A holistic approach to fully understand customer journeys.
Date : June 8th 2020
Category : Thought Leadership
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Current understanding: the touchpoint approach
Businesses often measure their performance by considering touchpoints or metrics in isolation. These measurements are easily tracked and implemented into operations, for example, the conversion rate or the traffic and bounce rate on a website. Single touchpoints are much easier to analyze than multiple actions but this narrow focus misses the most important aspect of a customer journey: the sequence of events that lead to conversion. We define end-to-end customer journeys (CJs), as time-dependent processes that describe customers’ interactions with a brand’s products and services. Analysing these journeys provides a powerful tool for businesses: it is only by looking at the big picture that you can meaningfully improve performance and identify bottlenecks.
The prevalence of e-commerce has made customer journey tracking essential to most businesses. However, this process is becoming increasingly difficult and data-intensive. The growing complexity of online behaviours, with users switching between devices and browsers continuously, creates more erratic journeys within websites and has multiplied the number of possible actions on websites exponentially. Today, these factors place great importance on brands understanding the behaviour of their customers online and identifying the rules and patterns that define their journeys. They also make the process of doing so very difficult.
The need for a change
So why do we need to abandon individual touchpoint strategies and shift our way of thinking towards a customer journey point of view? The main issue is that a touchpoint strategy does not allow companies to properly differentiate between users.
Let’s take an example: if you only look at the milestone “exiting a page where a customer could convert but did not”, there are no distinctions between:
Journey 1: a customer who arrives directly to a specific “conversion” page by mis-clicking on a paid ad and actually never had the intention to buy or even an interest in the brand.
Journey 2: a customer who has been directed through organic search, browsed various areas of the website before ending up on a “conversion” page that he closed before doing acting because he needed some time for reflection.
Businesses need to adapt their digital marketing strategy towards these 2 types of prospects and all potential journey types, however, they can only do so by looking at the whole process as a single indivisible entity.
Adapting to strategies which focus on delivering end-to-end journeys and put customer-centricity first often have benefits to the business through increasing the chance that a customer will repeat a purchase, spend more, recommend the experience to their relatives, and generally remain loyal to a company.
Many solutions have emerged in recent years that help visualize these journeys and nourish customer profiles with additional online data sources, but too often they fall short of expectations and do not tell the full story. Businesses using these solutions have to manage with tools that provide attractive but insufficient visual maps or dashboards, and what was at first a well-intentioned initiative overwhelm internal teams with unusable tools. These tools have only provided partial success as they fall short in key areas, currently:
No application is currently able to consolidate online and offline journeys: this is problematic as many companies are not e-commerce businesses and not all sales are made online. How do you understand your buyers and properly target your audience if you cannot measure the impact on conversion from your online touchpoints?
They provide generic insights and outputs: there is no personalization based on the specific needs and requirements of the business and therefore the insights provided are often not comprehensive. Due to the tool exporting not enough granularity in the results
They do not provide a realistic view of consumer behaviour and cannot accurately capture the desires of customers.
Ekimetrics’ solution: a customer journey explorer
Customer-centricity focuses on creating positive experiences for consumers throughout their time using a brand’s products and services, this concept is essential for brands to truly understand customer journeys. Brands wanting to deliver a customer-centric strategy must take into account the full customer journey to gain any competitive advantage.
Our solution to this problem involves using customers’ journeys data as the input to an advanced clustering method, identifying groups of customers based on their actions. Initially, this task raises many questions: when are two journeys considered to be similar? What is the best way to transform my data in order to preserve valuable information? How do I make the clusters of my customers journeys interpretable and actionable?
Customer journey explorer: combining two essentials
To overcome the challenges of tracking customer journeys, we have adapted our solutions to client and industry situations, meaning we have built bespoke platforms for leading clients operating in financial services, retail, travel, and hospitality. A common finding through delivering an impactful solution in each of these cases is that whilst building your platform, one must try to bridge a high-level view and high granularity at the same time.
High levels of granularity provide the opportunity to maximize the accuracy of results. We see the value of this across our work as greater depth of data allows us to create a more realistic picture of customer journeys. Often this takes the shape of gathering multiple data sources and consolidating them – for example taking internal client data on customers and combining with external data coming from online sources. This aggregation allows us to dive deeper into the customer’s behaviour. This end-to-end vision is essential for our clients at Ekimetrics due to the value it provides. Instead of running uncoordinated, unreasoned, and redundant initiatives, our clients can reorganize their ideas around a set of end-to-end customer missions.
For many businesses with offline sales, a successful tool must be holistic and have the ability to reconcile granular online data with their sales that occur offline. This poses the challenge of connecting online and offline data sources that at a glance may have no common link. Our solution involves working closely with our clients and understanding their online and offline data ecosystems, with the aim of reconciling the two. After matching this internal view, the data collected by the company can be nourished with additional sources from ad servers, DSPs, DMPs, analytics tools and many more. This approach allows you to build a more complete view of customer journeys throughout the funnel – from awareness, through initial exposure to online advertisements, through to the realized offline sale. This view is crucial in providing a full business vision and having a view of customers that is as close to reality as possible. Companies can use the insight to understand the characteristics of the customers and use these insights to adapt their retaining or recruiting strategies going forward.
Customer journey explorers combine a highly granular view of customers, as well as a holistic view of the business view. The insights generated by this type of analysis, whether for internal or external clients external or internal clients, can be presented in multiple views. These views can be analyzed together so as to have an overview of all the relevant customer KPIs :
Funnel View – for analysts looking to understand conversion performance: this view presents the complete funnel of prospects through to customers, covering online to offline purchases. They can visualize any path made on their platforms, the number of pages viewed during the visit, the time spent, etc. These metrics are essential for decision-makers as they are a provide a macro and micro vision of the funnel. This view is crucial for digital marketers as brands can have a first view of conversion performance, for example, understand the variation in of performance depending on the media that led you to the website, the audience you are part of, or the product you are interested in. This view also shows conversion statistics based on the whole funnel (from the first visit to sales): the number of clients, conversions split, source of traffic, ads impression, etc making it a powerful business intelligence tool.
Audience Profiling View – for the marketers looking to guide product strategy: this view provides clients with descriptive statistics of their buyer’s behaviour split by each product in their assortment. This tool can be used to steer product marketing strategy by identifying the brand assets that are best at driving conversion in a specific product, helping develop clearer strategies to target those audiences in future campaigns. Additionally understanding how consumers are interacting with specific products allows for greater website personalization based on trackable metrics such as the demographic, page views, and time spent on product-related pages. This approach will also reveal areas of the website that are underperforming.
Audience Performance View – for digital marketers looking to optimise their budgets: this view provides guidance on how marketing channels are performing across different audiences. By tracking how well these channels are performing relative to each other we can optimise our investments towards high performers or areas of the business that are struggling. For example, keyword strategy could be improved if paid search was shown to be a common touchpoint before conversion. This view, by adding context on external communication, allows companies to add intelligence to their marketing strategy and measure success in the future.
Explorer View – For the analysts who want to go in-depth: this view provides the reverse view of the previous three and demonstrates the path to purchase from the customer’s perspective. This analysis is highly granular but helps build profiles and can nourish the understanding of a customer base. By following individual user journeys we can start to understand the customers are thinking, interacting with the website and the natural path they follow. A business can use this insight in many ways but primarily it is used to optimize their website and ensure that their website naturally guides their visitors to the point of purchase, without bottlenecks. By providing the analyst with parameters (source of product, length of the path, etc.) and many filters (country, product, device, etc), this view allows for a highly customizable view of the business that can serve many purposes.
How do we implement this solution?
There are still challenges left to overcome when implementing these solutions and each solution will need to be adapted to the specific client situation faces. To ensure success we have identified some simple best practices that remain consistent when implementing in any business:
Set up a Big Data environment, with the aim of tracking and processing all customer activity and journeys on a given day. This level of data is a prerequisite to performing this type of analysis and improving customer insights. Having a stable environment allows for dealing with huge amounts of data without losing efficiency or detail.
Set up network and sequence analysis to bring more clarity around key touchpoints and customer milestones.
Reinforce the industrialization process. Implementing or improving existing Data Management Platforms can improve data flows to accelerate time to insight.
Embedded advanced analytics throughout the customer journey, to nurture fact-based decision making. Ensuring data is being used throughout the path to purchase allows for a competitive advantage to be gained and business to become truly data-driven from awareness to repeat purchase. Examples include recommended product push, conversion follow up, client service optimization…)
Disrupting customer centricity solutions
Why would this approach be disruptive in a market where one size fits all wins?
Our experience building customer journey tools has revealed that the key to success is truly studying customers behaviour at the most granular level, ensuring decision-makers understand end-to-end journeys. This is opposed to other marketing tools, that define generic groups of consumers and make decisions based on aggregations of customers and their typical path to conversion. Focusing on the end consumer and the steps taken to purchase has proven to make a business impact. For the first time, businesses can truly measure the impact of media campaigns on their offline sales and analyse actionable views for improving all aspects of their communication with customers. Although this type of analysis requires more input and processing it enables the user to know the real behaviour of customers, a more traditional analysis such as Multi-touch attribution tries to summarize the touchpoints it can distort the full understanding of business.
How can you use the insight from a customer journey explorer?
Full-funnel customer journey analysis has proven itself to be the best in class solution across many of our Ekimetrics clients, in many industries and covering several different objectives. A common use case of this approach has been to support the launch of a new product. In particular, how to optimize a media campaign around this launch?
A better understanding of customer behaviour can help to answer this question, by defining a simple process to improve communication strategy:
Define the target audience based on previous buyers’ behaviours and social characteristics, for example, launching a new edition of an old product
Adapt the digital mix by analysing the performance of current channels. Tailor the new mix to product-specific objectives and areas of strategic interest
Select the best landing pages per channel improving movement through webpages and to maximize media performance
Decide on which device you want to run campaigns based on what has worked well historically
Pilot campaigns by easily following the evolution of onsite behaviours
Optimize the customer journey on-site by analysing flows specific to the product launch
The strength of this methodology lies in the ability to place the customer at the centre of strategy and consider sequences of events that reflect real customer behaviour. Bespoke tools place the power of analytics with decision makers and have a holistic view of business performance rather than a narrow focus on easily trackable KPI’s. Although this approach is typically designed to impact marketing teams, this kind of analysis can offer crucial insights into many other fields, and may not necessarily be centred around customer experience. For instance, the patient journeys in hospitals, process mining, or any other business or concept that requires the analysis of sequences of events could utilize this type of analysis.