Consumer Online Journey

Three Ways to Understand the Modern Consumer Journey

Bo Mattsson Consumer journey mapping has long been integral to finding out how consumers encounter, perceive, make purchasing decisions, and develop affinities and loyalties with companies. However, the proliferation of social media, advances in online advertising, the boom in mobile devices, and developments in data collection technology have created numerous challenges and opened new opportunities in this area. Here are three ways to take advantage of the possibilities while conquering the fragmentation inherent in the modern consumer journey.

Clarify the online consumer journey

The key is to develop a comprehensive view of the role each channel plays at various points of interactions and different stages of the journey, while also investigating the different dynamics of each. For example, the Consumer Journey to Online Purchase tool from Google provides a clear breakdown of the consumer journey across online marketing channels, including organic and paid search, social media, display, email, direct site visits, and more. You can explore the role of each channel in terms of awareness, consideration, intent, and decision across 11 different industries and seven countries to form a picture most similar to that of your business. Investigate how the length of the consumer journey influences purchase value – both in terms of days and number of interactions. From here, you can use the data as a springboard and baseline for your measurements, accessing other tools like Attribution Modelling and Multi-Channel Funnels reports in Google Analytics to create a clear idea of how consumers are interacting with your online presence, how well it is working, and the value of these interactions to your bottom line.

Make mobile work for you

The rise of mobile technology has simultaneously complicated the consumer journey while also creating opportunities to make it much easier to measure. Mobile apps can create a controlled consumer journey, where you decide every touchpoint and strategically design the flow and objectives for the consumer each time they access it – while at the same time collecting valuable information on their individual personalities, interests, and preferences. Two reports released recently by Nielsen studying the behaviour of “the new digital consumer” in the US have revealed not only that smartphones have overtaken desktop computers when it comes to accessing the internet, but also that mobile apps constitute 89 per cent of this time. The number of devices owned per person has also grown, with an average of four digital devices now the norm. This means that the consumer journey undertaken by the average consumer is now split across multiple screens, varying internet access points, and a multitude of devices and apps – sometimes all at the same time.

While this fragmentation can make it difficult to form a clear understanding of the overall consumer journey, it also creates more opportunities for starting consumers off on that journey. For example, Nielsen’s research into the new digital consumer revealed that 84 per cent of tablet and smartphone owners in the US said they used their mobile devices for a variety of reasons while watching television, with many making purchases based on what they were seeing on TV, or sharing opinions on social media, and discovering more information about programmes online. Rather than waiting to drive to the store, or for the programme to finish to go to the computer to make a purchase, mobile users can begin the path to conversion the moment they see an ad on television. Learning about the particular preferences of the mobile consumer can also be instrumental in understanding their behaviours across the mobile space. For example, in a recent Nielsen study on the mobile path to purchase commissioned by Google and based on both passively tracked ‘metered’ data and survey information, 69 per cent of consumers want to find businesses within five miles of their location.

Tying in the mobile experience with offline activities can create new opportunities for targeting mobile marketing. For example, by gathering location intelligence via mobile devices you can understand the physical journey consumers completed before arriving at your place of business. Discovering details about their behaviour will help you understand their mind-set when they reach you. For example, perhaps they were out shopping and just casually stopped by, just finished having lunch with friends at a nearby restaurant, or maybe they came directly from home. Much like how online targeting works to understand the consumer journey across the digital world, location intelligence helps you to target audiences based on their movements in the physical world.

Pull it all together

Form a holistic understanding of your consumers’ journeys by gathering intelligence from different areas in your business, fostering a spirit of communication and collaboration to break down any information silos that may exist within your operation, and conducting consumer research to ask survey respondents about their experience directly. Here are several key points to understand:

  • How long did it take for the consumer to convert after the first interaction?
  • How many interactions were there?
  • Why do different channels have different levels of engagement and how meaningful is the engagement?
  • Are consumers experiencing a smooth transition between offline and online activities, encountering easy purchase options, and getting support in a timely fashion?
  • How many referrals are you receiving via different online and offline means?
  • What do surveys of your consumers reveal about satisfaction rates?
  • What do the social media endorsements you are receiving in the form of comments and reviews say about consumers’ experiences with your business?
  • Why are consumers complaining or returning items and were these situations resolved easily and to their satisfaction?

With this information, you can go beyond evaluating the performance of different channels to measure how they are performing in relation to the consumer experience.

Bo Mattsson is the chief executive of Cint, a global provider of market research tools for creating online panels and obtaining market insight from research participants via its OpinionHUB global exchange platform. Bo founded Cint in 1998 when he decided to apply his experience of trading online to the market research industry. He then took over as CEO in 2003 to revamp the core technology behind the market research tools into an exchange-based offering for transparent respondent access. 

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