3 Steps To Creating A Profitable Customer journey

To make a profitable customer journey digital marketing professionals should consider three key areas within their strategy: People & personas, Customer Experiences and analysis & attribution.

Today, the customer journey is a complicated matrix of multi-channel, hyper-targeted and in-the-moment customer marketing. So it’s no surprise that digital strategies have a lot of work to do. Delivering fantastic commercials & loyal customers is the name of the game.

The following slide extracts, presented at several digital conferences throughout 2018, detail three cornerstones of digital marketing strategies that I believe can help create a profitable customer journey that surprises and delights your audience and delivers fantastic commercials for e-commerce businesses.

My customer journey: A lightbulb moment

Everyone has their own unique customer journey. For digital marketing professionals such as myself, it can be rewarding and insightful to understand their own daily customer journey in order to better predict how similar customers might behave. For me, I wanted to share my lightbulb moment.

The story of how I bought a lightbulb

Like any 20-something tech-obsessed digital marketing professional (read: Geek) I have fully jumped on the smart home bandwagon. The next step for me? Smart light bulbs. This 30-second shower thought resulted in a quick Google, just as many customer journeys start. I checked out a few sites by flicking the screen on my iPhone and then got ready for work. A few days later a highstreet retailer showed an ad on TV which showcased their smart home appliances. I’ve no idea if the TV ad placement was targeted at me or not (it well could have been) but it made me think about lightbulbs again.

Another few days passed. One quiet(ish) lunchtime I decided to browse Facebook, where I was retargeted with one of the lightbulbs I’d previously viewed online. Interesting. That night after work I dropped by at the high street retailer I’d seen on TV and checked out the lightbulbs for myself. “Pretty cool”, I thought, “But I bet there’s a better deal somewhere online”. Whilst standing in the store I checked out a few voucher code websites (read: Affiliates) and found an online-exclusive 15% off offer. I bought 8 lightbulbs online the next morning.

customer journey lightbulb moment

What’s the point in the story?

The point of the story is simple – People don’t buy things in a single instance. They likely never have. They certainly don’t anymore. Even “spontaneous” purchases rarely cover everything from awareness to purchase in a single event. Shopping journeys are fragmented. And personal. And require serious analysis.

For businesses, this means three things:

  1. Businesses need to know who they’re talking to – Market to people, not “audiences” or “demographics”.
  2. Businesses need to be create lasting experiences – They have to be ready, quick and useful.
  3. Businesses need to analyse increasingly complex customer journeys and invest wisely.

profitable customer journey

Step one: Marketing to people

There are a time and a place for broadcast marketing (ie. Sending a single message to everyone). But it’s more than likely going to result in a poorer performance than if you tailor and target your message to the right people. Defining segments or audiences is a great starting point, but I believe it’s better to go one step further.

Creating personas to understand problems

Without getting phycological about the whole thing, creating an example person which represents a segment or target audience can help create a message which resonates much more effectively with your audience. With persona marketing, you need a magic mix of hard-and-fast stats (from your CRM database) coupled with a sprinkling of target audience assumptions and a pinch of imagination.

The resulting personas are specific people who you could reasonably imagine having a one-to-one conversation with. For example, “Aged 40-50 with two or three children” does not make a persona (that’s an audience), but “Aged 42 with twins Tommy and Charles” is a great start to a persona.

The point of personas is to understand what makes them tick. What do they like, dislike, have a passion for? And importantly when marketing what potential problems do they face. By understanding persona’s problems, you can create a personalised customer journey which answers these problems pragmatically.

customer journey personas

Persona marketing unlocks personalisation

Personalisation delivers better results, fact. For me, there’s three levels of personalisation.

  1. Segmentation: Personalisation based on a segment, for example ‘Women’. This can be multiple personas, but you wouldn’t show anyone in this segment a pair of men’s pants (unless you’re going after ‘women gifters’, perhaps).
  2. Behavioural: This next level of personalisation creates a more bespoke customer journey based on previous actions. For example, if a customer has bought car mats, he may be interested in other car accessories.
  3. Individual: Finally there’s individual personalisation. People often think of this as nothing much more than using someone’s name in a subject line, but it can be so much more. Location-specific messages, for example.

An example of all three levels of personalisation

Netflix offers all three levels of personalisation on a single page. The screenshot below shows how well Netflix know me, creating a (hyper) personalised experience combining segmentation (eg. “Action & Adventure movies”), behavioural (eg. “Watch it again”) and individual (“Continue watching for John”).

Netflix personalisation of customer journey

Step two: Creating lasting experiences

From the lightbulb moment example above, it’s clear that the typical customer journey is fragmented over multiple ‘moments’. Google coined the phrase ‘Micro-moments’ over on ThinkWithGoogle, and focuses on three sub-topics: visibility (‘Be there’), Speed (‘Be quick’) and usefulness (‘Be useful’).

Be there: Throughout the entire customer journey

‘Being there’ sounds simple, but it’s hard to deliver in practice. Being there through the entire customer journey means having the right channels with the right message available at the right time to the right consumer. Sounds a little more complex now, doesn’t it? Although there are a thousand different ways to split a typical marketing funnel*, it’s roughly split into four key sections. Below are the four parts of a typical marketing funnel* and an interesting statistic for each.

  • Awareness: Interestingly, one in three shoppers will purchase from a competitor if your brand isn’t present at the point of awareness. With so many journeys starting on Google, it’s therefore super important to make sure you’re present for key customer queries.
  • Consideration: Helping a shopper consider you requires more than just a product. It takes more than how you make your product, too. Simon Sinek, a motivational speaker and author, has a saying: “People don’t buy what you do, but why you do it”. His book, ‘Start with why’ expresses the need to sell the purpose behind your business vision to create loyal customers.
  • Purchase: At the point of purchase it’s super important to remember digital conversion rate techniques which suprise and delighting consumers to purchase. For example, it’s well documented that free delivery is the number one incentive to purchase.
  • Retention: Don’t forget about your customers when they’ve hit the confirmation page. A happy and loyal customer can (quite easily) be convinced to leave a positive review. 63% of customers say they’re more likely to convert when there are reviews present on a product page. This means a 5% increase in customer loyalty can result in a 95% increase in profitability.

customer journey - be there

*A note on marketing funnels: It’s worth noting that, with micro-moments, there’s no such thing as a marketing funnel. No such thing as a traditionally linear funnel, at least. The very nature of micro-moments means consumers can jump between awareness, consideration and even purchase at a moment’s notice, and even after having made a purchase can drop back into the funnel at almost any stage.

Be quick: Considering more than just page speed

There’s no denying page speed is an important ranking factor. When it comes to SEO optimisations, page speed is often one of the top itinerary items (easier said than done!). HTTPS, caching and services such as CloudFlare can help improve page speed, but if your content is buried away on your website your actual speed of delivery will suffer.

I like to think of this in a simple formula: Page speed + Time to find solution = Speed of experience. Remember, you should be trying to answer the problems of your personas. If your shoppers can’t find the answer to their problems they’ll likely bounce. If it takes too long for the page to load, they’ll likely bounce. And once they’ve bounced, they’re unlikely to return.

Unlike page speed, ‘Time to find solution’ isn’t exclusive to on-site content. Making sure that your information is easy to find in outbound marketing channels such as email is super important too. Remember, it’s all part of the same customer journey.

Be useful: Irrelevant content will always be ignored

There’s no doubt that irrelevant content will be ignored. To demonstrate this, I like to call on some good old-fashioned audience participation (that means you, reader!). Follow the following four steps, one at a time – I guarantee you’ll be surprised with the result.

be useful in the customer journey

Now, can you answer a simple question… Without looking, what is the time? When I do this experiment with a live audience I’d forecast less than 1% of participants are able to correctly tell the time (without simply guessing). The time isn’t useful to you at that moment, so you simply ignore it despite it being on the lock screen and home screen of most devices.

It’s a great analogy of useless inbound information. A visitor lands on your page and ignores irrelevant information. But the same is true for outbound too. Imagine I just randomly showed the time in this article. I’m pretty sure you’d say something like “erm, what?” and move on. Outbound content has to be even more useful (to the persona’s problem) or they’ll ignore it and mentally down-vote your brand.

It’s not enough to just be there, quick and useful online

Creating great experiences isn’t exclusive to online. Nor is the customer journey. If we take the example of my lightbulb moment, there was a store visit and a TV advert which both took place. If you have a high street or above-the-line campaign it’s even more important to make sure you serve similarly great experiences across every touchpoint.

showrooming and webrooming during customer journey

Browsing in store and purchasing online (like I did) is known as showrooming. It’s common amongst fashion retailers where physical items are tried for size but the colour they want isn’t in store (Free next day delivery online? No brainer). The opposite of showrooming is webrooming and is when a shopper browses online but purchases in store. A common reason for this is convenience, for example, if you’re looking at something at work and travelling past a store on the way home (an experience made even better when you combine ‘click and collect’ or ‘local inventory ads‘).

Step 3: Analysing performance

Marketing to people and creating lasting experiences is great. But if you’re not analysing your performance to see what’s working and what isn’t, you might as well forget it. Data-driven digital marketing is at the core of every digital strategy I implement, and I’d highly recommend it is in yours, too.

Attribution and the magical £500 lightbulb

Meet Dave. He’s a lightbulb merchant. He sold a smart lightbulb for £100 last week but his team are telling him otherwise. Without proper attribution modelling (even the most basic last click model) Dave can have a team of digital experts all claiming to have made a sale. Without attribution modelling there isn’t a lot Dave can do to disprove this. A simple five-step customer journey with a lightbulb cost of £100 could easily be reported as £500 in sales. Magic, but wrong.

customer journey needs attribution

But which attribution model is best?

It used to be true that last click attribution modelling was best. Then came more sophisticated models such as time-based or position-based. They’re not bad (plus, they’re free in Google Analytics). But if you can get your hands on it, data-driven attribution modelling is even better.

Data-driven attribution uses game theory and applies partial conversion value to each channel based on multiple algorithms and signals from previous customer journies. It also uses artificial intelligence (so hot right now!) to continuously learn as more sales (read Data points) become available. You need to be an Analytics 360 customer to access data-driven attribution (as of April 2018) but it’s only going to become more common.

customer journey attribution types

But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Data-driven attribution is a black box, meaning it can be difficult to understand how Google has attributed your sales. But of course Google wouldn’t favour it’s own channels (organic Google search, AdWords ads, YouTube, etc) over other channels, would it? It’s been a topic of hot debate for some time, so probably not.

Poor attribution leads to incorrect investment

As an industry marketing, in general, is pretty poor at investing in the right areas. When comparing the percentage of investment spend on a channel compared to consumer’s time spent on a channel, the results rarely match. At top-level TV adverts and highstreet stores over-index in terms of investment spent (ie. They are over-invested in) whereas digital and radio are under-indexed (more money please, boss?). It’s a sweeping generalisation but across the board, I’ve seen experiences of this first-hand.

incorrect investment in customer journey

As a general rule, compare and contrast attribution models to understand where’s best to invest. Much like other digital marketing practices (read SEO) it’s not a one-time thing. It requires continuous testing & learning, adapting over time and becoming ever more accurate.

In summary: A profitable customer journey needs people, experiences and analysis

The customer journey is complex, and it’s only going to get more complicated over time. Delivering fantastic commercials & loyal customers are absolutely possible providing digital marketing strategies focus on people, the experiences they are part of and the performance of those moments.

Create personas filled with details (both factual and fictional). Make sure you know their problems and provide them with solutions. Talk to your customers personally using segment-, behavioural- and individual- personalisation.

Micro-moments now make up a non-linear customer journey. Only by knowing the moments that matter to your personas, and providing quick and useful content can you capture attention. This needs to be consistent across all channels (including offline).

Attribution modelling is critical to long-term strategic success. Data-driven attribution modelling is the future but comes with some unanswered questions regarding transparency. As an industry, we need to improve our ability to attribute performance.

customer journey conclusion

John Alexander Rowley

An enthusiastic digital marketing professional passionately dedicated to increasing the online presence of businesses and individuals in order to improve engagement and ROI.

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