Columnist Jim Yu discusses the impact of digital on the customer journey and what marketers need to do to stay competitive and convert customers in the moments that matter.
Digital dominates modern life. From smartwatches to home-monitoring systems, we find ourselves turning to the internet and digital connections with increasing frequency. Companies increasingly rely on chatbots when dealing with customers, and a growing number of professionals turn to digital assistants to help them remain organized.
These connections change how we as consumers communicate with each other and how we make purchases, and they even influence our opinions and decision-making.
The impact of this disruption on the customer journey
Just as digital is having a dramatic impact on consumer behavior, it also influences how brands today communicate with prospects, and what they need to do to attract their attention and drive revenue.
The customer journey has been seriously disrupted as digital communication has taken center stage. No longer can brands trust customers to move seamlessly from one stage to the next in a linear and quantifiable path.
Now customers regularly use a variety of different platforms and channels when communicating with brands. To the naked eye, the path that these modern consumers take is less structured and less predictable than it once was.
Not only has the path itself been virtually deconstructed, but customers also increasingly take full command. Currently, an estimated 67 percent of the buyer’s journey takes place online, with customers digesting a variety of different types of content, including both material on your site and third-party commentary. By 2020, however, it is estimated that the customer will manage 85 percent of the relationship with a brand. They will be forming this relationship, however, without any input from humans.
In the place of an ordered journey has arisen micro touch points — self-driven customer quests for information. These are key opportunities for brands to understand what customers are looking for and then answer these needs. These touch points often occur on mobile and reflect questions or problems customers have that they want answered immediately.
Since customers are no longer following a predictable path, it’s your brand’s responsibility to understand the needs and goals of their prospects so they can identify these micro-moments and be ready to provide people with the content they need. You do this by looking at the signals, patterns and other clues in the data. This will allow you to make sense of the seemingly unstructured paths that these digital customers follow.
This data can then be converted into strategies to create quality content that will position you well against the competition and strongly in the eyes of the consumer to win the moments that matter.
With the changing customer landscape, data has become essential to success. It is the cornerstone of the modern marketing strategy that can effectively function with the digital consumer.
The role of machine learning in this confusion
By 2020, the digital universe will grow by a factor of 300, from 130 exabytes to 40,000 exabytes, according to the International Data Corporation (IDC). The amount of information available will be astounding.
However, the human brain can only hold about one million gigabytes of memory. The human brain will not be capable of processing the sheer amount of information that will be collected from the various touch points gathered from consumers.
“Deep learning” and processing will be necessary to make sense of all this data so that it can be converted into useful, actionable insights. Deep learning uncovers the patterns and clues that brands can then use to create effective content strategies.
What you need to do to convert customers in moments that matter
Step 1. Stay ahead of marketing changes
Brands need first to be familiar with rapidly changing consumer needs and outlooks. They need to understand how the customer journey adjusts to the increasing presence of digital in daily life. It’s necessary to be on top of the latest search trends, including micro-moments.
You also need to be familiar with updates within your own industry, as well as competitor activity. Know which strategies drive the most success for others within your sector, and know the trends within the space.
For example, look at how many people purchase online versus in a store, how often mobile is used during in-store purchases, keywords that your competition ranks for that drive revenue, and where you are falling short. Remember to look at both paid and organic competitor strategies.
Step 2. Know which moments matter
Not every moment is created equal. Certain moments correlate more closely with business growth than others. Where resources are constrained and speed is critical, brands need to quickly identify which moments are more aligned with their organization’s business goals, so they can act in a fast and focused manner.
Look at behavior within the different types of micro-moments and the paths that your customers take through them to end up at conversion. Then prioritize the efforts that present the best opportunities to meaningfully engage with customers.
Step 3. Outpace the competition
Remember that in the world of digital marketing, you do not exist in a vacuum. To rank well for certain queries and micro-moments, you need to outrank the competition.
To achieve this end, you need to be developing data-driven approaches for content development and distribution that are oriented towards increasing traffic, conversions and revenue. This is what will allow you to win the moments that matter.
Step 4. Find the technology that will help you do all of the above
The amount of data that’s now available on your prospects and their behavior online will exceed your capacity to analyze it yourself and create an effective strategy. To compete in this competitive space, you will need the technology that can help you analyze consumer behavior and create the strategy your business needs to succeed.
Effective marketing is no longer dominated by customers following a step-by-step journey. It’s now a collection of moments where serving customers is critical to success. Identifying these moments that matter will be the cornerstone to building an effective strategy for the age of the digital customer.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.