Four steps to customer journey success

Garth Harris , VP of Client Services at CAKE, explains how to gain a complete view of the customer journey.

It’s no surprise that the path that transforms an anonymous consumer into a known customer is called a “journey.” In a digital landscape that includes a multitude of channels, media platforms and opportunities for engagement, the road to a conversion can be long and winding with many twists and turns. Understanding what’s working and what’s not in this complex, multi-faceted environment is an incredible challenge for marketers, one that I discussed with Mobile Marketing at DMEXCO 2018.

The good news is that strategies and technologies for understanding the customer journey continue to evolve alongside all the advances impacting devices, applications, platforms, eCommerce and more.

Here are four tips for capturing a complete, end-to-end view of the customer journey, so that your marketing team can make better decisions and achieve the maximum return on advertising spend (ROAS).

1. Say No to Marketing Silos
For too long now, marketing organizations have tended to operate in silos, with teams responsible for various channels like email, social, search and video having their own budgets, technologies, objectives and evaluation metrics. This approach no longer makes sense in a world where consumers don’t engage with brands in silos.

For example, somebody might first hear about a product on social media, find out more via search, visit an eCommerce site to check the price, read reviews on a blog and finally make a purchase weeks later, after clicking on a coupon code.

Social and SEO may be equally important in driving that final conversion, but if each of these teams is battling for budget, they might actually be hindering ROAS rather than enhancing it. Organizations need to stop separating their marketing activities into silos. Instead, they should be incentivizing their teams to work together using a common set of measurement tactics and success metrics.

The same holds true for marketing analytics technology. It makes no sense to deploy multiple, channel-specific analytics solutions and attempt to stitch various sets of data together. A central, unified platform is needed to collect data and measure the customer journey across all devices and channels.

2. Connect “Anonymous” Data to the “Known” Journey
A significant portion of the customer journey takes place in the early stages of the marketing funnel, before a consumer identifies him or herself by adding their name to an email list, signing up for a loyalty program, downloading an app, making a purchase or in other words becoming “known.”

This “anonymous” portion of the customer journey can include all types of activities, from searching for product information on Google, to reading reviews, or browsing offerings on an eCommerce site. Simply put, marketers who only focus on the “known” part of the journey are leaving valuable acquisition opportunities on the table.

To better understand the drivers behind purchasing behavior and create more effective campaigns, it’s important to gather as much data about intent as possible, and connect this insight to later stages of the marketing funnel. A view of the customer journey is only complete when both the “anonymous” and “known” portions are connected and understood from a holistic standpoint.

3.  Make Multi-touch Attribution Your Superpower
Combining machine-learning and advanced modeling techniques, multi-touch attribution (MTA) analyzes the unique combination of interactions, or “touchpoints”, that encompass the customer journey that leads to a conversion. It does this by assigning a dynamic value, usually referred to as a weight or credit, to every individual interaction (a click on a coupon code, for example, or a view of a video or download of a mobile app) that contributes to a consumer’s path to purchase.

Some channels and touchpoints may be far more influential than others. Some may not be needed at all. But all too often, marketers rely on guesswork rather than accurate measurement to make critical decisions about how and where to invest their budgets. MTA is incredibly useful as a technique for optimizing adspend across multiple channels. Why? Because it generates a much more nuanced picture of how each tactic deployed is working both individually, and as part of a unified strategy.

4. Look at the Big Picture Metrics
Finally, as the digital landscape continues to evolve, it is important that the metrics we use to measure success adapt to the latest developments. While metrics for specific channels – for example, click through to open rates for email or cost per click for Google Ads – remain relevant, it’s becoming increasingly important to look at measurement thought the lens of the entire customer journey. What is the true, total cost of customer acquisition?

Using an MTA strategy, marketers can get a better sense of how many touchpoints led to a conversion and add up the costs of each step. Which paths to a conversion are the least expensive? The most profitable? Which ultimately converted users with the highest lifetime value? When these and other questions are answered, marketers will be better positioned to make smarter investments and ultimately improve the ROAS of their campaigns.

Digital marketing in today’s multi-device and multi-channel world is all about the customer journey. Marketers who take advantage of technologies for capturing a complete, end-to-end view of this journey will be well positioned to identify key trends, improve their campaign strategies and get the biggest return possible on their digital advertising investments.