Building a new Customer Journey model
The customer journey is a theme in marketing that gets a lot of attention. It’s also the theme with the greatest gap between the perceived importance of the topic and the advertisers' readiness to work with it. So how can we become better at working strategically with the customer journey as a tool for collecting data that becomes the basis for relevant and present communication?
In order to do this, I want to create a new customer journey model – something that’s operational and more up-to-date with current marketing practice. Therefore, I’ll start out by exploring the current models we use for working with customer journeys.
So, what’s wrong with the Customer Journey as we know it?
Throughout the years, different models have been developed in order for us to work with the customer journey. Below is consultancy, McKinsey's, approach to how we should think about the journey - from initial consideration to purchase decision.
While models like these work well when mapping out the users’ overall journey, we must critically asses them in developing a new model.
When taking the huge leaps in technology into consideration, we find some flaws in the existing model. It does not consider that technology can undermine the need for marketing in the initial stages, for instance when the customer uses price comparison services online. It is wise to invest in the first part of the customer journey, but we must keep in mind that they do not always take our preferred route, and that is due to technology.
Furthermore, the model is shaped as a continuous journey that repeats itself over and over again. Is that a realistic way of seeing it? Here, it’s assumed that the customer follows a predetermined route, but in reality, one might jump between different contact points. This means that the customer should be in the center of the model.
With the numerous different ways to collect data from our users, the model is unfortunately not taking this into consideration. This is especially vital, as it makes us wiser on what the user wants.
External Channels and Networking Effects
Also, a clearer distinction should be made between the company's own contact points and external ones, because customers often use channels outside our reach when they ask their network on Facebook, use Trust Pilot to view product reviews etc.
Out of market
Wait a minute. So, you’re telling me that the people who cannot afford our product at the moment are not relevant at all? It would be a lost opportunity if the potential customer did not have your brand as top-of-mind when the need occurred. So the model lacks a more nuanced breakdown of those not in the market. It is conceivable that users can aspire to a particular brand, even if they do not currently have the purchasing power, as is the case with most luxury brands.
And if we look at retention, loyalty is more about buying from a portfolio of different brands, rather than an endless loop of repeat purchases from the same brand, as the model suggests.
Making it operational
With the above reflections in mind, the existing Customer Journey models are good at a conceptual level, but lack relevance, when we need to work with them in practice. So how can we actually make a new model that is more operational?
There is no doubt that advertisers love data-based creativity. Working in a creative agency myself, I have observed that we sometimes let ourselves be controlled by the creative, while the work with insights - which ought to strengthen the creative work - plays a minor role. Thus, the executions can become detached from real insight, and this can mean that you are not communicating effectively.
This, of course, has implications for working with the Customer Journey in practice, since it must be based on actual customer insights. However, it provides little value to know why your customers are visiting a particular part of your website if they are not met with content that covers that need. Therefore, we need to think about the customer journey much more holistically. Our work with the Customer Journey will only be successful if it is integrated with the right marketing architecture.
The 4 elements of the Marketing Architecture
The elements of the Marketing Architecture most commonly consist of data that must drive efforts in the customer journey and create the rationale for the use of content that is activated in the individual contact point.
In an ideal world, the entire journey should be supported by automated processes. While few have accomplished to fully automate core marketing processes, it should still be considered in a new model. For most marketing organizations, the work with the customer journey is meant as a starting point to create intelligent content that is brought into play. As for automated processes, my advice would, therefore, be not to overcomplicate it. Just keep it in mind.
With the above reflections, we're able to construct the model:
The ACB-OELA model
The model is based on 8 stages, all of which puts the customer in the center - as opposed to earlier, more linear, flows. The model can, for example, be used as a research tool to create an overview and start a dialogue about where there are challenges, but also to qualify communication choices in the individual project. So the model can be used both to get the complete overview of the entire user journey (CX) and to dive into conversions in the specific contact point (UX / CRO).
In working with the model, you start from the inside and work your way out, ensuring that the customer insights make the foundation rather than the efficiency of channels or our creative content.
In addition, you go through 6 steps in each of the 8 stages:
Basic insights and observations about the user's behavior at that contact point: What is the user's information needs? What barriers might they have? Why does the user have this particular behavior?
Creative assets (physical and digital) that must be developed and put into play based on the user's needs at the individual contact point.
The information we can gather about the user during the journey and use to tailor communication.
The primary paid, earned and owned channels in which our content must be activated in order to best hit the user.
The KPIs that the communication has as well as the measurement and continuous optimization of content performance.
Systemisation and automation of processes that combine data with communication and increase relevance.
Moment of truth: The model can also be used to identify the moment of truth (the white line is highlighted and marked as red). In most cases, the moment of truth will occur under the Buying Decision stage, when we interact with Ecommerce or the seller in the store, but for other industries it is different. Eg. insurance, where it is only during the actual Experience (when the damage is done and you have to use the insurance) that moment of truth occurs.
Working with the model
This leads us further, because how do we then manage to feed content into the model? The model is a general tool that we use in specific cases. So while there is a big difference between the B2B and B2C decision-making processes (for example, there is not a long and sustained search for information when we go down to the groceries and buy a liter of milk), the model must be used on both and should be adjusted accordingly.
In addition, many customers state that it is not the amount of available data that is a challenge, but that the data is simply not put into system. While the tools we typically use in marketing analytical teams can help find the data, the model can actually help create an overview of it. Eg. a tool like Storybase can help us with keyword analyzes that identify market needs based on Google searches, and social media monitoring with NetBase can help us understand how people talk about a particular topic on social channels.
As we get further into the customer journey - and the customer begins to interact with us - Google Analytics can help us find implications for the website, while email marketing programs can say a lot about the behavior of the leads we get into our funnel.
Here's an example:
The brand could be Matas. The product could be men's perfume. The stage in the customer journey could be the active stage, while the timing is January 2020.
Insights: User runs out of perfume (trigger) and types "men's perfume" and "best perfume for men" in Google (information needs). New Year often means new goals, which could relate to the aspiration of wanting to smell better. Delivery must be fast, as the customer has run out (barrier).
Content: Matas makes a landing page with "10 best perfumes for men in 2020". Optimizes its organic SEO after "fast delivery" and creates content for retargeting that reminds users - who do not convert initially - of perfume on offer.
Data: Collection of 1st party cookies when visiting the website or better yet: Collecting a permission (making email marketing campaigns possible), when the user signs up to receive offers on perfume.
Touchpoints: Owned (SEO, Website, Social Channels), Paid (Adwords, Display, Pre-rolls) and Earned (Review sites, Price Comparison Services)
Metrics: Ad conversions on Google, website (number of visits, bounce rate, visit time), content engagement, number of newsletter sign-ups
Automation: By signing up for the newsletter, the user is added to CRM as well as the email marketing software, after which they are met with an automated email marketing flow. Based on this, you can do lead scoring and warm up leads, etc.
Making sure that we implement it
The major barrier to the success of the model is that it is placed in the drawer without any actual activation. To avoid this, it is important that the model is owned somewhere in the organization, as it will not otherwise live in the business. Here, it is obvious that the strategic and analytical parts of the business should take ownership and "build" it, while others can use it as a dialogue tool.
In this context, those using the model should, of course, be able to navigate and develop it. Here I would recommend doing a series of workshops where employees are trained in the use of the model on specific projects.
I hope this new model for working with the customer journey found you well. If you have any questions about the model specifically or general question regarding the customer journey, drop me an email.