Every day we make hundreds of decisions, some consciously, others intuitively. A consumer's purchasing process is likewise associated with multiple decisions of both types. As a result of the choices we make on websites, we are led to different points and thus, via clever marketing, come into contact with a product or service again and again. The customer journey describes exactly this journey of the customer. From first perception to the final purchase decision – the consumer interacts with a wide variety of contact points. The journey is the goal – it is particularly interesting for companies to follow this customer journey down to the last detail and to identify touchpoints in order to derive potential.
Similar to a trip with several stop offs, the customer journey is also a series of different experiences. Individual touchpoints are mostly the big events, but even the smallest details can make a trip unforgettable. While some are positive, other experiences tend to have a lasting negative impact. In the worst case scenario, this can result in the customer canceling their purchase and instead choosing a competitor. In order to strengthen the sales and conversions as well as the branding of a company, it is worth taking a look at customer touchpoints. In this it is possible to identify "bad offenders" and to optimize both individual touchpoints and marketing. In practice, the study of points of contact and the topic of customer journeys are not really a science - a thorough analysis of individual touch points is simply the first important step towards successful marketing.
As we already discussed, the customer journey describes the individual stages that a customer goes through before deciding to purchase a product or service. This is therefore any point of contact that a person has with a brand or product. This journey of the customer can be divided into different phases. Similar to a scavenger hunt, the customer collects more and more information about a product or service at these individual touchpoints and thus forms an informed opinion. Since customers have individual needs, each customer experiences the customer journey subjectively. There are many ways and variants of how it is structured. Marketing experts need to use their creativity to analyze the customer journey to consider as many contingencies as possible. It is important to put yourself in the customer‘s shoes and contemplate his way of thinking. What do consumers expect? What benefits do they want to receive in what way? The goal is to generate as positive and as seamless a customer experience as possible. However, the design of the customer journey is not a one-off process, but rather a long-term task.
A customer journey can be long and extensive with a variety of touchpoints. It can last for days and weeks or only a few hours. This usually depends on the product and the individual purchasing behaviour of the consumer. It also consists of different numbers of touchpoints with which the customer comes into contact during their trip. Across industries, the average is about twenty touchpoints. On the basis of these, the customer path leading up to the purchase decision can be accurately traced.
Advertising posters, radio spots, opinions and testimonials from social media or acquaintances, a visit to the store or contact via e-mail – the list of possible touchpoints within the customer journey could be continued forever. In broad terms, this is every possible point of contact between the customer and the company. Touchpoints are simple, but incredibly diverse. They are before, during and even after the purchase process, and can be divided into direct and indirect types. Contacts with the brand generated by third parties, such as friends and family, are indirect because the company cannot directly influence them. The situation is quite different for adverts and other controlled measures. With clever marketing, the company can have a direct influence on how it wants to affect the consumer.
In the digital age, customers have a variety of ways to connect with businesses and get more accurate information about a particular product. This is how the digital and analog marketing measures and touchpoints of the customer journey mix. Let's take an example to illustrate this merger in more detail: after the customer has learned about a product in a conversation with friends and a clear recommendation has been made, he or she will want to find out more about the product over the internet. In the course of their research, they pull up the company‘s website and find both prices and other information about the product. They then visit a specialist shop to consult with an expert and ask a few more questions before finally making a purchase.
Of course, brands want to leave the best possible impression and influence the touchpoints of the customer journey as positively as possible. In order to understand the customer, the company must look at its own offerings and services from the consumer point of view. Mostly, potential buyers regard the company as a one whole unit. If they are not satisfied with any one touchpoint, they may re-orient themselves and defect to the competition. Therefore, it is important to get involved with the customer in order to contain such sources of danger and prevent losing the customer so early in their journey.
The process of customer journey can also be compared to a funnel, as out of all the consumers who come into contact with you, significantly fewer make a purchase. Even if you offer an impeccable product that is perfectly adapted to the needs of the target group – if the customer journey or even just one touchpoint within it rankles, it can quickly have a negative effect on the purchase decision.
For companies, it is important to identify every touchpoint that a potential customer can come into contact with and to gather feedback from consumers. Why does the customer cancel the purchase process? At what points are they hesitant? If it is possible to identify the respective touchpoint and optimize the marketing, this will have a positive effect on company turnover. But the points of contact that have already been perceived as positive must also be improved, because according to a study, 55 percent of consumers are willing to pay even more if they receive optimal service.
If you have identified the important touchpoints, you are more than half-way there - but there is still a lot to do. With the potentially countless points of contact you can quickly lose track, so concentration and clarity are required. A customer map is a visual tool that can help. In order to observe all the touchpoints and to recognize the correlations, it is worth implementing a chronological procedure. "What does the consumer come into contact with first? What other options are there?" Again, there is no final solution, and the customer map differs depending on the customer. One should therefore try to visualize the touchpoints as best as possible, without attempting 100% perfection or completeness.
Since the very first point of contact between consumers and companies in particular can be very different, research work is required. In this way, individual possibilities can be gradually collated. It is recommended that you assign different phases to each touchpoint.
At this stage, passive action processing takes place, as the company tries to draw attention to itself. Touchpoints at this stage include TV commercials, print ads, or social media appearances. But indirect touchpoints can also be assigned here, such as the recommendation of friends and acquaintances.
Consumers then actively search for further information about the product or service provided by the provider. This can be done, for example, by a search engine, the company's own website or various social media channels. In this phase, marketing experts are in high demand, as various contact points have to be established and continuously optimized to ensure the customer gets the information they are looking for as quickly and easily as possible.
The hook is baited, the customer has experienced their first touchpoints with the company. Now the consumer only has to put his planned behaviour into practice. At best, he now develops into a customer and a conversion follows. This can include, for example, purchasing a product, subscribing to a newsletter, or creating a customer account. This can be done by calling a service hotline, requesting by e-mail or accessing the website.
One might think that the customer journey is over with the completed purchase, but companies should always try to strengthen and maintain the customer bond even after the purchase. This phase can also be described as a customer loyalty phase. If a company offers after-sales services, the likelihood of follow-up purchases can be increased. Ideally, the customer journey never ends, because even after the purchase, enough touchpoints should exist to keep the customer in mind and for them to consider future purchases.
The journey is not yet over: many companies make the mistake of only thinking as far as fulfilling their service or delivering their product. Despite a user-friendly website, extensive marketing, great advice in the specialist shop and a wide selection – the purchase becomes a test of patience when the checkout queue runs through the whole store. If the return of an item turns out to be very expensive, all the great service before and during the purchase may have been so positive - but this one negative experience at the end of the customer journey can negatively impact the consumer’s whole image of your company.
An analysis of the customer journey and its individual touchpoints can produce a variety of results. Before starting an analysis, it is important to determine its scope. For a rough analysis, touchpoints can be formulated more generally. If the analysis is to be more detailed, contact points with the customer must also be described in more detail and be further differentiated. Purchasing behavior studies or collecting your own customer satisfaction data can help identify the vulnerabilities in your own customer journey.
In order to carry out the most effective analysis of customer touchpoints, bear in mind the motto: a lot helps a lot. If you can generate a lot of customer satisfaction data, it can most likely cover a higher number of contingencies regarding the negative and positive touchpoints. After all, every customer trip is subjective, as is the individual assessment of the individual points of contact with the brand. Customer satisfaction can be determined particularly well with NPS®. Thanks to zenloop, it is possible to define and evaluate this key figure in order to derive subsequent marketing recommendations. The survey data enabling touchpoints with potential for improvement to be identified is a powerful resource. There is no doubt that it makes sense to ask the customer for feedback several times and even after the completion of the respective phases. First of all, however, it is important to ask yourself the question as a company: What exactly do I want to know about my customers? What information can I use in marketing? Then the appropriate phase and touchpoint must be selected to answer this question.
Initiation: Is the range offered satisfactory? Has the consumer found what he is looking for?
After Ordering: How was the ordering process perceived? Does the choice of payment options meet the customer's expectations?
Shopping cart cancellations are not uncommon in e-commerce. Nevertheless, a customer satisfaction survey is worthwhile at this point. What led to the abandonment?
Delivery: Was the product delivered without defects?
The analysis of the touchpoints using NPS® leads to a win-win situation, because if the touchpoints are optimized, customer satisfaction and thus the NPS® value will also improve in the future.
If the individual touchpoints of the Customer Journey can be named and defined, it is now time to optimize them and adapt them to your customer‘s wishes. An understanding of consumers' preferences must be developed, and this requires empathy. Business activities must be aligned to the behaviour patterns you identify. Now is the time to use the collected information for oneself and to optimize one's own communication concept and marketing.
A large part of purchases in 2020 take place online, so it is essential for companies to analyze these important touchpoints particularly well. This is achieved by using so-called „scan paths“, which analyze the customer's viewing history when viewing the online shop or website. Important e-commerce touchpoints are, for example, the filter functions of online shops. The possibility of contacting the company through a chat-bot is also viewed positively. To improve the customer journey in this area, a few measures are recommended:
In the course of the customer journey, it is important not only to look at the big picture, but also to go into detail. If it is possible to define the individual touchpoints and to find out where the consumer cancels the purchase process, one can improve the profitability of the company through optimization. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, because every customer has different needs. Even if you give your best as a company and adapt your communication measures and marketing as best you can to the wishes and expectations of consumers, there will still be single customers who have something to complain about. In the course of optimizing the individual touchpoints of the customer journey and marketing, sensitivity and empathy are required. If the points of contact can be successfully adapted, consumers can become enthusiastic brand ambassadors who remain in contact with the company even after their purchase and, best of all, recommend it to others.
Content Marketing Manager