If there’s one area of empirical marketing which has captured the imagination of marketers over many decades, it’s the consumer decision journey. The Holy Grail for businesses is to effectively capture the intent of their customers at each stage of the journey and guide them through the purchase process. The classic one-directional purchase funnel which dates back to 1898 has helped marketers calculate the levers they need to pull in the marketing mix to influence customers from awareness through to purchase.
McKinsey came up with the notion of a loyalty loop which helped us think more about customer experiences within the journey and post purchase advocacy. But modern marketing has changed immensely since these models came of age. The modern consumer journey is so intricate that outdated models simply can’t describe its complexity. There are now almost infinite touchpoints or moments which can influence a purchase that we need to come up with new models much more suited to a world dominated by digital.
Winning in a multi-screen world
In the digital universe, these potential touchpoints grow exponentially. We are utterly obsessed with that device we keep by our side day and night. On average we check our phones more than 157 times per day and 68% of us check it within 15 minutes of waking up. In the US, consumers are spending five hours per day in mobile apps. That’s 30% of a waking day. So think about that for a second – if we multiply the amount of possible interactions over the course of a 24 hour day there are literally countless moments where we could be interacting with a brand and be influenced to purchase.
We can’t possibly be relevant in all the moments so it’s our job to use data to help us determine the most important moments for our audiences so we can build relevant experiences in the moments which matter most.
Google and the micro-moment
Google penned the term ‘micro-moments’ to describe the countless touchpoints in modern consumer journeys driven by the rise of mobile devices creating increasingly fragmented interactions with brands. On a fundamental level, Google describes four key moments which brands need to focus on – I want to know, I want to go, I want to buy and I want to do – with each moment covering a vast array of potential user-intent which brands need to harness to build optimum relevance. However, for brands to actually win in the moment, they need to be there at the right time, they need to provide meaningful and useful experiences, and they need to be quick and frictionless in their execution.
An experience-based approach
Marketers need to create new models which allow us to make data-led decisions about the user journey and the moments within it. One such framework which allows us to adapt our thinking and put the user at the heart of our strategies is the ‘Four D’ approach: discover, define, design and deliver with each stage building on the insights of the last. This approach is designed to help us answer the important questions: Who is our audience? What is the user journey? And what moments matter most? Finally, what experiences do we need to design and deliver to our audiences in the moment they’re searching for it?
1. Discover your audience
Let’s start off by looking at phase one – discovering your audience – a crucial but often neglected element of building relevant experiences. Today, we have a wealth of data and platforms available to us, helping us to understand and segment our audiences which we can then use to work out their behaviours, interests, lifestyles and attitudes. Once we have our segmented audience data, the next step is to work out what the search landscape looks like for your product or service niche – how big is the search opportunity in each moment, what are competitors doing, and what battles do we need to pick and commit to?
2. Defining the user journey
The next stage is to define the user journey so we can build highly relevant experiences to win in the moments that matter most. To do this, we need to think about all key moments which might lead a user to interact with your brand. What are they doing? What triggered their search? What platform are they on and what device are they using? Once we’ve listed out as many interactions as we can, we can use data to prioritise the moments.
Then the magic happens – we can start creating effective content experiences which are tailored to our specific audience with a relevant offer or message helping to add valuable touchpoints with your brand. A good litmus test is to look at your own brand reflection. Grab your own mobile and do searches around potential moments which are relevant for your own audience – do you appear? What platforms are showing up? What moments are most important and what experiences are you not providing your customers?
3. Designing relevant experiences
Now that we understand the user journey, we need to build new and highly relevant user touch points and experiences. There’s two ways of doing this – first by building new experiences on your website with rich, tailored content to engage with your audience’s desires and motivations. This should be underpinned with traditional SEO optimisation to support its effectiveness. But we also need to build user experiences off-site, and be selective of the platforms our audiences are interacting with. We need to create content in these places and amplify it directly to our users so they can find it exactly when they’re looking for it.
4. Delivering to your audience
There’s no point in committing to an experience based approach if you’re not willing to commit media dollars on the platforms which will matter most to reaching your audiences at the right time. Brands that effectively use paid search and highly relevant moment-keywords to capture the attention of users when they’re searching in the moment will be rewarded with new audiences. You can then retarget your new found audiences using programmatic and paid social and build more relevant and meaningful brand interactions as they go through their own purchase journey. Ultimately, it’s this relevant and tailored messaging which will bring your brand front and centre when it comes to purchasing.
Evolving to succeed
Ultimately, there is no one-size-fits-all framework that will suit every brand when thinking about the consumer decision journey. The models of yesteryear were created before the digital universe started to interact with every facet of our lives. If you want to start relating with your audience in meaningful ways and influencing their path to purchase, it’s essential to start thinking about non-linear journeys and working out the moments that matter most to them. The brands that carry this out most effectively will be rewarded with a more loyal customer, and one who comes back time and again, with a smile.