Customer Journey

For shoppers, there are more ways to research, discover, and engage with a brand than ever before. Indeed, the experience has become a multichannel, multi-device, process that spans time and space. From the living room to the office, desktop to tablet, every new combination of experiences represents a new context and a new mindset. And brands are racing to figure out how to accommodate this ever-expanding collection of situations—how to best target each shopper in a precise way, perfectly tailored for the specific moment.

It sounds like an insurmountable challenge, one that requires complex integrations of data, painstaking analysis, and extreme expense. But with careful planning the omnichannel world presents incredible opportunity. As I wrote in the Monetate Ecommerce Quarterly (Q1 2014), “If consumers are not focused on moving through a purchase funnel as quickly as possible, there is an expanded timeline in which relationships can be formed and opinions solidified.” This timeline is dotted with touchpoints and milestones—each one representing an important step toward an authentic relationship between the consumer and brand.

Mapping this long journey from an initial trigger to the eventual purchase reveals two important insights. First, the traditional funnel model that has driven marketing and sales strategy for decades is no longer a functional guide. Second, the complexity of this new path to purchase demands a different, more nuanced, approach. It’s clear marketers and retailers must create context-specific and relevant online experiences for users on many channels to address the needs of this new shopping environment, but digitizing the consumer decision journey is difficult for many reasons—not the least of which is simply finding the right place to begin.

Fortunately, there are three critical experiences marketers can start with that will help focus efforts and may even yield huge results.

1. Optimize “Moments of Truth”

As consumers move through the decision journey, they confront a series of experiences, which were famously dubbed “moments of truth” by Proctor & Gamble CEO A.G. Lafley in 2005. According to Lafley, there are two significant moments of truth: The first moment occurs at the store shelf, when a consumer decides which product to purchase, and the second occurs at home once the product has been used. Researchers at Google added to this, defining a “Zero Moment of Truth” that includes a pre-shopping phase dominated by general research.

Through the use of testing, it’s possible for brands to optimize both the zero and first moments of truth online. Serving zero moment segments general product information, blog posts, and other forms of content, for example, may help push them along the path toward purchase. Offering more specific feature lists and product comparisons, on the other hand, may be more appropriate for segments moving through the first moment of truth.

Let’s say you’re a retailer selling entry-level cameras. Many consumers become confused when confronted with a dozen different models and technical feature descriptions. It’s difficult to determine the unique value each model represents. By focusing on this zero moment, it makes sense to test different ways to present product descriptions and comparisons. Doing so helps educate the customer, improves the shopping experience, and provides insight into the most important factors during this stage of the decision process.

2. Build Paths Through Touchpoints

Optimizing an entire consumer decision journey for multiple and mixed channels may be nearly impossible. Building relevant next actions for individual touchpoints, however, is much more manageable. On the surface, this sounds like personalization—the latest buzzworthy tactic that few have the resources to implement—but in reality it’s just smart strategy, refined through an experimental approach. Even without advanced machine learning algorithms, it’s possible to outline a general chain of actions that eventually lead to purchase. And testing can help pinpoint the best approach for each segment. By improving this series of small tasks it’s possible to create a deeply engaging experience for the consumer.

Perhaps you notice, for example, that the page-per-visit count is highest for tablet users. This could be a reflection of a specific mindset—focused on browsing or research—present when using a tablet. Building a test to offer a relevant option—like a prominent “pin to Pinterest” button—may increase engagement for these shoppers. Testing a “popular on Pinterest” feature for desktop users—an element that might remind shoppers they have already engaged with the brand—could extend this touchpoint.

3. Facilitate the Consumer Decision Journey

Testing, too, can help identify the most useful signposts for users as they move through the consumer decision journey. Through testing, it may be possible to determine whether offering mobile users a prominent “find store” option is more effective than a “save for later” option. Or perhaps offering desktop users the option to “buy now” outperforms a nudge to “compare prices.” There are many possibilities and until the best strategies are tested, it will be difficult to confidently determine the right approach.

Engaging shoppers has never been easier—or more complex. However, a sound understanding of the consumer decision journey paired with testing can help guide research, strategy, and optimization to improve the performance of retail websites and, more importantly, the experience of every customer, regardless of their needs, mindset, or device.

Interested in learning more about insights? Get more than 100-plus expert insights for optimizing mobile sites and more on Brooks Bell’s Click 2014 Summit website.

Customer journey image courtesy of Shutterstock.