Sometimes, as a customer completes a purchase in person, the manager or owner might ask, “And how did you hear about us?”
The answers might include an online search, printed flyer, a referral from a colleague and many other marketing channels. The customer could tell a story that’s long or short, but whatever details are provided, many managers or owners tend to simply nod, smile and move onto the next transaction.
Those stories, however, contain critical evidence about the journeys customers take from awareness of your products and services to consideration, selection and ultimately a buying decision. Journey analytics is a way of doing much more than treat such stories as small talk at the point of purchase. It’s a discipline that, when applied to tools such as Salesforce Marketing Cloud, can help grow revenues, reduce costs and boost customer satisfaction.
Journey analytics begins with paying closer attention to how your customers navigate their way through the marketing channels you operate, and then optimizing those channels to make an easy, more compelling experience.
As mobile computing and digital commerce becomes more popular, companies now have more customer information about how they’re using various channels than ever before.
When you look at such data at a high level, it might not seem to tell you much. There could be data about visits to a landing page, for example, or open rates on an email campaign you sent, or referral traffic to a purchase page from your social media posts. When one channel doesn’t seem to be performing well, it might be tempting to reallocate more of your budget towards another marketing channel.
Before you do that, look more closely at the data and try to assess what goals the customer is pursuing. Depending on the range of products and service you offer, there could be many different goals. For a company that serves health-care providers, for instance, the goals might include:
Learning more about health-care issues in a particular sector
Managing day-to-day workloads and being more productive in providing health-care services
Reducing the number of patients or customers who switch to another provider
Work backwards from the data you see about the performance of particular channels and you’ll likely begin to see some trends around the content your customers most want to consume based on a particular goal, or the steps they need to take (filling out an online form, calling into a contact centre or e-mailing someone) to accomplish a task related to a goal. Understand these journeys and you’ll be way ahead of many other firms in your sector.
“When it rains, it pours,” might be a good way to describe the problems that happen in a company. There isn’t just one fire to put out, but many at once. The upfront work you’ve done through journey analytics, however, can help put out those fires while also preparing you for longer-term marketing success.
Let’s take a financial services example. You may have noticed a decline in your e-commerce activity, which is already worrisome. At the same time, though, you’re starting to see long lineups at a branch or physical location with customers who get impatient and angry, perhaps because there’s not enough staff to handle the sudden peak.
Rather than look at these as isolated problems, journey analytics helps organizations to connect the dots a lot sooner. Going into a physical location is a particular type of journey, for instance, but it’s not necessary the whole journey for that customer. Some might have started out online, but experienced a glitch or struggle to perform a task, which then drove them to make an in-person visit.
An email campaign might have had a strong open rate, meanwhile, but the downloads of a white paper you were promoting were miniscule. The most likely culprit is somewhere in the middle -- like the form they had to fill out on a landing page.
These may seem like obvious fixes, but even small and medium-sized businesses can be siloed in how they manage various marketing channels. Journey analytics is about looking for those correlations and cleaning up any messes that get in customers’ way.
Acting on the insights you gain from journey analytics isn’t just important because it helps your business grow. It’s important because your brand’s reputation with a customer is only as good as their last journey. If they found it near-impossible to reset a password, for instance, or look up inventory on an item, it will be reflected in any customer satisfaction research you do.
Journey analytics will generally lead to the following kinds of fixes:
Functionality -- Easier online forms, one-click access to products or information -- whatever reduces friction is going to make a journey smoother.
Communication: If requesting a customized version of your product requires a more comprehensive ordering process, it’s best that customers are aware of this before you drive demand for it. Same goes with anything else that may seem like an unpleasant surprise once the journey has begun.
Policy: In the consumer space, things like a 30-day return policy for items you don’t like is standard practice, but B2B environments can be a lot different. Customer journeys should show where policies around delivery times, support availability and other things fall short. Be prepared to make the necessary changes. In some cases, the hidden solution might be self-service -- allowing customers to create online accounts and “steer” their own journeys rather than constantly waiting on a company’s staff to assist them.
Journey analytics doesn’t have to stop with your customers. As you get more comfortable with the approach, think about the journeys taken by your employees, your suppliers and others that deal with your company. In every case, the quest is largely the same: enabling journeys so worthwhile, they’ll be almost impossible to resist taking them again.
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