What are customer touchpoints? Customer touchpoints explained

A business is all about its customers. In order to improve your customer satisfaction, you need to have a solid understanding of customer experience. If you are looking to boost sales and grow a company, it’s critical you understand how consumers are interacting with your business. This will help you make educated and informed decisions regarding any changes that may be needed. You should also be aware of what your company is doing well and where there is room for improvement. This will help you understand your customer journey — from the minute they are introduced to your brand right through to when they become paying customers. The best way to do this is to look at your customer touchpoints.

 

If you haven't explored this area of your business before, you might be wondering how you can use customer touchpoints to help your brand. Customer touchpoints are essential for understanding the customer experience of your business and can be used to help map your customer journey. If you consider that a huge 86% of customers are willing to pay more for an excellent customer experience — with many prepared to pay a 16% price premium in return for a good experience — it is certainly an area worth focusing on.

 

In this guide, we will not only answer the question ‘what are customer touch points’ but also how you identify customer touchpoints. Knowing precisely what your touchpoints are can help you analyse them efficiently and understand if they are working for your business. We will provide our best touchpoint examples so you can see exactly how to improve your customer experience at every stage of their journey.

 

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What are customer touchpoints?

Before we can get into examples of customer touchpoints and showing how to identify customer touchpoints, it is vital you understand what a customer touchpoint is. Put simply, a customer touchpoint is every time a customer encounters your company. Every single interaction that they have with your brand is a touchpoint, even those that are not a physical interaction. What customer touchpoints exactly are is a very common question, yet many businesses don't fully understand the answer.

 

Customer touchpoints are every stage in the customer journey, and they can have a significant effect on how customers feel about your business. Examples could include scrolling through social media and seeing your posts, receiving a text message to say their order is out for delivery, or a customer visiting a physical store. There are endless customer touchpoints and every single one is critical to your business.

 

Many business owners dismiss these small encounters as unimportant but they play a huge role in customer experience. Every single touchpoint can change your customers’ expectations, emotions and feelings toward your brand, ultimately impacting customer loyalty, sales and lifetime value. If you find yourself wondering what customer touchpoints are, make sure not to dismiss the answer as business jargon, as analysis of customer touchpoints can make a big difference to your company.

Another common misconception with customer touchpoints is that they have to be instigated by the business, but this certainly isn't the case. Third-party review websites, online advertisements and even word of mouth are all examples of customer touchpoints, some of which are completely out of your control. All of these make up the customer journey and define the customer experience. They are much more than just a transactional moment with a customer; they are crucial interactions that represent key moments in the buying process.

 

Customer touchpoints and the customer journey

A customer touchpoint is a single point at which a customer interacts with your business. These points can be collated and used to create a touchpoint map, which works as an inventory of those customer touchpoints. This should not be confused with the customer journey, which is a slightly different aspect. The customer journey looks at how customers transition from one touchpoint to the next and the steps they take to become a paying customer. In the majority of cases, a customer will not experience every single touchpoint — their journey will usually be made up of a select few. Each customer will also experience a slightly different customer journey, as they will come across varying touchpoints and have different interactions with your business.

 

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What is the difference between a customer touchpoint and a channel?

Investigating what customer touchpoints exactly are can lead some to become confused between touchpoints and channels. Both are important elements within a customer journey and play a crucial role in customer experience; however, they are slightly different. As we have mentioned, a customer touchpoint is when an interaction with your business occurs. Some customer touchpoint examples include watching a product demo, completing a website form or booking a table in a restaurant.

 

Channels are a method for connecting with customers and can be thought of as the environment in which a customer touchpoint happens. This might be your business website, a social media channel or an advertising flyer. It is easy to get the two confused, but in simple terms, a touchpoint is an interaction with your business, while a channel is where that interaction takes place. Touchpoints could happen across a range of different channels; for example, paying for an order is a touchpoint and could take place on your website, in a physical store or over the phone.

 

Why are customer touchpoints so important for businesses?

Now that you can answer what customer touchpoints are, you might be wondering why they are important and if you really need to worry about them for your own business. We already know that customer experience is more important than ever — and customer touchpoints play a crucial role in defining that experience. Knowing what your customer touchpoints are can help you to optimise them for the best possible performance and identify areas where you might be leaving business on the table.

 

The way consumers shop and interact with businesses has changed dramatically over the years, and understanding your customer touchpoints can help you to keep ahead of the pack. Fifteen years ago, the average customer would use two touchpoints when making a purchase, with just 7% of consumers using over four touchpoints. Today, customers are using an average of 5 to 6 touchpoints, and 50% regularly use more than four. This is mainly down to advances in technology, which provide consumers with more ways than ever to interact with a business. If you are lacking these touchpoints, or your customer touchpoints are not working to the best of their ability, it could be potentially harmful to your business.

 

Having effective customer touchpoints can not only improve sales but boost customer loyalty. All marketers know that retaining an existing customer is more valuable than acquiring an old one, and touchpoints can help with this. It is essential that you know which touchpoints your business should be investing time and money into and which are not worthwhile. Listening to your customers and understanding the buying journey can help you to identify which of your customer touchpoints are the most valuable.

How do you identify customer touchpoints?

Before we jump into customer touchpoint examples, we want to first answer the question 'how do you identify customer touchpoints?'. Every business will have a unique set of customer touchpoints, and no two companies will have the exact same ones. It is crucial that you can identify your individual touchpoints so that you can optimise them for the best possible performance. Many businesses have customer touchpoints that they are not even aware of and could be missing out on revenue by not properly identifying them and capitalising on these interactions.

 

Once you know what your customer touchpoints are, and where they take place, you can measure their performance and understand where improvements can be made. Identifying your customer touchpoints is essential for improving customer experience. You should remember that some customer touchpoints will be beyond your control, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't be aware of them and monitor them over time. Here is everything you need to know when asking how you identify customer touchpoints?

 

Put yourself in your customers’ shoes

It might seem easy just to list off everywhere a customer could come across your business, but the most effective way of identifying your customer touchpoints is to put yourself in their shoes. Similar to creating customer personas, you need to get inside a customer's head and see things from their perspective. Ask yourself what you would do if you were looking to solve a problem or needed to make a buying decision about your particular products. Where would you start your research and how would you be influenced along the way?

 

Try to take yourself out of the role you currently have in your business and think about things from the customer perspective. Put yourself on your customer journey and make a note of every customer touchpoint you find along the way. If you would start your search on Google then consider clicking on paid advertising or an organic result as a potential touchpoint. Reading a blog or viewing your Google reviews could also be a touchpoint at this stage. Do this until you have completed a purchase. Even after this, you should still be considering post-purchase touchpoints. You can align your thoughts on what customer touchpoints might be for your business with feedback from existing customers. Reviews and surveys can help you to understand consumers’ real-life experiences with your business.

 

Map your customer journey and customer experience

Alongside putting yourself in your customers' shoes, you should also map out your customer journey. A customer journey map is essential because it outlines all the touchpoints that a customer could experience while interacting with your business. You can take it one step further with a customer experience map. This will analyse every aspect of customer experience with your brand and highlight many customer touchpoints.

 

A customer journey map will appear very linear compared with a customer experience (CX) map because a CX map will look at all the interactions across many touchpoints and channels. They can clearly demonstrate the paths that customers will take when they interact with your brand and can help you understand the different routes to market that different audiences will follow. Creating a customer experience map will help you to see each potential interaction or customer touchpoint that a customer might have with your business throughout their journey.

 

Using both customer journey maps and customer experience maps is useful for identifying customer touchpoints. A journey map is best for focusing on a specific path that a customer might take, and the touchpoints encountered along this path. A customer experience map can help you visualise every customer journey and gain a deeper understanding of how customers interact with your business. They are great for helping you to understand your brand’s omnichannel experience and identify touchpoints across various channels.

 

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Categorise your touchpoints

Once you have identified all of your customer touchpoints, you should categorise them so that you can better understand the customer experiences. Typically, touchpoints will fall into one of four categories:

 

  1. Products: Your products are touchpoints for your business, and these include software, hardware and services. Depending on your business, your website might fall into this category because it may be a part of your product or service. Some touchpoints on your website could be in the product category while others fall under messages. 
  2. Interactions: Any customer touchpoint that is a two-way interaction should fall under the interactions category. This could be online (such as live chat), on the phone or in person. 
  3. Settings: This refers to places where your products or services might be seen or used by customers. It could be in-store, at an event or even television product placement. Customer touchpoints in the settings category are often ones you have no control over.
  4. Messages: Any one-way communications can be categorised as message touchpoints. This could be advertising, product packaging or any other touchpoint where you are communicating with customers, but where they cannot communicate back. 

Customer touchpoint examples

Another part of answering the question of how to identify customer touchpoints is to look at some generic examples. Customer touchpoint examples can provide useful insight into the common touchpoints that most businesses will have. These are some of the most popular customer touch point examples, which we have broken down into pre-purchase, during purchase, and post-purchase.

Pre-purchase touchpoints

Online advertising

Online advertising comes in many different forms, and all of these are customer touchpoint examples. Display advertising, PPC and social media ads are all used by businesses and are all examples of customer touchpoints. When a customer sees your advert and clicks through to your website, they are interacting with your brand.

Social media

Almost all businesses use social media in one way or another, and if you are not, then you really should start including it in your marketing strategy. Social media could be seen as a ‘during-purchase’ or ‘post-purchase’ touchpoint, but most commonly, it is used for acquiring new customers. Around 54% of social media users are using the channel to research products, so it is undoubtedly a good way to start interacting with potential customers. Social media is a very common example of a customer touchpoint for most businesses.

 

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Online advertising is not the only form of digital marketing that works as a customer touchpoint. Any kind of content that your business produces and shares to promote products or services is a touchpoint. Blogs, infographics and promotional videos are all examples of interactions with customers on the buying journey.

 

Word of mouth


One of the most powerful forms of marketing is ‘word of mouth’, with a huge 83% of customers saying their most trusted source for referrals is their friends and family. This customer touchpoint example is one that you cannot directly control as a business, but it can be a very powerful one.

During-purchase touchpoints

 

Conversations


When it comes to customer touchpoints during a purchase, in-person conversations are often the most direct example. This could be a conversation in-store or at an event, and such conversations usually have an immediate impact on customers during their purchase decision.

 

Product pages


Product pages on a website or hard copy catalogues are a great way of showcasing products. They usually include details about the product and an image, providing everything the customer needs to know to make a buying decision. These are effective and popular customer touchpoint examples that directly impact your business performance and customer experience.

 

Reviews

 

We have already touched on the importance of product reviews and how many customers rely on these to make a buying decision. In some cases, reviews would be a pre-purchase customer touchpoint, but increasingly they are becoming important during the purchase. Many websites provide product reviews directly alongside the product during purchase, so customers can quickly and clearly see details such as overall star ratings and the number of reviews.

 

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Point of sale (POS)

Point of sale can refer to many different touchpoints, such as merchandising in-store or speaking with a sales rep. It marks a crucial point in the customer journey and is often the last customer touchpoint before becoming a paying customer. For many businesses, it is the final chance to convince a customer that they need your product.

 

Ecommerce

There are various customer touchpoints all within eCommerce and they can dramatically improve customer experience during purchase. Having the ability to offer online sales over in-store purchases is great for customers, and there are a lot of touchpoints to consider along this journey.

Post-purchase touchpoints

 

Feedback surveys

 

Whether a customer purchased a product or used your service, sending a feedback survey is an important post-purchase customer touchpoint. They work to evaluate the customer's experience with your business and can provide valuable insights into what is working well and what is not. As a customer touchpoint, it also demonstrates to the customer that your business cares about their opinion and feedback.

Thank you email

As well as sending a post-purchase feedback survey, it is also a nice touch to send a thank you email. This customer touchpoint helps to build a rapport with customers and build on customer loyalty. Many businesses take this further by sending a handwritten thank-you note along with their products, which adds a more personal touch.

Cross-selling and upselling

A customer has purchased from you for a reason, and their needs don't just go away straight afterwards. With many products, a customer could have additional requirements once they start to use your product. For example, if a customer purchases a new phone, they may then need a new phone case as well. This is the perfect opportunity for upselling or cross-selling post-purchase.

 

Loyalty programmes


We already know that loyal customers are more valuable than new customers, so a loyalty programme is a great way to develop this. Post-purchase you can incentivise customers to join your loyalty scheme with exclusive discounts and offers. This is a powerful touchpoint for turning customers into life-long advocates of your brand.

 

Billing

Billing is a crucial customer touchpoint which is often overlooked. It doesn't have any direct impact on a customer deciding to buy, but it can have an impact on customer churn and return business. A negative billing experience could put customers off and results in negative feedback and word of mouth.

 

Understanding and identifying your customer touchpoints is critical to improving your overall customer experience. When you know exactly what your touchpoints are and how well they are performing, you will be able to set your business up for success and provide a smoother, more effective buying journey for your customers.

 


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