Brands have more customer data than ever before, and that’s part of the problem. Not surprisingly, customers expect that with all of these real-world, traditional and digital touchpoints, the brands they spend so much time engaging with will remember who they are. To avoid alienating these loyal followers, marketers need to pull together the data so that they can get a better idea of the full journey.
Who created all these channels to begin with, and why? Convenience for consumers was supposed to increase revenue for brands and retailers, removing barriers to get to the final purchase. Customer service channels provided ways for loyal followers to get the help they deserved. But, of course, these channels also opened up new opportunities to bring customers closer to their next purchase.
With every added step, the chance of a slip is multiplied. At the same time, maybe the customers don’t care as much because their loyalty is in decline, anyway.
Rebecca Brooks, Founder and CEO of consumer market research consultancy Alter Agents, has found that in this complex landscape, loyalty becomes an increasingly rare commodity.
“In our work as market researchers, we’ve noted what we describe as the rise of the promiscuous shopper,” Brooks said. “Traditional brand loyalty is in decline, driven by a growing array of options and availability of information at the fingertips of every consumer. Where we used to be able to describe a straightforward and fairly consistent shopper journey, shoppers now have a variety of paths to get to the same purchase, whether that runs through online reviews, social media recommendations, Google searches, or more traditional IRL (in real life) pathways.”
This increased complexity requires a better grasp of the data to send more targeted communications. New brands with a solid game plan will also have a competitive advantage introducing new products.
“This shifting landscape offers real opportunities to those who are willing to adapt,” Brooks explained. “As consumers become more promiscuous in their shopping habits, convincing consumers to make the switch to a novel product has gotten easier. While the volume of messages can make it hard to cut through the clutter, those who are offering something new can find a receptive audience for their product. Whether from a wholly new brand or an innovative legacy brand, in many ways there’s never been a better time to launch a novel product.”
She added, “The second adaptation needed to survive in this landscape is to shift focus away from the brand and towards the consumer. On the marketing side, this means ensuring that diverse consumer touchpoints are consistent throughout the shopper journey, with relevant messaging that excites consumers. On the research side, this means starting from questions that prioritize the needs of shoppers rather than the needs of the brand. Uncovering the nuanced differences between consumers and their decision processes, rather than treating them as a single monolithic group, can be the difference between a successful brand and one that gets left behind.”
But how can marketers better understand the data they have so that they can develop strategies to improve their outreach? Jamie Schissler, VP of Data and Insights for CX strategy partner Hero Digital, points out that with increased complexity comes more fragmented data. Marketers need to unify four processes across all channels – reporting, partnerships, analysis and strategy.
“Many marketers struggle in two primary areas with reporting,” Schissler said. “The first is that their reporting doesn’t go far enough, with isolated channels preventing integrated measurement of lifetime value, CSAT (customer satisfaction), churn, ROI, etc. The second is that reporting is approached as an end state rather than a starting point. Reporting doesn’t tell you what action to take, it only provides metrics that may lead to insights.”
According to Schissler: “Partnerships between analytics and business units bring a data-driven approach to your omnichannel experiences. Each cross-functional team should develop an intimate knowledge of audiences, their needs and behaviors, how they differ across segments, their experiences, and the impact of those experiences on behavior.”
Prioritizing customer segments and top channels helps focus the budget, once data is more unified.
“To prepare for this complex customer journey a marketer needs to understand the top channels their customers consume, build out a purchase funnel to bring the consumer from top to bottom through each of these channels, and have the correct tracking in place to execute this strategy effectively,” said Geoff Crain, Digital Director for media buying agency Kingstar. “With so many touchpoints and channels, it is impossible, from a budget standpoint, to have exposure on all of them.”
He added, “Prior to a campaign launch, a marketer should analyze their target demographic to understand the three to five channels they consume most and build out a funnel strategy to reach them across each one.”
Ultimately, it’s not just who the customers are, but where in the purchase funnel they are situated.
“In order to execute this strategy correctly, the marketer needs to have the tracking in place to understand where the consumer is in the purchase funnel…Understanding your audience and creating a robust purchase funnel that is trackable will allow marketers to navigate through a complex customer journey,” Crain explained.