Some say that we’ve entered into an age of experience. People don’t just want products anymore, they are looking for experiences. Expectations are now impacted by experiences in other sometimes unrelated categories. If you have a wonderful in-store experience at Vida, why wouldn’t you expect the same from a visit to a Standard Bank branch? If your last trip to the hospital challenged your idea of what service excellence could be, why wouldn’t you want to be treated with the same care and attention on your next flight on our national carrier?
In order to better anticipate these expectations and needs, brands are increasingly putting the consumer at the centre of their worlds. They’re listening more, trying to understand them better, and hoping to glean insights that will help them improve the experience they offer to their customers.
Retailers like Woolworths and Pick n Pay are utilising what they know about their customers’ purchasing behaviour to offer relevant discounts and cross-sell offers. But truly consumer centric understanding and appropriate interventions remain sporadic at best. We see a large gulf between what brands promise and what they actually deliver. We see them struggling to get the basics right, with missed opportunities piled up to the ceiling.
One way to refocus the entire organisation on the consumer is to make their journeys more central to the business. “Journeys” refers to all the paths that customers take, along which they encounter your brand or business. If all your stakeholders have a unified understanding of the processes and motivations that drive the markets they operate in, they have a common language with which your rallying call can be written, and your brand’s performance evaluated.
Used wisely, a thorough understanding of your consumer-centric dynamic journey can inform the direction your brand goes in and the mix of marketing tools you leverage.
Moments of influence
While most businesses still make use of the old marketing funnel in some way, there have been some attempts to update it for a more modern and connected world. The addition of recursive elements such as the loyalty loop makes for a more non-linear view of the path to purchase and beyond.
Moments of truth along these journeys refer to tangible points of focus, starting with the critical first moment at the shop shelf, which may or may not lead to a sale, and moving on to the nerve-wracking second moment when the usage experience is evaluated. Google updated this thinking with the addition of the zero moment of truth to acknowledge the increased emphasis on pre-purchase research, which tends to be online and likely mobile in today’s highly connected world.
Even though at an aggregate level it’s tempting to think of journeys as a typical path taken, with specific moments in a specific order, care should be taken to include a generous helping of dynamism. The ability to place various microjourneys alongside each other, that leverage different combinations of moments, will lead to a more accurate mapping of behaviours.
These moments can probably be defined in multiple ways, but another important consideration is that no matter what lens you choose to look at your customer through, these moments should allow marketers to maintain a certain amount of agency. Strong, positive lasting memories can be created in these moments, and if they’re linked to your brand, they have the power to deepen loyalty, create excitement and increase revenue.
Most of the moments in our lives are fleeting. They don’t leave much of a trace in our memories. So brands that manage to stand out and generate truly memorable experiences at multiple moments of influence will tend to reap the rewards.
Mapping the journeys
Practically speaking, a thorough mapping of the journeys present in any given market will also provide an opportunity to conduct an audit of data assets and other sources of insight that might be available to the business. Drawing on the most appropriate sources will improve the speed and accuracy of such insights, while mapping them to the journeys will make it easier to drive implementation through the business.
When various departments and stakeholders are all working off the same blueprints and striving towards a unified goal, everybody wins. Consumers gain the experiences they crave, employees get the satisfaction that comes from knowing their role in the bigger reality, and shareholders go home happy with increased ROI.
Having a framework derived from a consumer-centric understanding of journeys would also provide a way for the business to communicate more effectively internally and externally its progress, needs, and intentions. Aligned thinking can and should lead to aligned behaviour throughout the organisational ecosystem, and ultimately to the desired consumer experiences.