The Evolving Customer Journey
In 2009 McKinsey published what, to me, was a seminal marketing article on the customer decision journey, which was pictured as evolving from the familiar sales funnel to a series of loops leading to customer involvement and customer loyalty.
Since 2009, I have been pestering my marketing classes with this figure, while the concept of the non-liner, inner loop has evolved considerably – just see the sample list of references below – to include several inner loops of involvement and advocacy. With the immediacy of social and digital marketing media, customer involvement and advocacy have become the norm.
So, we seem to now accept the fact that the sales funnel is too simple a model, and we acknowledge that the job of marketing is to do more than simply heap awareness in the top of the funnel and hope that it trickles down to sales. (Perhaps – the Super Bowl commercials seemed to be all about awareness at $4.5 million per 30-second spot.)
Now what? How do we apply all of the traditional and digital marketing tools to walk/nudge prospects through steps of the customer journey? How do we support engagement and advocacy and to keep passive brand loyalists in the fold?
Uhhh, the answer is elusive and seems to be “it all depends.” But, we must 1) identify classes of customers via traditional segmentation and through analysis of group behavior (big data) on the net, and 2) figure out what combination of Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/etc. plus TV and radio are most effective at influencing customer journeys. Otherwise we have made no progress from the bad old days of not knowing which 25% of our marketing efforts had the intended effect, and we are placing billboards on Youtube instead of the highway.
Of course I exaggerate! We have much better tools and analytics – check out Google link below and see for yourselves. And, furthermore, developing and testing tests of marketing campaigns can now be done much more quickly and easily. But the job of marketing has also become much more integral to strategic and tactical success, while also becoming much more complicated.
And it is much more fun.
Radio Shack as a Platform
A blog from Digital Tonto, referenced below, talks about the fact that successful offerings are not just products, they are now platforms that support value-added ancillary products and services. These ancillary offerings come from a supporting ecosystem and often add considerable value to the original platform. Think Apple. And Facebook. To quote the Digital Tonto “A competitive product is no longer enough, you also need pervasive platform.”
I was always fascinated with the ZAGAT business model, and Zagat is a platform. Now we have Yelp, UrbanSpoon, Tripadvisor, and even Zagat as digital and mobile platforms.
This train of thought and the downward spiral of RadioShack – see the article in Business Week this week – raises the question of whether the retail industry can benefit by being regarded as platforms. If Radio Shack had thought of themselves as a platform for the electronic/digital customer experience, could they have evolved and prospered? With 7000 locations they could have evolved from resistors to CB Radios to HiFi, then moved to mobile phones and, currently, the Maker movement and 3-D printing labs.
At least two things would have helped Radio Shack – management who saw the handwriting on the wall and a brand name that was extendable. Brands that are too explicit – Pizza Hut – make evolution and adaptation more difficult. In the old days we called this concept brand extensions, but the brand has to be extendable or at least have the potential of being repositioned.
Can Sears be rebranded or repositioned as a platform for value-minded customer experiences? J C Penny? If so, they also need to make the customer experience enjoyable. Think of places that you actually like to shop. In my case it includes Whole Foods, Trader Joes, Wegmans, and the Apple store. The list does not include Sears and JCP. Or A&P.
Or Radio Shack…
Twitter is Not a Strategy*
And neither is Facebook, Vines, Instagram, or any other digital social media tool or set of tools. Yet the first inclination of a company new to the world of digital marketing is to have a Facebook page and a Twitter account and post some pictures on Instagram and then proudly report that they have a digital marketing strategy. This reminds me of when everyone had to have a web page, and then we had to do banner ads, and then email blasts and the search engine optimization. Those weren’t strategies either.
A digital marketing strategy starts with the same thing that it always has – an offering, a brand, and positioning, and then crafting messages that are focused on specific customer groups to influence customer behavior. The messages are still crafted to support specific customer actions, depending on where the customer is in their purchase and experience journey.
But then all heck breaks loose if we don’t recognize that in digital marketing:
- The concept of market segments has been replaced by ever-changing and overlapping affinity groups.
- The brand essence and the positioning can change depending on the focus on different affinity groups.
- The customer journey is no longer linear but is an ongoing process of engagement before, during, and after purchase.
- The digital channels require constant attention with branded content and customer interaction.
- And finally, once we set it in motion, our digital presence is largely out of our control.
The last point bears repeating and is the most difficult to embrace. In prior iterations of the marketing function – from production to sales to marketing and then to customer focus – we were in the drivers seat and spend a LOT of money (e.g. more that $5 billion a year at Ford Motor Company) to push awareness and the close the deal.
Now the customer has a lot more control over the information flow and over the brand message. And unless there is an integrated digital strategy, we have totally lost control over our brand equity.
Next Up – the steps in developing a Digital Marketing Plan.
* See TWITTER IS NOT A STRATEGY – Rediscovering the Art of Brand Marketing, by Tom Doctoroff, Palgrave Macmillan Trade