The online customer journey describes a consumer's path throughout all product, brand and company touchpoints that help enable decision making. This process is called a journey because consumers usually look at a product or brand several times before deciding to take an action. They can also flow both forwards and backwards through the various stages, in response to different stimuli and sources of information.
To set your digital customer journey up for a win, there first needs to be a clear understanding of all components involved, including target group, user behaviour, optimum channels/ content formats to use, and most importantly, the user intent at each stage of the journey. During this article, we’ll cover the customer journey framework, how to optimize the journey by mapping content to audience behaviour, and the metrics that matter when analysing the online customer journey.
How Can I Optimize the Online Customer Journey?
The Customer Journey Model:
Before we discuss tips for optimizing the online customer journey, let’s first briefly discuss the steps involved.
1.Awareness: During the first step of the customer journey (awareness), the user becomes mindful of a need or want.
2.Consideration: At this stage of the journey, the person is actively looking for options. The second step is defined by the user’s intent to gather all the relevant information in order to make good decisions. The user has all the basic information about a subject already, found from step one; the consideration/ evaluation stage is about narrowing options down and comparing.
3.Purchase: During this stage, the user is ready to make a transaction. At the transaction stage of the customer journey, it’s important to keep things as simple as possible, as not to overwhelm the customer and prevent the sale from falling through.
It’s at this stage of the B2B online customer journey that the ‘‘second moment of truth’ takes place. Second moment of truth refers to the customer’s experience with the company in offering, after they’ve become aware. This can occur both before purchasing the product, such as experiencing a hands-on demonstration of TV, but may also happen after a purchase. This is usually the case in the modern age of online shopping when a customer doesn’t truly experience the product until after it arrives. A second moment of truth that occurs before purchase will have a greater influence on whether a customer will pay for a service or product. On the other hand, a second moment of truth that happens after purchase will have a bigger impact on their satisfaction and continuing relationship with a brand, therefore affecting reputation.
4.Customer Experience and engagement: During this stage of the cycle, two-way conversation is key. Customers and prospective leads need to be kept alive. Even if the lead didn’t respond to further call to actions, there’s still an opportunity out there to re-engage with them.
5.Customer Loyalty: What happens after the transaction? The customer's journey should be seen as a loop, just because the transaction is complete, doesn’t mean its game over. For instance, there might be further needs that come with the product or service, like repair services or upgrades that also make sense
Optimizing the Customer Journey through Persona Analysis:
Before you can really understand and map out journey insights, you need to have a strong knowledge of the target group as a collective. Buyer personas are one way of finding such insights out.
Buyer personas are semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers.
When creating your buyer persona(s), include demographics, behaviour patterns, motivations and the goals of your customers. The more detailed you are, the better you will be able to map out the customer journey. You should aim to answer the following questions:
- What is the average age of your customer?
- What did their education look like?
- What is their role and who do they report to?
- What goals do they have?
- What challenges do they face?
- How is their work evaluated?
- Which information sources do they trust?
- Are they on social media and if yes on which channels?
It’s best practice to use a mixture of secondary research (like Forrester reports), data from your internal business intelligence solutions (like your CRM) and social media intelligence to find the answers to the above questions.
FIND OUT MORE ABOUT PERSONA MAPPING HEREOnce you’ve conducted a buyer persona analysis, you’ll have a better insights into your audience’s needs, challenges and responsibilities. Now it’s time to get to grips with their intent and how it differs depending on their stage of the journey.
Optimizing Customer Journey Mapping Using Content Form and User Intent to Guide You:
In order to be successful at customer journey mapping and creating brand touchpoints, every communication channel and its effectiveness needs to be considered separately. For example, users don’t look for transactional content on social media. Instead, you’ll find them in a browsing mode, looking for new topics or entertaining content rather than the heavy content you often find on PPC pages. That’s not to say that social media isn’t useful, companies just need to position themselves within the realm of the user’s browsing mode by providing content that matches the user’s expectation and intent while using that channel.
As complex as the B2B customer journey might be, by focusing on the user intent, you can figure out the content topics and channels that will perform and convert.
74% of all B2B buying agents do their research online before deciding on a supplier. One way companies can optimise their visibility during the awareness stage of the customer journey is by practising thought leadership. Audiences often become aware of a company through content - and it’s this awareness that leads to interaction and initiates the B2B online customer journey.
Since the person is looking for a solution regarding a certain issue, the content you create for this stage should focus on delivering a solution. This will help strengthen the perception of your company as a voice of authority and build trust.
Data-driven content strategies remove trial and error by telling you the topics your audience care about most. Use tools such as Google keyword planner to understand search volume and social listening to gain insight into topic popularity, as well as your audience’s key challenges.
Content form and channel for the awareness stage of the customer journey:
Top line material that explains the bigger picture and outlines the value for a specific solution are very effective during the awareness stage of the consumer journey. Long-form content like blogs, ebooks, guides, educational videos, infographics, slide shares, whitepapers, social media ads, and educational industry-focused webinars work best. In terms of channels, we’d recommend investing in search engine marketing and social media (particularly LinkedIn due to its targeting capabilities) during the awareness stage.
When the user is researching solutions and alternatives, they’re expecting content that offers clear options and alternatives, for example, clarity on the pro and cons. Content for the consideration stage of the customer journey needs to project clear unique selling points (USPs) since USPs help differentiate one solution from the next.
Content form and channel for the consideration stage of the customer journey:
Content formats that work well during this stage include product specific blogs, listicles (where options are tested and compared against each other) reports, fact sheets and product focused webinars offer the audience the reassurance needed at this stage. Search engines are another channel to consider, in fact, they’re one of the most important channels to serve in terms of research. A company can easily connect the dots between their problem and your solution as search marketing delivers high quality content that matches the request the audience are searching for.
Experience has shown the first two levels of the customer journey - awareness and consideration – are of significant importance; simply because web traffic volume generated during these two levels equal more than the rest of the consumer journey stages combined.
The intent of your audience during the first two stages of the journey is classified by the informational needs of the user; various studies have estimate that about 80% of all internet traffic is happening because of the informational need.
Here, what the user is looking for is a transactional landing page that focuses on the product or service they want to buy. The user expects a credible and trustworthy display of all benefits they’ll gain with a transaction, usually in the form of user-generated content. It’s also useful to address purchasing barriers the user might have.
To ensure the second moment of truth is a positive one, it’s best practice to tell the audience what they can expect in terms of next steps once they’ve purchased, for example when can they expect to have a follow up call or have an onboarding training session. This can be as simple as a ‘welcome’ email or a landing page explains what to expect next once you fill in an online booking form. The point is, taking their money and then running isn’t going to create a positive second moment of truth, customer experience should always be at the forefront of your mind.
Content form and channel for the transaction stage of the customer journey:
Display retargeting and SEA (search engine advertisements) are the primary content types during the purchase stage. Avoid distractions or further content that the user has to navigate through on the transaction page. A user interface that is easy to understand and navigate, as well as trust signals like testimonials and seals of quality, make all the difference!
Customer Experience and engagement:
The consistency of quality content that adds value might just be what it takes to make a deal attractive again. The key is building an ongoing process through which the prospect continues to see the brand as the leading expert and best solution to their issue. At a certain point, the consideration of another brand wouldn’t make sense anymore.
Content form and channel for the customer experience and engagement stage of the customer journey:
Content that works well during this stage include customer kick-starter kits, client success stories, ‘how to’ video tutorials, user manuals and FAQ sheets. Don’t overlook the human element too, especially during the customer experience stage. Regular check ins from your account management team and invitations to exclusive events such as award dinners can have a massive impact on the consumer.
What the customer needs in the loyalty stage is additional content that brings awareness to more of your solutions. This also helps the customer relationship to be strengthened as your brand becomes more ingrained in their working life
Content form and channel for the loyalty stage of the customer journey:
During the loyalty stage, establishing direct interaction, either in person or via LinkedIn, or email, is wise. Client facing newsletters are one form of content greatly adopted by brands. Exclusive access to content like product sneak peeks, asking for their participation in testing and trialling something new, and content collaboration such as joint PR efforts can also be used to show your gratitude to loyal customers. Happy customers share their positive experiences and become brand advocates who fuel the digital customer journey for others.
How Do I Know if I’ve Been Successful at Optimizing the Online Customer Journey
Insights from your buyer persona analysis will offer clarity around how your buyers search for information. This, in turn, helps you gain insight into where you should be focusing your KPIs, as well as the relevant metrics to track them.
Companies must be able to identify ROI holistically. There are certain indicators along the journey that will tell you whether or not each and every single step in the journey is working, as well as the touchpoints involved.
Defining and tracking the right metrics:
When it comes to analyzing and evaluating digital actions, there are 3 layers to consider: User factors, traffic factors and sales factors. These 3 layers can be connected directly to each stage of the customer journey since they mirror what should happen in every step:
User factors: Everything that is connected to how the user responds and interacts with the content:
Click through rate, time spent on site, subscriptions and comments are indicators for how relevant the content is. If there is no response, it’s probably because your content doesn’t hit a nerve.
Traffic factors: Everything that describes the quality of the generated traffic: Referral traffic, lead quality, page views and unique visitors are indicators for whether or not the content appeals to the right audience. User traffic and sales-factors work in synergy, for example, there is a connection between traffic-quality and converted leads.
Sales factors: Everything that describes economic efficiency and outcome:
Converted leads, cost per lead and return on spend are indicators for the overall effectiveness of your customer journey from a revenue perspective. They ultimately tell you whether or not the strategy is profitable so you can dig deeper and find out why.
Gathering relevant data on touchpoints:
Gathering relevant performance data on touchpoints is simple with the support of the right tools. There are many different tools out there that can help you visualize your customer’s journey by collecting performance data. Here are a few of them:
Every paid input needs to be monitored. If you’re running search ads, Adwords for Google Ads provides in-depth analysis that can be used to optimise your campaigns. If you’re running a social media advert, you can find native analytic insights within the network’s website. It makes sense to do A/B-test campaign in order to find out which kind of ad works best for the target group. To start with, try testing the wording, visuals and message. Every tiny detail matters and can have an impact on the conversion rate.
Meltwater is an award-winning and industry-leading media intelligence tool. More than 30,000 brands leverage Meltwater’s online news and social media analytics to gain insight into the performance of their customer journey, in particular, brand awareness.
There are several marketing tools out there that can be used to make repetitive processes, like responses to downloads and subscription, automated scalable and effective. Email as a channel is still one of the most crucial vehicles when it comes to B2B communications and every B2B company needs to understand how to make the most out of it. Investing in a solid marketing automation tool is the first step. We’d recommend Marketo.
Hands down, webinars as a content format are one of the most effective ways to communicate during the B2B customer journey. Webinars drive high-quality leads. They also have the added benefit of generating useful and helpful data, for example, engagement insights, including which topics appeal to your target group and who of your audience is ready to make the next step. To start your search, look at ON24.
All communication and interaction with (potential) clients need to be documented and evaluated. A CRM tool like SalesForce empowers companies to identify patterns in client behaviour so they can quickly capitalise on strengths and plug their weaknesses.
Business intelligence tool:
Business intelligence tools allow you to feed disparate datatypes from the tools mentioned above into one centralized hub that visualizes the digital customer journey. Journeys are not linear processes and touchpoints are heavily interlinked; since channels don’t exist in silos, neither should data and teams. Command centres like Meltwater Display and Tableau help professionals break down the silos, therefore offering a 360 view of the customer.
The digital customer journey is a multidimensional road that never ends. The different layers, goals, user intents, content formats and channels require a holistic approach. Hopefully by now you have a better understanding of customer journey mapping and the most useful content to leverage during certain phases. If you'd like to learn more about tracking, analyzing and optimizing your buyer's touchpoints, fill out the form on this page and we'll be in touch.