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Four Tips for Building a Digital Customer Journey

Chris Van Wagoner

Director, Lifecycle Marketing @ AdRoll

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The customer journey is quickly becoming more than just a map of activities that lead to conversion. With the sophisticated analytics tools and global data sets we have access to today, it's not uncommon for the journey to influence user interface and product designs, brand guidelines, and even hiring and acquisition. The customer journey has evolved beyond simply informing marketing materials — it's been identified as the key to unlocking customer-centricity and long-term business success. 

These concepts become even more powerful when you think of your customer’s journey in the context of a digital-first strategy. By placing the bulk of your customer engagement and touchpoints on the web, you gain a tremendous amount of freedom to tweak your user journey to get more customers and keep them happier and more engaged. Here are four things you can do to build a great digital-first customer journey.

Identify Distinct Digital Triggers

Successful marketers know precisely which steps must be taken on the path to becoming a customer. As these marketers transpose the insights to inform a digital strategy, it's essential to know which triggers can be accessed to guide customers on their way. Third-party forums, social media pages, and paid advertisement are all spaces that should be considered for digital triggers — we would also recommend leveraging downloadable user guides and product studies, or even review platforms. Given the ease of engaging customers in the digital space, there's no reason not to use all of these tools to be more effective.

In a nutshell: Make sure each one of your customer journey stages is clear and aligned with digital triggers to positively impact behavior.

Find Out the Obstacles

For an e-commerce brand, there's no excuse for guessing the obstacles your customers face — there are countless ways of collecting user data and soliciting feedback. 

Using internal resources like your sales and customer success teams isn't a wrong place to start, but getting to the heart of customers’ pain points requires pushing past the anecdotes and into the data. Talk to your analytics team to see if they can give you some ideas around what causes potential customers to fall off, and then reach out to actual customers and ask them what you can do better.

In a nutshell: Don't make assumptions about what obstacles potential customers face at each step. Read the data and then interview customers (via email, call, video call, or even in person) to get specific and detailed information.

Start Wide, Then Narrow It Down

“What's the best digital channel for __?” has become a top Google search for those thinking about engaging the customer journey online. Performing this search, you'll find tons of blogs, Quora posts, Reddit threads, and LinkedIn articles with different takes on the question. While you may be able to uncover valuable insights, these resources are likely not designed with your customer in mind. Given that the overall cost of digital real estate is relatively low, we recommend you test as many channels as you can. You'll begin to understand where your customers are and with what content they respond positively to.

In a nutshell:  Instead of guessing what channels your customers prefer, or relying on “expert” opinions, test out as many as possible and rely on customer feedback to narrow down your focus.

Digital-First Doesn’t Mean Digital Only

A common misstep for challenger brands going digital is abandoning or downplaying traditional channels. In fact, for several years, the big trend in direct to consumer (D2C) was avoiding the offline space entirely. Companies like Casper and Warby Parker made their mark by doing business entirely from their e-commerce platforms. However, Casper, Warby Parker, and countless other D2C companies started popping up in malls and shopping plazas. As it turns out, consumers like interacting with brands offline — even digital-first brands.

As you move to a digital-first customer journey, it's critical to remember that many customers still love interacting with brands in person. At the very least, they'll likely be interacting with your product in the real world when they purchase, so it's essential to keep those touchpoints in mind when planning your customer journey. If you sell in the real world, remember to add these touchpoints and consider how they affect the overall journey. And in a digital world, that doesn't have to be complicated. There are plenty of services that offer web-to-store tracking using loyalty programs, rewards cards, or even blinded customer credit card data.

In a nutshell: Remember to add offline interactions and touchpoints, even on a digital-first journey. Services exist that can provide real-world customer data to give you a more accurate look into your customer journey analytics.

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