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Digital customer journey: make it personal

Published on 30 September, 2021

The internet is full of noise; companies, organisations, and individuals are all shouting to get the customer’s attention. Online conversions – selling products, attracting donations, or downloading content, for example – are increasingly tough to achieve as a result. Up to 97% of visitors to your website won’t buy from you and, of those who reach the final purchase phase, 70% will abandon their carts before checking out.

While these stats might be eye-opening, there are plenty of ways you can engage your customers and keep converting even in today’s busy marketplace. Help is at hand in the form of the customer journey map. Get it right and it can be one of the most effective ways to boost online leads and sales.

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What is the customer journey?

The customer journey is a method of understanding how buyers behave while they are viewing a brand’s presence online. It plots the route a customer takes from when they first interact with a company to when they make a purchase. Ideally, maps will go further and include the pathway to repeat purchase activity, depending on the nature of the business.

The visual representation of this process is a customer journey map. The map allows organisations to get into the minds of their customers, gaining a sense of what motivates them, their needs, and pain points. By analysing the customer journey, marketers can understand how customers discovered the business, how they are researching the brand, and what snags or obstacles are being encountered on their path to purchase.

Buying a particular product may be the final destination for a variety of customer journeys. For example, John and Cristina both purchase a laptop computer from the same retailer. John saw an advert on TV after which he visited his local shop to buy the laptop. Christina – as an existing subscriber to the retailer’s email list – got sent an online coupon and bought the laptop online. The end result is the same, but John and Christina each took a different route to purchase.

Let’s get personal

Imagine a customer walks into a classy boutique in West London. That customer will be greeted by friendly staff whose sole purpose is to bring their brand to life and to assist the shopper in moving forward on their journey from ‘just browsing’ towards becoming a paying customer. Is it possible to recreate this level of exceptional experience online?

The good news is that it’s possible to replicate a similar experience by using digital personalisation. As the name suggests, a strategy using personalisation delivers individualised content to your customers by optimising their data and using automation technology. Its goal is to engage online users by communicating with each as an individual rather than just a number.

Using personalisation, successful campaigns can result in increased revenue and brand loyalty, consistency across all channels, and improved customer experience that your buyers are likely to talk about with their friends and family.

Author and conversion expert Jay Baer says: “Personalisation at scale has been the holy grail forever”, and he’s not wrong. So, how is it possible? Personalisation is nothing new and customers have come to expect it as standard. But what does personalisation look like in practice?

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Getting started with digital personalisation

When speaking to your customers, targeted emails are no longer limited to Dear [first name] but can be personalised with tailored content and layouts to meet the needs of the recipient. Personalised product recommendations fed by an individual’s browsing and buying behaviour are increasingly common, as are curated social media feeds that match the user’s interests. Spotify’s Your Year Wrapped is an example of superb personalisation, delivering each subscriber with a full rundown of their personal listening statistics each December. This includes their top song, how they rank as a fan, and the number of minutes they spent listening to the service.

The latest evolution of personalisation is affectionately known as digital hugging. The concept aims to provide an experience for the customer in the context, time, and place that is most relevant to them. Think of it as idealising the customer experience across their favourite channels by engaging them in a loving relationship at each touchpoint and phase of their journey. This may sound tricky to achieve, especially at scale, as manual personalisation in real-time across a database is impractical. However, sophisticated automated technology exists to manage personalised campaigns; Feefo has an entire software suite dedicated to connecting directly with customers at any stage of their journey. The software generates and feeds accurate, relevant data about customers back into the automated system, giving your marketing department useful information that you can use to personalise their future customer experience.

Outstanding personalisation shows customers that a brand really knows and understands them. Here we take a look at the eight ways your marketing department can create a personalised customer journey that really converts.

How to make the digital customer journey personal

1.      Set clear goals for the customer journey map

Objectives are an essential ingredient to any digital marketing strategy, and you will need to put these in place when you are first designing the customer journey. Goals can be broken down into the following categories:

  • Customer acquisition: bringing in new paying customers by converting them from leads or website visitors.
  • Conversion: drives online visitors to make a purchase (although a conversion can be any goal a business wants the user to achieve, such as downloading a brochure or watching a video).
  • Customer retention: keeping existing customers paying by means of repeat purchase, cross-selling, or subscription.

When applying broader objectives to mapping the customer journey, it may be useful to focus on specifics, such as:

  • Minimising negative customer experiences by identifying key stages and decision milestones
  • Making sure that correct and relevant content is accessible at all stages of the customer journey
  • Understanding how customers transition through each phase of their purchase lifecycle, enabling connected engagement to help them move forward towards making a purchase
  • Identifying areas along the customer’s journey where messaging is clear and not conflicting

2.      Profile key buyer personas

A buyer persona is a semi-fictitious customer profile that is designed to represent a key audience segment, helping companies to gain a deeper understanding of their customers. Some businesses will have multiple personas, but it is those who have the influence or potential to develop the most profit that should be developed. An effective persona will be based on market research into the needs, motivations, pain points, and behaviours of your customers. The outcome should be a detailed profile that is accessible to anyone inside the organisation who needs to understand their key customers.

3.      Consider the phases along the route

There are four or – ideally – five stages that every customer will pass through along their customer journey, and it’s important that these are mapped against your buyer persona:

  1. Awareness of a problem or need
    Do people look for a particular product in the first place and what do they do about it?
  2. Search
    What do consumers need to make a well-informed decision? How are they assured that they’re buying from the right brand?
  3. Consideration
    Once the customer has performed their research, what do they need to gain the confidence to make their decision?
  4. Purchase
    Why has a customer clicked the ‘buy’ button?
  5. Brand loyalty
    Will genuine opinions and insights about the purchase be uncovered? How will referrals be encouraged?

4.      Identify customer touchpoints

Having identified and explored your key customers by way of a buyer persona, marketers should find out how, where, and why customers interact with their brand. This is relatively easy to do online, as sophisticated tracking mechanisms are offered as standard with any website, social media platform, or email service provider. That said, tracking using quantitative data cannot be 100% accurate, so it’s important to catch data that might not be evident in standard analytics by asking the customer directly.

For each touchpoint, list out the actions the customer takes, their motivations for taking that action, any emotions they may experience, as well as any obstacles that might prevent them from taking that action. It’s useful to start thinking about how each touchpoint might be personalised at this stage.

Let’s look at this example: Anne is served a Facebook ad promoting a free diet plan on her mobile phone as she’s browsing before bed. She is trying to lose weight and is feeling guilty about the calorific dessert she ate after her evening meal. She wonders if the free diet plan might help her to find an alternative diet to the plan she’s currently using, which is evidently not working. The brand looks professional and welcoming, and the plan is free, so she has nothing to lose by clicking on the download button. There are no online forms to complete because the diet plan company understands that Anne needs a one-step download and has privacy-related concerns about sharing her personal details. The company has included captivating content, incentives, and calls-to-action within the free download, moving Anne along her journey towards making a purchase.

5.      Decide what the map needs to show

Customer journey maps used to be a relatively straightforward affair with a linear path from A to B, awareness through to purchase. In the information age, buyers tend to encounter the brand at least eight times before buying, making their journey circuitous and meandering, looping between touchpoints. A useful customer journey map should take this into consideration, aiming to be as specific as possible, exploring all the touchpoints and how they relate to one another. The map should feel fluid and represent a seamless customer journey so that you can put the right measures in place for your customer base. It’s worth thinking about what type of map should be used. Marketers can ask themselves the following questions:

  • Will this map represent the current state of the customer journey, in which obstacles are evident, and improvements need to be made?
  • Will this map represent a future state of the customer journey, in which obstacles have been removed, and improvements have been made?
  • Will this map represent a day in the life of the customer?
  • Will this map include a service blueprint, which overlays internal requirements for delivering the customer experience?

6.      Identify and allocate resources

Once every touchpoint has been identified along the customer journey, practical consideration should be given to what resources are needed internally to adequately support the customer experience. These might consist of tangible resources, such as a financial budget and automation and market research tools to allow a personalisation strategy. Be sure not to overlook intangible resources, such as staff with specialised digital skills, brand assets, and leadership buy-in.

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7.      Test the customer journey

The best way to do this is for the marketing team to take the customer journey themselves. They have a thorough understanding of who the customer is, their needs, and motivations. Where possible, you might want to establish a focus group of customers to take and report back on their journey. This will give you valuable insight as the journey will be tried and tested by people in the real world and might uncover issues you have missed along the way.

8.      Listen to and make improvements based on feedback

It’s hard to believe that some companies skip this stage but listening to customer feedback is critical in figuring out what works and what doesn’t. Customer polling and surveying tools work exceptionally well to identify any customer issues that you might not have considered before. By actively listening to your customers, you are also showing that you care and want to make the customer journey as easy for them to navigate as possible.

In summary

The customer is still king, a fact borne out by 32% of consumers who wouldn’t buy from a brand they love after just one bad experience. Anyone in business knows it’s more difficult (and expensive) to acquire new customers than to retain existing ones, so it makes perfect sense to invest in an exceptional and personalised customer journey.

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