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The Customer Journey - tear up the rule book?

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Ask yourself, how well do you know the minds of your customers? I wouldn’t be surprised if the honest answer was “not as much as I thought I did!”. To say it has been an interesting time would be rather an understatement, and as I am writing, the ‘interesting’ is far from over. The socio-economic shifts that affect customer buying patterns are still subject to change, and one thing is for sure, they are very different to the way they were 12 months ago.

Tearing up the Customer Journey Rulebook

It is for this reason that many marketers are tearing up their customer journey playbooks and looking at their marketing landscape with fresh eyes. The current predicament is rather curious; cause does not quite seem to follow effect, at least, not in the way that it used to. The crux of the issue for marketers is that intent has changed. Buying behaviour is more cautious in many cases, requiring additional touch-points and reassurance before purchasing, but paradoxically in some areas the customer journey can involve significantly less browsing and much more decisive behaviour.

You will no doubt have seen that in many cases eCommerce is experiencing a boom; especially retail where customers have been busy stocking up against possible future shortages. I was heartened to read about Gin distilleries who cleaned up (literally) by pivoting to produce hand sanitiser instead – that represents a triumph of lateral thinking. There is also an aspect of retail therapy in play, customers have been stuck at home, bored, and spending a bit of money on something they may or may not want, may not quite be subject to the same internal or household cost justifications they once did.

How can you tell though whether a customer is going to need more attention, or less in order to make their commitment to buy? It is well known that too much attention can be off-putting; I’m reminded of a FMCG brand, who will remain nameless, who bombarded a potential customer with dozens of push messages in one day (all part of separate journeys to be fair which indicated a lack of separation and prioritisation of journey messaging), but nonetheless the point stands, when digital marketing is involved, a customer can have too much of a good thing!

The beginning of a customer journey

Every industry is different, within an industry every brand is different, within a brand…you get the idea. One approach that some organisations are having good luck with is to treat people on their journeys differently depending on their origin point; how they found you as it were. If they joined a defined customer journey by responding to your marketing, e.g. clicking on a link in an email then they can be treated a little more classically, in a measured approach – find out about them as they find out about you – and over the course of 4-6 touchpoints try to lead them towards making a purchase that might interest them (and you).

If however, they arrive in a customer journey from a more random origin point, e.g. they just landed on the website from a google search, then perhaps try offering them a purchase or discount immediately; the traditional six touchpoints before purchase rule may well not apply, and you might save yourself some time, and your company some cashflow to get the purchase over with as soon as possible. Regardless of the approach, your customers expectations of you as a brand are high, perhaps even more elevated now with the forced digital transformation being seen across the board. Customers Expect it All and even a pandemic won’t turn back the clock on those expectations. Brands are expected to adapt and adjust or move aside.

Essential focus for marketers

When business is not running as usual, there are key areas that require constant attention and customer journeys is an essential item on that list.

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