stages at which consumers interact with the brand, and perhaps most importantly, how they feel about the brand as a result of those interactions.
Customer Journey Mapping
The idea of CJM is not anything new, in fact many commentators on this trend have noted its similarity to the stages mapped in the traditional purchase funnel conceived in the 19th Century, however it’s this idea of the emotive responses to brand interaction that is perhaps one area where theory has evolved over time, and is the key to delivering a great experience. With the increasingly indignant consumer keeping today’s marketers up at night, tracking emotional triggers in the customer journey is now crucial, as a bad experience will not only prevent purchases from a single consumer, but could have a ripple effect to others, damaging the brand’s reputation in a way not seen before the birth of the internet.
Theories relating to CJM characterise these interactions as ‘touchpoints’ or ‘moments of truth’ in explaining the importance they have in influencing the customer’s decision to purchase. These touch points expand way beyond a visit to store, to include every interaction the customer has whilst travelling through the customer journey stages, from visiting the website to social channels, reviews, newsletters, customer service calls and so on.
While there has been plenty of research, views and reporting on the value, uses and challenges of customer journey mapping, the relative stages of the customer journey are less in contention. In fact, the stages are fairly unanimously agreed as; awareness, preference, purchase, use and loyalty – though some theories may use slightly different expressions, the action in each case is more or less the same. With that said, research has indicated 47% of companies say that the digital part of the business is driving customer journey initiatives, with the additional touchpoints digital introduces creating greater exposure to the brand and therefore need for management.
Many commentators emphasise the importance of ensuring mapping is an ongoing process, and as a result some of the final steps are repeated to show a continuous loop. In some cases this loop is used deliberately to indicate where changes have been made, to ensure a better ongoing experience– for example, awareness, preference, purchase, use, complaint, preference, purchase, use, loyalty.
In the following posts we’ll go on to examine each of these stages in more detail, providing considerations for marketers in making sure they’re optimising the opportunities at each stage to provide the very best experience for customers, while driving company success.
How digital marketing operations can transform businessAugust 11, 2015
New digital tools and data are an increasingly strong opportunity for marketers to improve their marketing operations and achieve customer-centric strategies. These new insights allow organisations to be attuned to their customers’ needs and create effective and measurable marketing campaigns.
Last month, McKinsey released a publication on digital marketing operations titled ‘How digital marketing operations can transform business’, explaining the importance for companies of adopting digital tools for their marketing campaigns. This corroborates perfectly with Solocal Group UK’s vision on digital marketing technologies (read our previous “Why brands need to embrace sophisticated technologies” post) and this is why we found it valuable to extract and summarise insights in this blog post.
- Truly understanding customers
For any company the key point is to establish a meaningful relationship with their customers. Marketing operations give the opportunity to monitor this. By analysing customers’ behaviour it is possible to create a real experience for the company to share with its customers. This analysis should be based on an important and mapped marketing operations database which the right tools are able to provide. Some basic technologies and tracking tools could be used by companies to better know customers’ cross-channel journey. Unfortunately, many companies do not consider this strategic point very important and the customer understanding is thus weakened. Without a proper understanding of customers’ behaviour, marketing cannot be truly efficient. Digital brings reachable and effective tools for marketing operations.
- Delivering superior experience
Within the customer journey, the experience is a corner stone. Experience is at the forefront of a customer’s interaction with the company. A bad experience for a customer means a customer defecting to the competitor and a possible snowball effect if the company is not reactive enough to correct it. Here again, understanding customers is the best way to reach their expectations. If this point is often well-considered by marketers who deployed a lot of sales, support and services initiatives for customers or fulfilment and order management by their side, there are some back-end operations and systems which are neglected in this journey. Actually the magical recipe is not a secret. In this interaction and exchange with customers it is important to listen and adjust the experience according to customers’ uses and feedbacks. Comforting this idea, McKinsey article indeed reveals that best-in-class companies are reallocating up to 80% of digital-campaign budgets during a campaign. A company should propose a boulevard to consumers. To do so, it should observe wisely which particular paths or shortcuts customers are using and adapt this boulevard accordingly, closing some useless pavements, enlarging others, better indicate popular shortcuts, clearing some ways.
- Selecting the right marketing technology
As said previously, technology can bring numerous and relevant tools for marketers to optimise their operations and to automatise processes. Technology is a strategic expense, to be more efficient in the customer relationship, offer customers the expected experience, retain them, attract new ones and consequently keep an advantage over competitors. It should bring flexibility to a responsive platform, and not race for the last innovation which might be useless for the experience customers are looking for. Too many newish technologies can be a brake by making the experience too complex, when marketing technologies should aim to make a simple and responsive customer experience. The choice of technology should also be flexible to permit incrementing emerging tools.
- Implementing processes and governance
In order to manage the customer journey and implement technologies to improve the experience through this journey, the company needs to set clear and efficient governance. Technology can do amazing things to simplify processes, but cannot do it all on its own. Human decision is still above any organisation. To benefit from the added value brought by technology, all the marketing processes should be organised and this governance must be simple and the same for every link of the process chain. Employees, partners, suppliers and agencies should be part of it, and aware of their precise role in this chain to be able to adapt themselves when the strategy and campaigns evolve according to the customer’s expectations. Finally, as it is implied all along, the customer is the pivot and the governance aims to satisfy its expectation by driving appropriately – with adjustments and reorientation when needed – the campaign. Marketing, more than any other business activity, must be guided by a customer-centric approach.
- Using the best metric to drive success
Technology brings more and more powerful measurement tools. Metrics are the fuel of any marketing logic and have to be oriented and exploited wisely. Marketing effectiveness can be measured, customer journey can be detailed and understood, customer satisfaction can be monitored and its insights should be analysed to adapt processes, experience and governance. Metrics, as a quantitative indicator of the company interaction with its customers, should be used to understand customers’ behaviour and draw meaningful conclusions on past marketing actions. The effective metric is, thus, the one which delivers important insights to be interpreted and used to improve ongoing marketing campaigns and adapt past ones according to the user experience and expectations.
Marketing operations might not be the most thrilling part of marketing and many marketers are therefore not really interested in them. But consumers are the centre of any business, they have many expectations and many of them rely on marketing operations. This is why the lack of marketing operations is a main reason for marketing failure. Seamlessly integrating marketing operations into the digital era goes through five steps: truly understanding customers, delivering superior experience, selecting the right marketing technology, implementing processes and governance, and using the best metric to drive success.
Please contact Solocal Group UK team if you would like to discuss how your brand can take advantage of implementing valuable marketing operations technologies throughout the customer journey.
Why Omni-channel is a key success factor for growth in retailJuly 7, 2015
For the third year, the KPMG and The Consumer Goods Forum survey of senior consumer manufacturing and retail executives has been released: “To stand still is to fall behind: 2015 Global Consumer Executive Top of Mind Survey” is an instructive wealth of information for manufacturers and retailers about the reality of the international market for this particular sector catching up an expected economic rebound. The purpose of this blog post is to extract the insights brought by this survey on Omni-channel, Solocal Group UK’s area of expertise.
This survey aims “to help industry executives better understand the ever-changing impact of industry disruptors, competition and the economy on their companies’ strategic priorities”. Two notable facts are mainly highlighted in this survey asking 539 influent senior consumer manufacturing and retail executives over the world about their own strategic priorities for the coming years. The first one is the general focus on expansion or top line growth shared by all the panel. The second one is the way to achieve this top line growth.
For this second point, if the solutions are various to reach the growth, one particular mean seems to prevail. And this prevailing action is to develop the disruptive tool to stay into nowadays game for every retailer: omni-channel retailing.
Among all the priorities, one seems persistent: omni-channel
Growth is without any doubt the main target and according to the survey 73% of the respondents said expansion or top line growth is very or critically important. To be more precise about 40% said it was critically important, and 42% said it was their number one focus.
Then arrives the Consumers trust and the Omni-channel strategy, which also represents for 25% of the respondents their greatest challenge.
The omni-channel strategy is rarely the first priority or the first investments, But the omni-channel strategy is always mentioned as one of the priorities or one of the strategic investments. If omni-channel strategy is a priority -but not the top priority- it is yet perceived as the best growth driver (53%) and this is probably why it is persistent. Omni-channel strategy is not a goal but a driver, and probably more by being a new conception of retailing.
Omni-channel is perceived, rightly, as an absolute tool for increasing the consumer trust, necessary for generating growth. It is obvious to say consumers always have a technological lead over retailers, and their capability to use new consumption means are a key point to take into account, in a way to satisfy them and create a deeper engagement and trust. For retailers, digital tools and an omni-channel distribution are necessary to provide an expected service for their customer.
As the survey mentioned it “The omni-channel is still relatively new, but technology disruptions are, by now, par for the course for the consumer-driven industry. It has – and will remain – on the bleeding edge of change. Omni-channel has the ultimate goal of letting every consumer shop and purchase on their terms – a tall order indeed.” For that reason omni-channel is considered as both a key area targeted for investment and a top challenge. Digital retailing is on an edge; on one side there is the threat of being too conservative and then overtaken, on the other side the opportunity to take serious competitive advantages over one’s competitors. The right balance is into the consumer’s hands and experience, asking for new sales and distributions channels and a shopping experience using tools he knows best.
Omni-channel use is a pillar of nowadays goods and services distribution organisation
Omni-channel retailing is a proof of customer understanding. By offering the customer the possibility of using new sales and distribution channels, retailers are improving customer experience. This point is strategic for any expansive customer acquisition strategy. At the question “Which of the following strategies are most likely to drive your company’s top line growth over the next two years?” the first answer elected, before customer retention, customer acquisition and targeting new demographic groups, is new sales channels and distribution strategies. The reason is simple; new sales channels and distribution strategies would automatically bring more customers, maintain the former ones and reach the new demographic groups already using the new channels.
The two most common strategies for developing loyalty identified through the survey are “exceeding customer expectations” and “engagement in social media conversations”. How to exceed customer expectations without using digital retailing tools when online, and especially mobile, has become so important in the customer purchasing behaviour? How to engage in social media without developing a new digital channel up to the supply chain?
The supply chain process should evolve completely to be part of an omni-channel distribution process. Supply chain through an omni-channel scope is a clear enabler to growth. A customer-driven industry, as retail is, needs to rethink from the beginning to the end its supply chain. Nowadays, customers identify and localise shops before purchasing. They also look after local store inventories to know where the closest place to get a product is and if the product can be delivered or collected on the same day. The digital disruptive promise is to purchase whenever and wherever. The whole supply chain needs to be built accordingly to a competitive omni-channel strategy and offer. Linear and analogic processes are replaced by horizontal and cross-channel strategies in nowadays digital reality.
Innovation always has two sides of a coin. It might seem risky but also might be a key competitive advantage. To convert any innovation into growth, customer behaviour knowledge is necessary, and a key point to create loyalty is to answer to customer’s use expectations. There is more to lose by being overtaken by competitors who provide the expected disruptive omni-channel shopping experience, than by innovating.
The use of technologies use has radically evolved these last five years. Rather than destroying stores, the disruption brought by the digital tools and online shopping have changed the way one’s goes in them. This disruption does not take customers away from shops but creates new means of experience. Customers ask for more detailed information, such as opening hours, product availability, promotions, delivery time and are ready to create a truly new relation with brands through the brands’ digital and physical assets, creating new connections between retailers and customers.
Omni-channel is the retail new pillar, a disruptive pillar which is radically reversing common processes. Answering customers’ will is perceived – rightly – as a key for growth and as the retailers’ main goal today. Omni-channel revolutionises linear organisation systems and imposes a diagonal and cross-channel vision in every retailing aspect.
Omni-channel strategy is the core of a new retail vision, driven by customer behaviour which directs any external growth ambition. This distribution model becoming the new retailing, marketing and distribution strategies matrix because it imposes to redefine each supply chain step – from provision to delivery, through ordering, stock management, communication and CRM.
Solocal Group UK has been aware for long of the digital tools disruptive impact and the upheaval this results in consumer habits as this was covered in a previous blog post on “Bridging the gaps on the customer journey”. In particular, Solocal Group UK’s web-to-store solution Leadformance has been developing and operating a SAAS platform of digital tools that enable retailers to adapt to these new consumer patterns. This platform is currently used by more than 160 brands worldwide. Please contact Solocal Group UK team if you want to discuss further how your brand can grow its business by implementing omni-channel solutions fitting the expectations of the customers.
Retail Gazette – How to maximise the success of click and collect whilst improving the customer journeyDecember 16, 2014
With Christmas just around the corner, brands are looking to maximise sales opportunities and drive as many people as possible to retail outlets. This festive season, click and collect services look set to be a vital tool in their arsenals, with recent research by eBay and analysts Conlumino predicting that the average click and collect services will generate an additional £1.15 billion for retailers, whilst further research shows that 95% of shoppers look set to use the service this year. Last Christmas 25% of shoppers bought extra goods from the store where they picked up their order, highlighting the real value click-and-collect services have for the retail industry.
For brands to generate the most opportunity from click and collect services, however, it’s important that they’re integrated seamlessly into the customer journey; whilst click-and-collect services are undoubtedly a fantastic tool for brands, for them to have maximum effect they need to be deployed carefully as part of an over-arching web-to-store strategy.
The importance of a seamless customer journey
At each stage of the customer journey, there is a …
Digital marketing trends – What to look out for in 2015!December 9, 2014
Written by Bruno Berthezene, Country Manager at Solocal Group UK – Tuesady 16th December
From multiscreen to ubiquitous internet devices
The recent years have seen the rise of the multiscreen / multi-device trend: from desktop through laptop, console, mobile, tablet to phablet, each UK consumer uses an increasing number of devices sometimes simultaneously (second screen, third screen). Mobile and tablet have become the dominating source of traffic for many internet brands but the customer experience provided on these devices is still not always adapted to the form factor. Additionally, the fragmented usage of devices has been an issue for businesses to have a single view of the user and therefore makes it difficult to attribute conversion to a specific interaction. In this context:
- 2015 will be the year wherebrands move to provide the same experience on mobile devices that consumers receive on PCs and in store.
- In 2015, we will begin to see mobile payment take off as a result of m-payment service launches such as Apple Pay.
- 2015 will see progress on multi-device tracking through the development of emerging cross-device monitoring techniques, including ultrasonic contactless technology.
- There will be a booming wave of smart devices, such as wearables including connected glasses, smartwatches and Internet of Things enabling devices. Whether all of these emerging connected devices will prove to be successful in 2015 is not certain, but those that are will considerably enrich our lives and make the internet even more ubiquitous in our lives due to the relative simplicity of smart devices.
Content and social meets advertising
- Growth in display advertising will be mostly driven by the growth of mobile devices, especially tablets, and the explosion of video as an online advertising platform.
- Ads will be more relevant than ever given the targeting possibilities provided by data that allow advertisers to push messages only for what the consumer is most likely to be interested in. However, at the same time, advertising will face the emergence of ad blockers, browser extensions downloaded by users and disabling display ads. As a result, 2015 will be the year where even more relevancy should be look for, allowing advertisers and marketers to better use the untapped data to its full potential which will therefore make users happy that they are being reached with relevant content. After retargeting, the new wave of data use in display and search advertising will be pre-targeting, which can be defined as pushing ads with messages based on a customer higher propensity to purchase a product/service, this being based on behaviour data cross-analysis.
- While 2015 will see advertising attribution improving (see above), advertisers and publishers are both looking for a better evaluation of the engagement of users generated by display advertising. More relevant than the cost per click, more universal than the cost per action, time-based display offerings (by which the advertiser will only need to pay if the user has been exposed to the ad or has stayed on the landing website for a minimum amount of time) will see a great traction.
- While advertising is transitioning towards more relevancy, content appears as a natural alternative to reach users. Native advertising and branded content, which can be defined as inserting commercially oriented content in an editorial environment, are emerging and will develop in 2015. A risk, if it develops too much, might be a commercial content overload for the users, resulting in the same rejection from a part of the users as for internet advertising. However, Facebook has already shown that significant revenue can be driven out of paid content amplification in a social media environment, warranting visibility of sponsored content within organic content, and Twitter seems to be going the same way.
Taking the multichannel customer journey seriously
The purchase funnel is being increasingly looked after. In the past decades, with the rise of digital, it has become more much complex with the rise of multiple touch points, from ‘discovery’ through ‘research’ and ‘engagement’ to ‘conversion’ into purchase and post-purchase actions. This means that taking the customer right through from the start of the journey to the purchase is more challenging than ever and when that happens, there is another challenge for marketers and that is the attribution of the purchase between the different touch points.
- 2015 will see the development of marketing automation techniques that bring more sophistication in the optimisation of the conversion. The increasing capacity to exploit the potential of data is obviously at the core of this evolution towards real-time, behavioural, marketing.
- Most of the purchases do not happen online but in-store so the challenge of optimisation, attribution and marketing automation go beyond the online activity. There is still much work to do on web-to-store journey optimisation as many brands still don’t provide some of the basics that customers have begun to expect. The most striking gap relies on the disparity between customers’ expectations of simple store and product location tools and the poor level of store locators on many brand websites, not to mention the lack of mobile optimisation or the scarce existence of a product locator. 2015 will be the year when a large number of brands still lagging behind on mobile will catch up to finally propose a mobile customer experience that will boost conversion, online (m-commerce) and most importantly offline (mobile-to-store).
- Personalisation and optimisation of in-site search and navigation will also be growing trends, thanks to the increased use of consumer data.
- Once the customer has arrived in-store, technologies like beacons or ultrasonic tracking will help with attribution and marketing automation.
- Stores, whether independent or part of a chain, will provide an increasingly innovative in-store customer experience, with digital tools (virtual trial, advice, queueing…) being used more and more, a trend called phygital merging another trend called storytailing (examples of recent innovations in retail can be found on the Local Ideas blog).
The rise of the seamless transaction
- The sharing economy, illustrated by companies such as AirBnB and Uber, has paved the way for a world when buyers and sellers, professionals or individuals, can connect and transact in a seamless, real-time way. Car and house sharing, food, professional and local services, there are no limits to what this model can apply to. And this is only the beginning as an overwhelming number of new services are following the trend, positioning themselves across all possible niches you could imagine.
- Hotel and restaurant booking has been around for a long time but other service sectors are now realising the potential that they can also tap into through online appointment booking too. 2014 has been the year of acceleration for online appointment booking and 2015 should been the year where this service really explodes into the mainstream. This is true for a diverse range of sectors, such as health and beauty, car maintenance, banking and finance and insurance, but also for the fashion and luxury sectors due to the rise of personal shopping.
- Making the delivery quick and easy will be another growing focus of pure online plays or bricks and clicks. Click & collect has shown to be very popular and players such as Amazon, Google, eBay are already testing and beginning to implement quick delivery services.
Bridging The Gaps On The Customer JourneyOctober 14, 2014
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!