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7P’s interview – Ephlux Insights with Toni Keskinen (of Future CMO)

Here’s my interview with Mr Babar Khan Javed about the backround of my thinking that led to re-creation of Marketing’s 7P’s published in ADMAP November 2014

Further reading:

Author: Toni Keskinen, Change Catalyst & Executive as a Service
http://www.linkedin.com/in/tonikeskinen

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Marketing’s new and re-designed 7P’s

Marketing Mix 4PMarketing used to be about making companies APPEAR to be better, increasing brand appeal etc. Today marketing is about MAKING BETTER COMPANIES

The omni-channel, real-time, everything’s available and traceable environment we are currently living in has changed the marketing fundamentals quite radically. The world is no longer the same place for which The marketer E. Jerome McCarthy proposed the four Ps classification in 1960. This age requires us to re-design them. Actually, in my opinion we should question the old truths and re-define the entire concept, role and meaning of marketing.. go back to the fundamentals and adjust them to this time and age. I hope this article sparks interest and willingness to join in and continue the discussion at Future CMO LinkedIn Group

The new 7P’s

  • Position – in customer’s mind
  • Performance – the user experience, capability to meet expectations
  • Proximity – How close the brand is to it’s customers, Customer intimacy
  • Price  – Price is no longer a fixed figure
  • Presence – instead of Place
  • Perceived product
  • Promotion

POSITION

There is a lot of everything. Customers instinctively make their lives easier by using their mental shortcuts, heuristics, in order to make sense of the surrounding wealth of messages and impulses. The position a brand holds in the customer’s mind connects it to certain attributes, contexts, values, benefits and purposes. Actually, our brain gives an emotional tag to every single piece of information before entering our conscious mind. Branding is about training customers’ brains and winning certain position in their minds. This is why it takes a long time to really gain a meaningful position as a brand. That’s also why brand extensions are not a certain success, as the position the brand has in customer’s mind only consist of certain learned connections.

Because of these reasons I would define Brand as a position in the customers’ minds. During the past decade people have also learned to use brands as their road signs when searching for products, services, solutions, ideas and inspiration. For example in travel and telecommunications markets the number of category searches has dropped, while brand searches have increased. Instead of searching for smartphone or holiday, customers search operators, smartphone manufacturers and travel agencies by brand. To people, brands stand for direct access to information they are looking for. Such behavior makes the top-of-mind position even more important than it has been before. Smartphones or 4G are minimal interests, while Samsung and Apple have strong demand. The data also shows how Android has become a brand on it’s own and has an even stronger demand than Samsung has.

Mobile Google trends

PERFORMANCE

When customers do buy a product or service they have certain expectations for what they bought. Depending on how well the brand meets those expectations, it influences the customer’s personal experience and view on the brand’s performance. Value for money experience is a very important measure for a brand and shared experiences influence the brand’s Net Promoter Score directly. Performance should be measured through the customer’s entire relationship with the brand, across every single experience they share. In my opinion we should include PERSEVERENCE as part of the performance. The customers expect you to stay interested in them and continue to deliver high value. One-shot experience is not enough, no matter how good it is. The real performance must be proved over time also in case of product failure or other unexpected events.

In September 2013 HBR published an article: “The truth about Customer Experience” by Alex Rawson, Ewan Duncan, and Conor Jones. In their experience, most companies measure customer experience by touch points or single engagements. Such an approach will tell you how did that single engagement meet customer’s expectations. It does not say anything about customer’s satisfaction over time. In case this is the only mean to measure performance in a corporate KPIs, it will create an illusion of performing well. In their article, they proved the declining customer satisfaction over the length of customer relationship. When you think in terms of performance, you need to continuously improve your service, in order to keep your customers happy. In my Customer Journey studies I have also learned that, the reasons why customers choose to buy a certain product, or a service, are not necessarily the same ones that will keep the customer happy post purchase on a longer term.

Performance measures are also changing the marketing as a practice, changing management and the ways of managing change. Today, everything can be easily tested in small scale, scaled to global level and measured in real time. The marketing practice has been measured with rather elusive figures like top-of-mind, preference, awareness and attributes until recently. Now marketing has become an actual business unit that should have a business plan, revenue forecasts and profit expectations. This is finally something that other members of the board understand. This is why the marketing as a practice is moving up on the corporate power ladder. Corporate management is already expecting CMO’s to take responsibility for corporate digital transformation. In my opinion the creativity factor associated with marketing function has more potential in this new order than ever before when its performance is measured right. When customer understanding, creativity and performance metrics are connected across corporate strategy and operations, possibilities of developing business, competitive advantage and brand become infinite. We just need to follow the path companies like Tesco, Apple, Google and Amazon have opened for us over the past two decades. In that time the technology and ecosystem developed to its current level of sophistication and accessibility allowing us to join in and follow the paths these giants have already proved effective.

PROXIMITY

Proximity is a synonym for distance. In order to create trust and relationship with customers, brands need to get close and personal with their customers. At best, you can talk about customer intimacy and connecting the brand to people’s self image. We have a chance of having a dialogue and become a part of peoples everyday life via different channels like Facebook, apps, online services, even external bought mediums at personal level. Although the Internet and all it’s applications have a lot to offer, PEOPLE belong in this category too. Person-to-person communications are the primary way of connecting and even getting imprinted to the brand. People and corporate culture represent the brand in human form. The old truth about brand being as good as its salesman is still true. Customers meet people while making their choices, have support needs or they want a reclamation taken care of. People are the very core of trust experience and in many businesses customers imprint on people serving them. In such cases the brand experience and loyalty has it’s foundation on personal relationship: it’s not about B2B or B2C, it’s about Human-to-Human. The current view is, that those companies that best connect their physical experience in an omni-channel world will win the hearts and minds of their customers.

In my opinion the Apple Store concept is one of the best examples of creating a strong human interface and online customer relationship together. The experience at Apple store is that all employees are there for you, concentrating on your concerns and help you with your needs. There are often more employees than there are customers, which just stands for Apple’s priorities. The store is a place for brand experience and it is not measured by sheer efficiency like most other stores are.

Apple store

Picture source: http://zerogeekspeak.net/2014/06/16/av-forward-training-customerprofessional-relationship-dynamics/

PRICE

Price used to be a rather fixed figure. In this age price has become a rather elusive measure. The new approaches to pricing are about yielding models and price variety between customer segments or distribution channels. There is one price for me, and another for you, although the product and the seller are the same. There is a price for me right now and another tomorrow.

Online environment has made it possible to democratize offering and make pricing transparent by using aggregators and comparison services that find prices from different sellers and present them in one single view. This kind of approach has democratized the marketplace, because the aggregators only show certain comparable basic functionalities and push the brand further away from the customer. This approach has increased the meaning of pricing volatility and transparency. People on the other hand love such services, because the offering with large selection, customer reviews and low prices can be found and bought from a single location fast and conveniently. Actually these players like Expedia that is offering Hotels.com, expedia.com, Trivago and those alike them, are creating direct relationships with customers and effectively drive prices lower (and their profit margin higher because they effectively own demand). Smaller players, who have less known brands but can offer services and products at lower cost, can access demand and challenge better known brands due to this logic.

The demand for lower prices is growing and now it’s also connected with certain brands known for their low prices. In January 2014 Amazon reported that its’ more than 2 million marketplace sellers sold more than a billion units globally. In their annual report Amazon also reported higher profit margins, because everything they sell in their marketplace generate pure profit. Amazon, like big brands, have the demand, selling other businesses’ products don’t cost virtually anything for them.

Here’s how demand is developing in case of accommodation business:

Travel Google Trends

PRESENCE

I think that presence has replaced place on this list. In the digital era, presence equals availability and direct access to buying. Presence is a more flexible concept than place that is physical. Social media is a method of expanding presence across customers’ peer groups and generating recommendations, participation and coverage in general. Aggregators also scale presence further. Customers will choose a brand among those present. It is to say that expanding presence is likely to directly impact sales. Out of sight – out of mind, is the name of the game.

When I have been studying Customer Journeys and customer’s decision making, I’ve learned that there exists a market segment of people who are at the state of “pending decision” or “pending action” in many categories, especially in case of consumer packaged goods. Let’s say that you, for example, need to buy a new toothbrush and you decide to do so. The decision is already there, but it could take months before you actually make the purchase. In such cases the sheer presence where customer makes the purchase increases sales even without any kind of promotion. The same logic applies in many other cases too. I have personally become completely loyal for a contact lens seller LensOn. They send me an email once my previous order is likely to be nearly consumed and I only need to click once to renew my order. They know me and their presence takes place at the right time inside my personal space. I consider that great service. Their presence is perfect – out of sight and not bothering me at other times, only serving me proactively when they know I need it. LensOn has effectively increased my contact lens spending, because I have not run out of them since my first purchase, almost four years ago.

PERCEIVED PRODUCT

A PRODUCT is too often defined by companies as how they see and envision it. This is naturally flawed/biased and is where many companies make a mistake in the first steps of selling and marketing their product/service. Especially engineer lead organizations that are very product detail focused. In reality this should be PERCEIVED PRODUCT, making an enormous paradigm shift from companies defining a product, to understanding that the PRODUCT is actually only and exactly what we can get the consumer to perceive it to be. This adds the element of communication responsibility and understandability to the 7P’s equation. Most companies think they have the best product, but still fail, because of an enormous perception gap in the definition of the product in their minds and the potential customers minds. Perceived Products is naturally tightly linked to the second P = PERFORMANCE, which is all about (repeatedly) living up to, and exceeding the product perception and quality expectations of the customer (The definition of Perceived Product came from Jarno Aho, OMD Finland.)

What makes the concept of Perceived product especially important, is the fact that customer experience about a product or service is firmly embedded on expectations. When expectations are really high, it is difficult to meet them. On the other hand low expectations are easy to exceed and translate them to endorsements. Perception has a major influence on brand demand and preference. Branding has everything to do with it.

PROMOTION

Here’s the Wikipedia’s definition: “All of the methods of communication that a marketer may use to provide information to different parties about the product. Promotion comprises elements such as: advertising, public relations, sales organisation and sales promotion.[1]” Another way to approach promotion can be divided in four major categories:

  • Owned media (own customer interfaces and direct channels for customer communications)
  • Earned media (social media and PR)
  • Partner media (retailers, resellers, bundling and packaging partners, etc.)
  • Paid media (advertising, SEM, etc.)

Important measures for promotion are reach and impact to brand awareness, preference, willingness to pay premium and convert sales. In the Internet age of overwhelming availability of data, own media has increased it’s capacity to impact sales tremendously. Search engine’s page rank can be improved, own customer data can be leveraged very cost efficiently and the relationship with customers can drive further reach with earned social media and dialogue with customers. In the current online centric customer relationships in which marketing and servicing merge as one single messaging, it’s increasingly difficult to define where the product or service ends and marketing/promotion starts. You could say that the core customer service and customer relationship processes have become promotional activities in the age of open online dialogue. Partnering influence reach and presence very effectively too. These new possibilities have diminished the role of paid mediums and increased promotional capacity and scalability at a low cost. Data driven marketing enable paid media’s role as an extension of customer relationship marketing even if the customer has never left his/her contacts.

These were my 7P’s. In case you can agree with them, I’m sure you can also agree with this. Marketing used to be about making companies APPEAR to be better, increasing brand appeal etc. Today marketing is about MAKING COMPANIES BETTER. The difference between these two roles is so great, that it demands us to open our eyes and re-define marketing as a practice for the needs and opportunities of today.

Further reading:

Choosing and Buying – Cross-channel influence

We first started the development of cross-channel customer behavior analytics methodology – One Experience in 2004. The original insight about channel development was about clear conflict between companies channel development practice and customers actual behaviour. Companies used to develop each channel individually. Very often each channel has still own channel responsible management that is developing that individual channel to the max. Also the benchmarking was done against competitors channel and the goal was to be better than the competitor. There’s nothing wrong with anything described above unless it generate blind spots and steer companies to invest in development that doesn’t actually support customers and create value for them. The rule of thump is that you should constantly consider effort vs. gain from customer perspective whenever you are developing or changing something.  When doing Cross-channel customer behaviour studies we learned that in some cases companies channel strategy and customer’s needs and expectations were not aligned and the channel strategy actually hindered sales.

Many brands have a long and successful history of servicing their customers thoroughly in a single channel.  Kirsti Lehmusto (former CMO of Finnish retail company Stockmann and colleague from Taivas, now CMO for Helsinki University) recognize the retail store management, contact centre services and distant sales services with catalogues as methodologies that have created great financial success by concentrating in excelling in the customer experience in a single channel from beginning to the end.

Channel management 1_single channel optimizationIn the current 24/7 economy and world of digital influence it is even more important to understand that in current world customer’s move accross channels and create service strings that fluently move customers from one channel to another according to their preferences, drivers and motives. It is important to look at these service moments in each channel and optimize them to help the customer further to his preferred next step.

Channel management 2_cross-channel behaviour

Service and product ranges don’t have the same meaning for customers and people are not quite as interested in everything. In the article ”Customer Decision Making FLOW” there’s more about how the decision-making about a certain FMCG goods and brands like Coca Cola differ from buying a magazine subscription, taking a mortgage or buying a motorcycle. The following gives an outlook on general learning’s about stages in various businesses.

Let’s dig deeper in to stages: Browsing, Configuring, Deciding, Buying and Post-Purchase.

The two stages before these are: Brand-as-a-platform that you can read from here and Initiation, you can read here.  (I would recommend reading them, before going further to choosing and buying journey below). Also check out how to run customer driven business design development here.

Browsing

Browsing is most often about learning, simultaneous process of exploring your own intentions and interests, and actively considering what kind of solution would be perfect for the customer. Customer has mental goals while doing this. He’s interested in certain facts, has drivers guiding him further while exploring. Not all factors are created equal. These things define customer’s mindset & motivation. (We must not forget, that people are emotional by nature and we need to understand what people are feeling while they are browsing and learning and help them feel good about the brand we are promoting). While doing this, customers use information sources that are both interactive & instructional. On-line services, product reviews, friends, catalogues, retail stores, contact centres, agents & brokers. Some of these touch points can be led by the brand, some can’t. Some of the touch points have more meaning than others. The important thing is to understand what the customer is trying to do, which touch points the customers use and how did the touch point fulfil customer’s expectations.

Customers who have no prior experience about buying products and services in certain service or product category are more likely to browse more thoroughly and consciously. Also, people who are more price sensitive tend to do more work in browsing and all other stages in general. There are two underlying reasons for the Journey driven emphasis and strong browsing

  1. Customers are curious and actually want to know what options are most interesting and
  2. Customers are worried about making bad decision and try to learn more in order to avoid mistakes.

In many cases both reasons are meaningful.

Some businesses are naturally interesting for customers, like travelling and cars. In these businesses learning about products, services and prices can be considered as entertainment. Coffee table discussions and other people’s experiences are also an important part of the decision making process. In this kind of categories visits to the stores and actually seeing the products are also considered entertaining and fun. If people are busy and don’t just go out and see products for fun they are more likely to actually go and see what they are considering in configuring or even in purchase stage after making the mental decision to buy. The trend though is that companies have less and less face time with customers enabling persuasion. Cross channel marketing is more about steering customer forward and selling by supporting their choices than actual selling. Pulling instead of pushing.

In business-to-business customer journeys browsing is about looking for potential service providers for further negotiations. Managers and entrepreneurs looking for service providers ask other people’s opinions, look online for potential companies and potentially even use a professional consultant to find best possible potential service providers.

When defining sub channels for Browsing stage our experience is that it’s better to use broad descriptions of the touch points and ask about customers experience and what kind of information had most meaning for them. In browsing it is impossible not to talk about search engines in the current digital environment. Customers often have pre-decided brands and options they are mostly looking at. However, they also look for other people’s experiences and use search engines while looking for information. Even if the brand or product would not be known and on customer’s shortlist, search engine advertising enable capturing some of the customers. The more entertaining and positive context the buying is about, the more likely people are to click and learn about options they didn’t know existed. Travel is a great example of such business. In travel people are happy to give their email and contacts to travel agencies, cruising companies and airliners just to get more entertaining ideas and travelling inspiration from them. In less entertaining businesses too, it’s possible to capture customer’s contacts and call back later. When I built a house and was looking for materials, contractors etc, it was obvious that the browsing was often done in the middle of the night and an opportunity to leave contacts and get a call next day was considered as good service.

In less interesting businesses people often skip browsing or do it in-store at a shelf. FMCG businesses represent such business in which people don’t search information or find out about options outside store. Browsing is likely to be done at the shelf comparing contents and prices. If customer does this once, he’s not likely to stop and think next time. Once decided, customers easily create habit and non-considered re-purchases. This doesn’t mean that you couldn’t do anything though. Some companies have created wildly popular recipe clubs and services that offer inspiration in a format of recipes instead of individual products. One of the best examples is Valio’s Cream Club which cost 18€ as annual subscription price. This program is nothing but marketing and branded content. Still, people consider these recipes so inspiring that they are prepared to pay for a membership which makes this marketing program practically free for Valio even without product sales. If your product is not interesting as such, people could still be interested in the context your products are used in enabling branded engagement.

Configuring

Configuring can be exactly that, e.g. using a car configuration online in order to learn which kind of combination would be most suitable for me. The name of the stage comes from mass-customisation vocabulary (Jarmo Suominen, professor for Masscustomization (MIT/UIAH) had strong impact on the original theory development). In configuring stage customer has most often chosen the brands he wants to learn more about. Often it is about negotiating with potential suppliers about the price or contents and terms of the offer. The difference compared to browsing is that in browsing customer often is learning and more open to possibilities. In browsing, he’s also often anonymous visitor online or in store. At configuring customer is engaging actively and has more defined decision making criteria. He’s looking for the best deal. Configuring is also about letting some options go in order to concentrate on the best potential choices. It’s equally important to know how people define which brands they want to continue with and understand what kind of tools and information sources people use in order to rule out some brands. The car configuration tools are a great example of that.

Case: We studied 500 professionals who had chosen a leasing car as their car benefit provided by their employer spring 2010. The study proved that 18% of all buyers used car configuration tools to decline brands before going to test-drive or asking an offer for the car. It’s actually rather logical. When customers start building their dream car they easily come up with a solution that is too expensive for them. Also, the car configuration tools give a price before any discounts. As a result customers start dropping out options they had chosen in the first place and suddenly the whole experience is about giving up on things the customer would have liked. Eventually the brand loses the appeal it had originally. It is absolutely certain that every car brand’s research prove that customers require openness in pricing and giving as much information as possible online. However, optimisation of sales and driving people further in their journey is sometimes different from what customers demand. Direct marketing has proved this decades ago. Customer should not get a figure online that he could consider as an offer unless you are selling cars online and actually give a real offer for the customer. In majority of car selling the customer should only get an offer from car seller and enable the car seller to show the qualities of the car in person. Emotional and rational influences are often a mixture creating desire to own the car. This desire requires certain level of engagement, which improves the probability of closing a deal. Car configuration tools’s role is to enable dreaming and bring the customers to the store.

In business-to-business and major consumer purchase decisions the configuring stage is often about a meeting with the salesman or other representative in order to define request for an offer. Online e-commerce and opportunity to buy abroad is just another way of servicing the same need. The buyer wants to know and learn about the service providers or products capabilities, background, cases and discuss about the qualities of potential solution. Very often the first engagement with the service provider also allow buyer to evaluate what kind of feeling the service provider left in the first engagement. Word of advice from previous cases is, that it’s more important to ask than present at this stage. In people businesses customers want the company to concentrate on their needs and solve them. It is important to show interest in customers needs and show how much you care about their problem. Human behaviour is about trust. The seller’s first priority as a contact person and representative of his company is to understand the brief and create trusting and caring connection to the buyer.

Decision

Was there a specific event or incentive that led to decision? If yes, what was that? Whether or not there is an offer, the people still evaluate offer or stimulus against their perception of the brand, the company and the product. Customer has certain motivation, drivers and resources that guide him. From which retailers did the customer ask for an offer. What prompted the decision?

In some cases customer know that they should buy a new product in order to replace the old one but they just don’t recall doing so or lack motivation or ability to do it. In these cases we talk about ”pending purchase decisions”.  Offer in store or discount advertisement could act as a trigger. In smaller purchases just seeing the product is the trigger. In other cases there could have been long-lasting interest and consideration but no action. In cases like this the customers have been interested and wanted to buy for a long time but were not able to do so or lacked justification. Discount advertising is very effective trigger in these cases. People could wait for a long time for the products price to come to the acceptable level. The discount has two-fold triggering effect

  1. The price can be considerably lower than normal
  2. The offer is there for a limited time or there is only limited number of products at that specific store resulting feeling of hurry and justification. It’s now or never!  Limited number of products is a message that increases sales never mind how many products the store would actually have in storage.

In TV-shop commercials sales increased when customers were told: ”If you call, Prepare for holding online or use SMS for ordering”. Just saying some other people would also buy the product was justification enough for more people to act.

In technology businesses like wrist-top-computers measuring pulse and other training factors, mobile phones and entertainment gadgets the prices come down after some time due to rapid product circulation. If the products become ”most wanted” like iPod and iPhone did, declining pricing eventually reach tippin’ point driving products to move from most wanted to market dominating products. Following the own brand’s and competing brand’s customer journeys and preference, enable recognising and preparing for such events.

Another very important thing is to track competing brand’s actions in this space. Competing brands could send offers by mail; use out-bound telemarketing to help (read: push) customers make decisions right away. Proactive decision supporting and triggering could result a lot of lost business unless it’s detected and acted on.

In business-to-business cases and major consumer purchase decisions the decision stage has to do with comparing offers. It is smart to take the time and present the offer face to face. Face time often increase trust and represent dedication. At best the presenting of the offer means evaluating and considering it aloud. Customer has a change to ask questions and make certain that they understand what exactly the offer means. The first meeting with a salesman was about first impression and the next about how well does the contact person meet expectations and is he trust worthy? How well has the contact person taken customers wishes in account and what kind of pro-active propositions there are in order to better meet customer’s goals. It all comes down to trust eventually. Price is a subjective issue in most cases, not an absolute measure. Higher price just require more trust and better justification than lower price.

Purchase

Where did the customer purchase? Purchase channel and location give new information for analysis when looking back at the customer journey. Customers could have purchased from certain store brand, specialist store, online retailer, catalogue sales company, by phone, by calling to contact centre. It’s important to track which player was the active contacting party a) customer b) competitor.

Purchase channel send a message about customers decision-making dynamics too. In several cases the customers behaviour has been very online centric in every other stage but purchasing. Online channels are very effective in offering information about the products and services but often customer rather purchase from store, individual contact person or contact centre rather than online. Why is that?

Our learning has been that it’s most likely an expression of insecurity and pure need for human contact confirming the decision. People want to call, possibly bargain a little, but most importantly they want to feel secure that they are doing a good deal and they will not feel sorry for it after. In retail products customers could go to buy in retail store in order to confirm their decision by touching the product and experiencing it live or they want to get it with them right away. Visit in the store could be inevitable in many cases but there are risks.

When we were developing One Experience methodology we did some multi-client researches in order to develop the methodology. We found out that while Fujitsu-Siemens had 22% preference rate, they sold 35%. Their sale was roughly 50% higher than their brand preference would let expect. In the further analysis we found out that majority of sales people working in stores preferred Fujitsu-Siemens laptops and often owned one too. Of course the same apply in case of trade promotion offering sales people extra for selling more Fujitsu-Siemens. However, in this case there was no promotion but it was natural for sales people to recommend Fujitsu-Siemens.

The reality is that when people have been looking for a solution, product or service they would like to buy, they are actually still rather open for influence at the very last stage. When people get to know offering they often come to conclusion that certain product is both possible for them and they feel comfortable about choosing it. Once the customer comes to a store and the premium product is in discount, the customer is likely to change his mind in that instant and buy the premium product even if it was still slightly more expensive than the one the customer came to pick-up. The same phenomena apply when customer engage with store personnel. The professionals in store can raise insecurity in customer’s mind or recommend something other than the customer was going to buy. Often the customer’s goal for the discussion in store is meant to confirm customer’s own thinking. Still, often it results alternative outcome depending on the advisors training, experience, opinions and incentives. Brands have very different variation in the level of determination in their buying. Strong brands, which have a “love” relationship with buyers, are much harder to persuade to some other way.

In the same Laptop study we found another interesting phenomenon. There were dramatic differences between store brands in which customers went to see the products and where they actually purchased them. The conversion rate from visitor to buyer was at best 66% and at worst less than 30%. The two biggest retail brand conversions were a) 29% visiting and 9% of sales and b) 23% visiting and 6% of sales. These two brands dominated people’s visits but they didn’t dominate sales. Retail conversion rate optimisation would have dramatically increased these retailers market share and it shouldn’t be too hard when they already have people coming to them.  41% of customers told that the sales person influenced their decision and in 23% of cases they reported sales persons opinion had important role. 39% of customers only went to visit in one store. Still, many of those people purchased online.  Currently many customers consider stores as showrooms and look for the best deal online.

RECENT DEVELOPMENT AND TRENDS

The rise of online channels and social media’s role in customer journey has increased information available for customers. Social media has enabled and encouraged communities and discussion forums in which people share experiences of different products and services. This change has diminished the role for sales people in many businesses and created disruption in former Customer Journeys. In the world of 3i, that is high interest, high involvement and high investment product and services, people’s know-how about the products and services often exceed the level that sales people have in store. The customers are increasingly becoming specialist in what they are buying. They are also actively using this knowledge as social capital. People enjoy their position in their own community and sharing increase their role as a valuable member. Peer-group’s respect is often very effective motivator that activates discussion and participation.

The customers are also increasingly interested in companies’ practices and values. Several brands have suffered major image setbacks due to child labour in their production, environmentally indifferent attitude and any ethically questionable actions. People become more and more conscious about their consuming,  effects of their choices and the products and services are no longer enough. People also need to feel good about their choices.

The trend that is shaking the corporate mindset is transparency. Brand, products and services, pricing, quality and experiences are all available online. Customers trust each other more than the brands specialists even if they don’t know each other. Transparency means that companies need to be just as good as they say they are or better than they have promised. Search engines are the best enablers of transparency democracy.

Post-Purchase

Once a customers have made a purchase and started using the product or service they are often likely to talk about their experiences. Word-of-mouth is a major influencer in many businesses and sharing experiences spontaneously online has multiplied the word-of-mouth influence. Another important thing to consider is that web does not forget easily. When customers start looking for information about the product or service online, they use search engines. The highest scoring links are the ones that have been clicked most often, have external links directed to that specific content and so on. This means that the highest scoring content could be several years old. It is very important for brands to stay in touch with customer’s satisfaction and recommendations.

Analysing the outcome

As customer journey designer I was very interested in learning about the customers decision-making dynamics from beginning to the end. In order to optimize that you first need to understand what is happening. We came to conclusion that the best way to effectively show what happened was to break the conversion analysis in three: Won, Kept and Lost business. To make it more meaningful we broke further to three dimensions: before buying, what happened in the original groups and what was the outcome. Here is an illustration of one case. This measure is called Business Dynamics Score (BDS)

 Business Dynamics Score

Of those 42% who originally preferred the brand 95% were kept and only 5% lost. Of those 28% who originally preferred competitor 70% were converted and only 30% were lost to competitor. Of those who had no preference 88% were converted and won. Only 14% were lost. The outcome is that from this company’s target group they won 46% of sales from competitors, 40% of their sales came from those who originally preferred them and they lost 14% of their reference group’s sales to competitors. In this case the sample the data was collected from customer buying this service at certain frequency and in this case some of the customers had purchased competing brand after the most recent purchase from the brand that was studied. This finding helped further in recognizing how much business is leaking from the brand to the competitors and why.

This way of looking at the customer data also reveal where the brand is making it’s sales. Of people who originally prefer the brand, how many actually buy it in the end. Of customers who prefer competitors, how many the brand is capable of winning. From customers who have no preference but only rather equal options, how many of them actually buy the brand in question. While capturing data, this same comparison also work very efficiently in analysing how competitors win from the brand in question and what can be done about it.

In order to finalize the big picture, it’s also very educating to see which brand the customers consider was second best after the purchased brand if any. Being second best means that the brands success was good but something still turned the customers head and led to lost business. If your brand is very often the second best, it means that it is not too hard to make major improvement in sales.

Of the full Customer Journey – this article was about the third slot – Choose and buy, Check out the first two stages:

Customer Journey stage 1: Brand as a platform

Customer Journey stage 2: Initiation

Also see Business design with customer centricity

Managing customer interfaces – marketing do-or-die

and How to Map and Study Customer Journey

Customer Journey

Author: Toni Keskinen, Marketing Architect & Customer Journey Designer

http://www.linkedin.com/in/tonikeskinen

Join FutureCMO Movement LinkedIn Group here

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