The evolution of the customer journey in 2017: Optimizing moments that matter
Until recently, we were able to map out the path that the typical customer would take when making a buying decision or searching for information to inform that decision. We could identify exactly how and when they would move to the next stage of the buying cycle and what triggered that behavior.
However, the days of identifying a linear “buyer’s journey” are giving way to a much more challenging mandate as the customer journey becomes increasingly fragmented.
Here’s a close look at the shift from the linear customer journey, and the new model that will be guiding your marketing efforts:
The fragmented customer journey
Even though digital advertisements, search and social media have been around for many years, few marketers have been able to identify the exact triggers that prompt a purchase for any given sale.
We look at metrics and identify patterns of behavior — certain keywords whose search results often lead to purchases, ads that get more clicks than others, certain status updates that get more engagement than others — and we turn to science and predictive models to calculate which types of ads and content will be most effective.
As a result, marketers have noticed that customers are no longer following a step-by-step process of viewing an ad, clicking through to a landing page and completing a sale.
Today’s customers are on a fragmented journey instead of a linear path. Thanks to social media, digital advertising and new ways people are communicating online, guiding a customer through the buying process is not so simple as presenting a path and having a consumer walk through it. Mobile adaptation is transforming the way customers are making their way through the traditional buyer’s journey.
Customers now have the opportunity to interact with brands and companies directly, send messages via Facebook, participate in online contests and share their interests and reviews of products on social media. They’re now bombarded with advertisements and messaging from several channels and platforms instead of just one.
Omnichannel marketing is taking over the traditional digital marketing approach to ensure customers can be reached and engaged in several different ways over the course of a day or a week.
Capitalizing on micro-moments
In order to make our marketing efforts successful, we need to identify the points of engagement.
Today’s most successful marketing strategies account for micro-moments, the key points in the searching and buying process where customers make contact with an advertisement, message, your website, or other “anchors” on a mobile device. Micro-moments are the specific times — right down to the day and time — where a customer moves forward in the buying journey by agreeing to subscribe to an email, view an ad, seek out more information on the website or search engines or engage with social media posts via mobile.
A Think with Google study points out how the majority of consumers turn to their phones with the intent of searching for key information and the expectation that brands will deliver immediate answers. They are in the mindset of “I want to know,” “I want to go,” “I want to do” or “I want to buy,” which means they are not necessarily looking for articles about a topic, educational information or anything that would require sitting down and reading for a few minutes.
In fact, Google says one in three smartphone users has purchased from a company or brand other than the one they intended simply because that brand or company provided information in the moment they needed it.
Effective and impactful omnichannel marketing
The key to capitalizing on micro-moments lies in the ability to serve up key information at just the right time to move the sale forward.
- When customers are in the “I-Want-to-Know Moment,” they will be most responsive to information that provides an answer or solution rather than a sales page that encourages them to buy. Consider that 87 percent of consumers do research before they even set foot in a store, according to Google. This means you need to reach consumers well before they even come into contact with an associate on the sales floor.
- When customers are in the “I-Want-to-Go Moment,” they will be more responsive to local search results, maps and specific directions on where something is located, rather than information about product.
- When customers are in the “I-Want-to-Do Moment,” they are looking for ideas and useful information, such as tips or pointers to complete a task. Recipes, step-by-step guides and how-to videos or tutorials are some examples of content that would best serve these customers.
- When customers are in the “I-Want-to-Buy Moment,” they are looking for clues on what the best deal is and how to get it. This is the stage where a coupon, offer, app that allows for a quick purchase, or even an Amazon-style one-click ordering feature would be most impactful.
Effective omnichannel marketing is about utilizing several different online platforms and media to deliver a message at a key point in the buyer’s journey. The challenge is no longer how much content should be created for a marketing campaign, but instead how and when it should be distributed, delivered and served to the target customer.
Serving up the right type of content at a pivotal point in the buyer’s journey provides an opportunity to engage customers and move them forward in the sale.
Marketers who can identify exactly what stage customers are in when they reach these micro-moments have the valuable data needed to develop and manipulate content that best serves them.
4 strategies for success in 2017
Marketers and SEOs need to be creative with their marketing efforts in 2017 to ensure they truly are meeting customers where they are in their customer journey and serving the right type of information in key moments that matter. They need to understand what drives and motivates these customers to be where they are at each touch point and then nudge the customer forward to the next step.
Here are four strategies for success in 2017:
1. Understanding the customer and customer demand. Understanding customer intent is critical to developing a marketing campaign or messaging that resonates with the customer. If you can identify whether the customer is in an “I-want-to-know” stage or an “I-want-to-be-inspired” stage, you can serve up content that gives them exactly what they are looking for.
You can identify demand by looking at data and trends, and also by mapping out the conversion points in the sales funnel.
2. Creating content for these specific audiences. Identifying moments that matter to engage and convert is now a higher priority than ever before. Once those are identified, marketers need to create content that provides exactly what the customer is looking for at any given time. This might take the form of short blog posts, how-to videos, step-by-step guides, or even downloadable coupons and special offers.
3. Optimizing content for different platforms. The shift to mobile is encouraging many marketers to develop mobile-friendly versions of their websites and ensure that advertisements, and even articles, are easy to read and understand on a mobile device.
Integrating content across multiple platforms is critical for success in 2017 and beyond. Your customers are much more likely to recall a brand, product or promotion that is presented in a similar fashion across television, online videos, and even in direct mail pieces.
It’s time to optimize video, mobile and local content to streamline the execution of your digital marketing campaigns.
4. Measuring performance. It may no longer be as easy as reviewing analytics reports on ads served or the number of views on a video since performance depends on high levels of engagement that lead to a final sale — not just more engagement. Still, increased engagement with a customer does offer brand development benefits and can help to prompt a sale in the near future.
Successful marketers will need to identify how much engagement is needed to generate a sale versus which specific activities are leading to a sale. Measuring performance will once again become a science that requires a shift in thinking as customers engage in several different ways before making their final purchasing decision.
The bottom line
The rules of the game aren’t changing — they’re evolving. Digital marketing success in 2017, and beyond, will require engineering many advertising and marketing campaigns built around micro-moments and highly targeted content that’s served across multiple channels.
If you want to get ahead with your marketing in the upcoming year, you can’t ignore the fact that customers are now on a fragmented journey and exposed to hundreds, even thousands, of touch points — social media, online videos, online networking sites and traditional advertising are just a few.
As content goes digital and mobile adaptation increases, SEO and content marketers need to pay even more attention to contextual marketing initiatives that will connect with the customer at the most pivotal times — the micro-moments along the customer’s journey. Measuring performance may not be as simple as it once was, but it’s still a necessary step to determine what initiatives are truly making an impact on the target customer and which ones are failing to deliver results.