Over the past couple of years I’ve heard them all. Reasons to adopt any next big thing from social media to digital, mobile, big data and/or any combination or derivation thereof. Many of those times in relation to improving the Customer Decision Journey.
At the same time we’re being told that the Customer’s decision journey is messy and unpredictable(!!). Strangely the only way to fight that seems to be to start a predictive(!!) analytics driven engagement strategy that scales.
And if that did not put you out of money (and new Customers) you’re probably better off giving your last dime of margin to the plethora of aggregators, affiliates and what have you. Anything better than doing the hard work of attracting Customers yourself seems to be best practice. If I allow myself to be cynical I could come to the conclusion that many marketers take the Customer Decision Journey for granted.
And the Customer? She’s scratching her head wondering why we are sitting in the middle of the road looking into their headlights and not moving. Yes, she sees our poor attempts to ‘engage’ her into sharing poorly produced content, e.g. via Facebook games, ill-informed infographics or a contest. Content that will at best engage her into engaging her friends to support her, not you!
And when searching for what she (thinks she) needs, the Customer gets nothing but billboards waving at her: “Buy me!, cheap XYZ”, “Save money? Click here!”, “Compare ABC and get one free!”. Even your non-paid search-engine-optimized results look like the paid ones! Thus your prospect closes her “windows” more often than we think and probably hopes it will all go away.
Going further down the Customer Decision Journey it usually doesn’t get better. Some parties are getting that good at tracking you that regardless of where you end or pick up your journey they will make sure you have another “engaging experience (=see ad you are asked to click on)” with them. It doesn’t surprise me that many decision journeys take much longer than a couple of days and significantly more than 1 step.
So, what’s the solution? More analytics? Yes probably, for purpose of understanding and tracking though, not predicting so much, if you ask me. Why? Remember Direct Marketing? Diminishing returns come to mind. Solution? Go cheaper and increase volume (e-mail) is what we did. With what result?
Predicting the (online) decision journey is just the next iteration for Direct Marketing: cheaper and more volume. Add to that the ever increasing pace of change (and data created) and guess what kind of results you’ll get..
So what could you be doing?
You could be trying to understand the job your prospects are trying to get done and the metrics they use to evaluate their own success. And then you could try to understand how you can help shape the journey to better meet those criteria. You could also try not to do that the exact same way for all prospects, but segment your approach based on the different sets of criteria you discover. You could offer a phone number or live-chat at first search result, or at every step, just to see what route they take. When they contact you, or not..
You could try do this through rapid prototyping, or better testing in the real world for a couple of weeks to see what works. And adapt when needed.
You could do all the agile, rinse & repeat stuff yet most of all you need to stop taking the Customer (Decision) journey for granted. You need to stop doing nothing more than waving your billboards at the side of the road each time you see her car drive by, either by paid advertising or the free “seo”-version of it.
Step onto the asphalt
You need to step onto the asphalt and help your prospects navigate, by understanding what they need, the jobs they want to get done and the most efficient way to meet their evaluation criteria. By offering them the right information, tools, transparency and options that are designed to help her make the right choices (for her!) at each step of the decision journey.
And, again, don’t try do this on an individual Customer bases. Try distilling three to four different customer jobs based on actionable differences in context and evaluation criteria. These are your ‘decision journey’ segments that require differently designed touch-points in different stages of their journey.
Doing the Customer Decision part better than competition will not only land you more Customers, it will land you better informed Customers. And from my own experience (and statistical analysis) these Customers will stick around longer, buy more and tell more friends. How’s that for engagement?