The Customer Journey is evolving. Well, as a marketing concept, the ‘Customer Decision Journey’ has been coined by McKinsey a few years ago.
Its basic philosophy was to replace the old ‘Marketing funnel’ in which customers move linearly across some ‘purchasing funnel’. For example, 80% may be aware of your brand, 60% may consider it, and only 10% will actually buy it. It was used as mantra for years and taught at most marketing classes in business schools. But then Google appeared. With Google, you could simply type a search term and discover new brands. Suddenly the customer was in control, and the marketer’s job was no longer about pushing more awareness to spit out more sales at the end of the funnel. In theory, you could win with a low awareness but be an ace in the decision through topping the list of search results.
So, there was a need for a new framework. Actually, a need for a (sorry for the buzzword) “paradigm shift”, a move from a ‘marketer-centric’ funnel to a ‘customer-centric’ framework, mapping out how actually made decisions from THEIR point view, not a marketer’s abstract and simplistic view of the world. The ‘Customer Decision Journey’ was born.
People actually have a set of brands they consider initially, then move to an active evaluation phase, in which brands get removed (no longer credible options) or added (discovery through search or friends), to then move to a final decision. This whole process can take months (e.g., a car) or seconds (e.g., an impulse purchase in a grocery store). I used that often when I worked at McKinsey, as it enabled to start another necessary journey: moving companies to become more customer-centric.
Now, the Decision Journey is becoming dynamic. People can pause their journey, play backward, get influenced by recommendations (this framework forgot one point: advocacy). They can hop on & off. They use more touch points from smart phones to tablets, social channels to get opinion. They become less loyal. As the same time they share more data, and give the opportunity to derive more intelligence. Our clients start to panic – should they invest into an iPad app, a revamp Web site, a new Facebook strategy, Search Enging Marketing, or all the above ? But then what to do with the TV ad budget ?
Altimeter has now called for experiences on the Dynamic Journey. With pleasure. Our experience at Dialog Solutions has been to say ‘Don’t panic’. Customers, fundamentally, remain the same. They just outsmarted you, marketers. As long as you have a good products, you’ll do fine. Actually, you may end up wasting less marketing money in ridiculous ‘Spray & pray’ media spends. But you need less art & more analytics. Less hype & more structure. Less gurus & more experts. Less wishful thinking & more careful campaigns. Less ‘viral marketing’ & more ‘content marketing’. Less ‘campaigns’ & more ‘continuous dialogue’. Marketing is no longer a war, it’s a continuous process to optimize the journey, and support the loyalty & advocacy loop. This last point is not innocent, it’s certainly the most dramatic shift of marketing since it was born.
And concretely how do we support companies ? Basically, we use online quantitative research to precisely map out the Customer Decision Journey in their category. We compare how they perform against key competitors, at which steps to gain or lose more prospects. We identify they key touch points used at each steps & how they interfere dynamically with the decision process. As such, we are able to tell not only how they perform, but where are the bottlenecks (in active evaluation vs e.g. initial consideration set), and more importantly, what are the most influential touch points. Last, we map out user segments based on purchase behaviors. Here is a secret: in many categories, they nicely map out in 3 segments: those who trust themselves and will form their opinion mostly based on their own research – to then (be ware) communicate it broadly, those who trust mostly family & friends, and those who trust ‘strangers’ – experts, advisors, people writing reviews.
Just as the marketing funnel was flawed, the Customer Decision Journey is not perfect, and it will evolve. As it becomes dynamics and touch points are exploding, so does the complexity of choices for marketers. But the marketing job is moving from good to great. It only requires to stay focused on the fundamentals: the customer.