Article

Jonathan Pitcher
Jonathan Pitcher 20 June 2016

Straightforward Customers, but Complex Journeys!

The ever-increasing number of new digital sales channels is leading to the emergence of new purchasing behaviours among consumers. Alert, straightforward and demanding, consumers want everything and they want it right now.

Complete freedom to instantly check and compare prices and special offers for products and services provided by online stores open 24/7, to access information at home or anywhere (at work, on the move, waiting for a bus or train, etc.), to submit purchasing decisions to the views of social network communities and, last but not least, to purchase.

With such ease of access to information and services, consumers spend many hours searching for just the right product: the one that meets the three main criteria of price, uniqueness and immediate availability. “Conscious” purchases – in every sense of the term – are gradually replacing impulse or reasoned purchases. The individual is now at the forefront and the customer experience has become the factor that makes brands and businesses stand out from the rest. Consumers want to acquire the product (personalisable if possible) that will make them unique, buy it instantly and with ease, and pay the most competitive price. It also goes without saying that consumers want their journey and interaction with the brand to be practical, fun and, quite simply, attractive and flattering for themselves.

Paradoxically, despite widespread adoption of digital channels (it is common to see consumers search for products online, compare prices on their mobile devices, and consult friends’ opinions on social networks), 85% of retail purchases are made in stores.[2]. However, 54% of these purchases[3] represent the final stage in a customer journey that has involved one or more digital channels before the final purchase transaction. Conversely, 20 to 30% of online buyers adopt the practice of showrooming: they go to a brick-and-mortar store to physically evaluate a product that they will later purchase online, often at a lower price, thanks to the use of price comparison tools.[4].

Mobility

At the heart of new practices and at the crossroads between new digital channels lies the all-important mobile device, whether it be a smartphone, phablet,[5] or tablet. There is an ever-growing number of these devices, or vectors for change, which play an increasingly important role in our lives. While more than 25% of Google searches in France are performed on a mobile device, the proportion has already been reversed in certain countries where mobile devices have clearly overtaken desktop computers.

According to Relation Client, the mobile device lies at the heart of consumers’ purchasing journeys. Purchasing decisions are more affected by mobile devices (48%) than by television (44%) and conventional Internet (41%).

After seeing an advert on a mobile device:

  • 78% of users say that they downloaded an application,
  • 68% visited an advertiser’s website,
  • 56% went to a store for further information,
  • 52% made a purchase via their mobile device,
  • 44% geo-located an advertiser,
  • 43% called an advertiser by clicking on the telephone number displayed in the advert.

Touchpoints

The digital revolution in the era of the mobile and demanding customer is profoundly shaking up the customer journey and consumption habits. This is why Brian Walker, analyst at Forrester, argues that multi-channel commerce no longer makes sense.[6] As consumers are increasingly connected through a wide range of devices, the traditional experience of multi-channel commerce is becoming obsolete.

Customers are no longer interacting with companies in a channel approach, rather they interact through touchpoints. These touchpoints are channels such as stores, branches, call centres and websites, as well as “emerging” interactions, such as applications, social media, mobile sites, SMS and interactive advertising through a diverse range of devices, such as smartphones, tablets, online TV, cars and even appliances.

The customer relationship appears to be the main means of leverage for companies faced with decreasing purchasing power. Stimulating consumers through a user experience, involving them in the company’s activities and creating long-term commitment, are all key factors for a viable business operation. [7]

While the above is not an exhaustive list of new consumer behaviours, there has clearly been significant acceleration in this area. Between now and 2017, for example, 70% of communication with customers[8] will be digital, adapted to specific contexts and consumed on demand over a number of channels. New technologies are continuously opening up new usage possibilities that customers are willingly using. It is necessary to catch up, or at least stay up to date, as these straightforward new purchasing journeys are also more complex, and sometimes even paradoxical.

Obviously, along with increasingly complex customer journeys, the management of digital marketing campaigns is also becoming more complex (affiliations, retargeting, adwords, social networks, etc.) While 58% of customers who search for a product on a mobile device make a purchasing decision within a day, only 3% of retailers are currently capable of identifying them when they move from one touchpoint to another.

How to identify customers and their physical and digital journeys from the first touchpoint with the brand to the purchase transaction. How many times have customers visited a website or store? How did they interact? More than ever before, monitoring, analysing and understanding moving and conscious customers is becoming the main challenge for brands, in order to control the relationship, the experience and acquisition budgets, as well as to personalise products and services for individual customers.

Faced with this challenge of “real-time archaeology”, solutions able to process the large amounts of digital data gathered over the course of interactions between customers and brands, at various physical and digital touchpoints, appear to offer the only viable way to use the right marketing tools at the right time and, ultimately, boost sales. Data is the richest source of information available and, sometimes, the only source of information available. Heterogeneous and scattered, the real challenge is knowing how to use it.

 

[1] ROPO: Research On/Offline Purchase On/Offline
[2] Google Consumer Barometer: http://www.consumerbarometer.com/#?app=discover&storyId=1&continentId=1,3&industryId=1&pageId=2
[3]
 Google Consumer Barometer: http://www.consumerbarometer.com/#?app=discover&storyId=1&continentId=1,3&industryId=1&pageId=2
[4]
 According to a study conducted by PWC
[5] A ‘phablet’ is a smartphone with a screen size somewhere between that of a smartphone, in the strict sense of the term, and that of a touchscreen tablet. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phablet
[6]
 Welcome to the Era of Agile Commerce, Brian Walker, Forrester – http://goo.gl/7HwXa
[7]
 “Comment sortir de l’argument prix en période de baisse du pouvoir d’achat ?”, La Poste, le Hub, le media de la Performance Client (“How to avoid the price argument at a time of falling purchasing power”, La Poste, le Hub, the Customer Performance media) –http://goo.gl/OOAZ9t
[8]
 (2014 Gartner forecast: “Content Gets Bigger, Richer and More Personal,” 5 December 2013, Karen Shegda et. al.)

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