How much do you know about which lead or inquiry led to a purchase? And are you able to tell which steps were key along the way?
That's what we're talking about today with a lady who, last year, was named in the BIMA 100, a list of the top 100 People shaping the future of the digital industry.
For the last 12 years, she has been helping global brands and eCommerce businesses to unleash their digital marketing potential through her own agency, Reflect Digital.
A warm welcome to the Strategic Marketing Show, Becky Simms.
[You can find Becky over at ReflectDigital.co.uk.]
Watch the episode via your preferred pocast platform:
Topics discussed on this episode include:
- Why is the customer journey key?
- How does understanding the customer journey better measurably impact the bottom line?
- What kind of metrics are important to be tracking?
- How else can you gain more knowledge of the customer journey -
- Asking the customer at the point of purchase
- Website behavior software
- Focus groups
- How does the customer journey fit into a marketing strategy?
- How do you build a more cohesive cross-channel strategy aimed at helping the user?
David Bain 00:00
Email isn't going to be too frequent if it's the right type of email, targeting the right person. I remember back maybe 10 years ago or so, everyone wanted to receive an email from Groupon once a day – every single day – because it was something that they actually wanted. So, if it's something that they really desire, and it's your target market, then I guess your argument would be: don't worry about frequency.
Becky Simms 00:22
Definitely, and the more personalized – that’s the thing. In this day and age, we don't mind all the different communications we're getting if they're relevant to us.
David Bain 00:35
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Hey, it’s David. How much do you know about which lead or inquiry led to a purchase? And are you able to tell which steps were key along the way? That's what we're talking about today with a lady who, last year, was named in the BIMA 100, a list of the top 100 People shaping the future of the digital industry.
For the last 12 years, she has been helping global brands and eCommerce businesses to unleash their digital marketing potential through her own agency, Reflect Digital. A warm welcome to the Strategic Marketing Show, Becky Simms.
Becky Simms 01:24
Thank you. Thank you so much, David. Very happy to be here.
David Bain 01:28
Thanks so much for coming on, Becky. Well, you can find Becky over at ReflectDigital.co.uk. So Becky, why is the customer journey key?
Becky Simms 01:37
I just think, to me, it's the bedrock of a strategy. If you don't understand why your customers arrive at your door, how they arrive at your door, and how they go through that journey, you're kind of blind to knowing what dials you've really got control over and how you can really help shape that – and ensure that you're finding the right people that are best suited to your brand, your business, and how you can take them on that best journey.
So yeah, for me, without this, all of your other efforts are held back. You're missing something.
David Bain 02:09
Why do many marketing directors, maybe top-level marketers, perhaps not put enough emphasis on this? Is that because it's difficult to extrapolate the bottom line from the customer journey itself?
Becky Simms 02:25
I think it's partly that, but I think it's also just that it's quite difficult to do. By being here today, I'm also not saying that I've 100% cracked it and that, for everyone, we can always find it all, because it is really difficult.
David Bain 02:39
The customer journey is a journey for everyone.
Becky Simms 02:43
Yes, yeah. It really is, though, because it's not a simple, “Just quickly do these things and you definitely know everything.” But there are bits that you can do, and there are processes that we've built up on how we go about finding out and understanding enough, and then it's continual test and learn.
But interestingly, there was some data last year – I think, Econsultancy did some research with CMOs. And when they asked CMOs what their big top three priorities were going forward, it was data for data-driven decision-making (which plays into the customer journey), it was then the customer journey itself (so actually, CMOs were saying that this was on top), and then, thirdly, it was being able to think about how to best maximize budgets (which also plays into the customer journey).
Because if you really understand that customer journey, you can stop wasting effort in places that are maybe less important and put more effort into places that are more important. But, all the while you don't know that, you're kind of just guessing and feeling the pressure to be everywhere for everyone all the time, which obviously isn't the best idea.
David Bain 03:44
So are there standard elements to most customer journeys?
Becky Simms 03:48
I'd say so. For us, the number one thing is, first of all, understanding who your customer is. And that's not just demographically. Demographics – we can argue about this – so when you get handed that persona that says, “It's women that are between 30 and 40, and they earn this much money.” and you're like, “Cool, what do I do with that?”
It's not that. Some of that can be a bit useful for some targeting, but it's the deeper level like what motivates someone to buy your product or your service? What motivates them? What triggers them initially? And then what's important to them throughout the journey? Because once you really start to understand that, you start to put a more human level on it.
I think we're in this trap in digital, that we've got so much data and so many numbers that we sometimes forget that, behind all of those numbers, are actual real human beings like you and I – that are motivated to do things for different reasons. It's uncovering that, first of all, that starts to understand intent. Their intent, but also helps you start to understand what your intent should be for when you're engaging with your audience.
What are you actually hoping to achieve with them? What are you wanting them to feel? What's going to help them on that journey? For us, that’s always the standard starting point. And we've got a behavioral scientist on our team, so she applies that behavioral thinking to it as well so we can start to understand how we might nudge behavior, how we can chunk information in certain ways, etc.
David Bain 05:16
Do you try to map those feelings and that behavior to, perhaps, more traditional stages of the customer journey: awareness, consideration, purchase, retention, advocacy, etc., something like that?
Becky Simms 05:28
Exactly, exactly. We almost end up with three versions of the funnel that come together. So you've got your traditional, that you understand already that marketers are using. I then talk about the digital funnel. So, as you start to build up this research – partly around the audience, but also then you're getting your deep channel with research, you're looking in analytics, and you're using all the different tools at our disposal. And there are lots of different tools we'll use to start to understand keyword volumes, understand social behaviors, social listening, etc.
Putting all that together, you start to understand what channels play best when people are at awareness. Where are they going to ask these big questions, etc? And what do they do in consideration? You start to map that but then, alongside it, you need to start to think – say, for example, if you're a big brand selling cars or something that's not an overnight purchase (you don't go, “Ooh, I’m going to buy a new car” and buy it tomorrow). Then, actually, in that awareness stage, one of the most important things you need to think about with your audience there, is memorability.
Because at the point that they're starting to do their research, this could be three months, four months, or a year (I know for my husband, the second he’s bought a new car, he's back looking again, thinking, “What will the next one be?). So it could be a long period of time. So, actually, memorability is absolutely key because, at that point, we want to be building the memories so that when they move down the funnel, and as they start to get ready, they remember your brand.
Then we say, from a psychological point of view, how do we build memories? We start to look at things like being a bit disruptive and making people think something or feel something. All the while, if people can just scroll past it, you're never going to remember what you saw. But if you make people feel something – and that could be making them laugh, making them smile, making them cry (I don't know, you probably don't want to make them cry), but any kind of emotion – we’re going to remember it. Crying with laughter, maybe that would be a good one. But that's how we start to create memories.
And there are other ways. We could talk for hours (and I'm probably not the person to do it; behavioral strategists would be) on memory formation. But it's almost like starting to think, “Well, actually, if that's the key motivator, how do we layer that into the type of content we're creating that helps in that awareness stage so that we are helping create memories? So that we know, as they’re further down the funnel, we’ll be the brand that's sticking in their mind.”
David Bain 07:55
I love that word: “memorability”. That's a great way of actually thinking about how to stay top of mind with your target customer. You talked about building memories and the importance of emotion as well.
How do you measure all of that? Can you actually use a metric to measure that?
Becky Simms 08:12
I suppose you layer it. Say, at that point, you've decided for awareness: we need to create memories, and therefore we're going to start to test being a bit more disruptive with our ads, being a bit more out there, and trying to make people feel something. Then you'd start to look at ways that you might measure engagement on click-through rate, maybe. Maybe that makes a difference. Maybe, for the visual ads, has it improved the click-through rate? Are we driving more people?
I suppose you then start to look at returning visitor rate if you were expecting that to happen within a reasonable cycle. It depends on what you're expecting. You've always got to start to break it down, but it's always in context.
I recently did a talk around this. And I was like, “I'm giving you all a lot of homework because I can't give you all the answers.” Because actually, it's in the context of your exact brand, with exactly what it is that you're trying to do and how you're going to do it. That then you just need to start to think, “How can I measure it?”
Because you can't measure, specifically, did we become more memorable? It's going to be a really hard thing to do, but there are things that you can start to measure to say, “Do we feel this is performing better than it was before?” and, “Is it starting to achieve what we're hoping to achieve?” Does that make sense?
David Bain 09:28
Yes, absolutely. I think it's more of a struggle for brands with longer sales cycles. If you've got a sales cycle of a year plus it's really hard, or nearly impossible, to actually measure every single touchpoint digitally and ensure you've tracked the right person at the right point, and whether they've logged in or used a different type of software as well.
I guess that's why it's also key to maybe ask each customer, at the point of purchase, where they actually heard about that particular brand, but also perhaps what influenced them to make the decision. Is that something that you would advise?
Becky Simms 10:02
With difficulty with that is, as humans, we're really rubbish at knowing why we do what we do. When we think of behavioral science, a lot of what the science has proved is that we're really irrational and we're super emotional. And actually, a lot of what we do is emotion-based.
Actually, if you ask someone, “Why did you do that?” or “What made you do this?” we almost start to make up a little story in our heads, and we post-rationalize, and we go, “Oh, I think it was this, this, this, and this.”
David Bain 10:31
Or maybe you've seen a testimonial recently and you think, “Oh, actually, that was probably me as well.”
Becky Simms 10:35
Yeah, so it's hard to get which is why, a lot of the time, as we're doing our research thinking about the customer journey – the beauty of what our behavioral person brings to the table is crafting questions where we're not directly asking something that we know, as humans, we’ll find really difficult to answer. We're asking it in a way that we're looking to pull out something so that we can start to understand, from a behavioral standpoint, what it is that the intent was there. We're not directly asking, because we know if we directly ask, they're probably going to – not lie to us, but they don't know. We can't explain it.
Kiran, our behavior strategist, was telling me a story the other day. There was a study done, I can't remember the dates on it, but a gentleman had been in an accident and his brain had been damaged. The part of his brain that was damaged was the part that controls emotion. He made a recovery, but they weren't able to fix that part of his brain. And he was actually no longer able to make decisions – or, if he was, something that should take a 30-second decision, something we’d just decide immediately, would take half an hour or 45 minutes. It was because how we make decisions is so informed by our emotions, and we don't realize that. We like to think we're super-rational. So yeah, it's really interesting, because humans – we make our own lives difficult.
David Bain 11:57
So talking about behavior, then, is it important and almost necessary to also incorporate website behavior software? And then try and have many conversations with people at different touchpoints within the journey?
Becky Simms 12:11
Definitely, definitely. We, within our team, will have a CRO team that’s always looking at measuring how different pages are performing. For where we map out that: “What's the digital funnel? And actually, what are the emotions and things that we're trying to elicit at a certain time?”, we map the two together. We start to think, “Okay, maybe it's organic search that we're aiming for awareness, and we know that they're gonna land on X, Y, and Z pages because that's what we're optimizing.”
We can then really think about how we've crafted that page, how we’re trying to elicit those behaviors or those feelings from people, and then measure: is that working? Where did they go next? What happens next?
Also, the other key thing (and just to a point you made earlier about those long sales cycles) is just thinking, for that early touchpoint, how quickly can we get them to sign up their data for something? A fun thing that we've done previously with clients is around gamification, and that's quite disruptive and quite memorable. If we can get people to want to play something that they enjoy and that's fun – if you can do that in the early awareness stage (maybe it's a fun quiz to help you find your next car or something like that. Sticking with the car mind.), we can capture their data. We can get them to give it to us, because they're happy to, because they're going to get a little report that's going to send them “Your car of the future suits you in this way, because of this, this and this.” And then, once they've done that, we've got them on a journey. And, actually, we can take them all the way from awareness through to conversion, if they're using the same contact details. We can try and tie the two together.
So it's also thinking cleverly about, “How can we use data?” in, obviously, a really lovely, GDPR-friendly way, and supportive of customers’ needs. It's got to be a two-way conversation. You've got to make sure that whatever you're providing them with is valuable so that they want to hand over their data – but making that part of the plan and the tracking.
David Bain 14:05
You also like to use Booking.com as a good example of a brand that actually really does a good job of understanding the customer journey. Why is that?
Becky Simms 14:14
It's a hard question. You asked me the question; you said, “Well who’s doing it well?”, and I racked my brains for a little while because I was like, “There are some brands that do bits well, and then they lose you.” But actually, I think Booking.com – I guess the trick is that they have you signed up as soon as you become a customer, and I book quite regularly with them. I think they really tie up their tracking brilliantly.
The number of times – I'm a holiday daydreamer, I love holidays, so I can easily find myself going and just having a little nose and going, “Ooh if we go there, where might we stay?” Then they've got me; they’ve trapped me. They know it's me, they know I've gone and looked at Santorini, and then the ads that I'm seeing are “Santorini”, the follow-up emails I'm seeing are “Santorini”, and they’re really tying together what it is that I've looked at.
It feels to me (we don't work with Booking.com, so I don't know what's going on under the hood) but it feels to me that they are really thinking about behavior and knowing trigger points of what drives me because I'm a customer that's bought multiple times. If they're not doing that, it comes across well, either way.
I just think they tie that together because they've also got the beauty of it in their brand that, once they've got the sale, there are also more things, add-ons, they can continue to sell. But they actually manage that really well as well. Once you've purchased, their follow-up email communications are, “Getting excited about your holiday?”, etc. I think email always tends to be almost like the ninja in the customer journey. If you can get an email address, it's the bit that helps you knit the channels together even better.
David Bain 15:51
Yeah, that’s the glue, isn’t it? It certainly sounds like what they're doing is they're using customer journey to better understand behavior, and then using that to build a more cohesive cross-channel strategy that, as you say, has email at the heart of it, but can also then pinpoint people in different places.
Do Booking.com, as far as you're aware, also use perhaps retargeting or other forms of advertising, to better reach people at the right time?
Becky Simms 16:21
Definitely, yeah. The remarketing ads that I see from them are always very, super personal to what I've been looking at. They're very aligned. They're very, “Make me book now!” And it's always a lovely thing, isn't it? When you're selling holidays, it's a fun purchase. That's, again, where context comes into this because it does depend on what you're selling and what your business is about, as to what tools and tricks are going to work best for you in trying to draw out that customer journey and trying to knit everything together.
Because they have something where I'm never going to complain that I've received one of their emails, because I just think, “You're just making me think of a wonderful holiday and a moment of bliss.” It's not intrusive to my day, really.
David Bain 17:02
Yeah, absolutely. I think it's a great point that email isn't going to be too frequent if it's the right type of email, targeting the right person. I remember back maybe 10 years ago or so, everyone wanted to receive an email from Groupon once a day – every single day – because it was something that they actually wanted. So, if it's something that they really desire, and it's your target market, then I guess your argument would be: don't worry about frequency.
Becky Simms 17:29
Definitely, and the more personalized – that’s the thing. In this day and age, we don't mind all the different communications we're getting if they're relevant to us.
For example, if I'm a summer holiday lover and not someone that would want to ever go skiing. If they kept emailing me about skiing, I'm gonna get really annoyed with it. I'm probably going to come out of their communications because it's not relevant. That's where knowing your customer – and some of it's just super basic. Start to build up a picture.
But there's nothing wrong as well with – we’ve used behavioral surveys before, and we've built kind of little fun personality tests before, for clients. So we've got a client that works in the aviation space, and they train pilots, so we created a survey that was around, “What kind of pilot are you?” and it was based on personas that we know of from films and things like that. It had a fun element, but there was actually a bit of science behind it, of you answering these questions that would help see which type of pilot you might be. It was fun and enjoyable to do, it captured their data, and they learned something about themselves, but we were learning a lot about them along the journey.
But then we layered that all into our future communications, knowing how they want to be communicated to, what motivates them, what they're interested in, etc. And actually, I think, if you ever said to the customer that's why we did it, I'm not sure anyone would mind, because they've gotten better communications off the back of it.
David Bain 18:52
Building a marketing strategy typically only happens maybe once a year, or just once every few months or so. Is it possible to actually build a customer journey, understanding of a customer journey, into a marketing strategy? Or is a customer journey something that you need to consider on a more tactical basis?
Becky Simms 19:11
I'd say there's a basis that's there, so a baseline of the journey. It's doing a research piece to really try and nail what you think it looks like and then building your strategy off of that. But then building in test and learn, and being willing to change, as you start to see results to see what works, what doesn't work, etc. Because we always have to assume that we might be wrong. Data tells us one thing but, depending on how you've set up the test, it might give you a different view, etc.
Having it there to help decide where to spend your money, where to put your efforts, and where you think your customers are spending their time, is great. But then test, test, test – and don't be afraid to go and test a new channel, even if you're not 100% sure. As long as you're doing the test in the right way and it's not stopping you from doing something that you know works, it might bring something that you haven't experienced before, or some extra new customers, or whatever it may be. But yeah, I think it has to be there as part of building a strategy, in my mind.
David Bain 20:12
Great. Okay. I think what you're essentially saying is: start with your customer journey, then build a marketing strategy, and then hone after that.
Becky Simms 20:20
David Bain 20:23
Superb, okay. Well, not necessarily thinking about what we’ve been talking about so far with customer journeys, what's the number one thing that marketers need to incorporate into their strategy?
Becky Simms 20:32
I do think it is audience motivation. I think, if you miss that piece, you end up just following your own assumptions on what messaging is going to work, etc. But actually, if you really truly understand what motivates your audience, you suddenly move away from thinking about features and benefits, and all the things that you've sat there in the boardroom deciding are so great about your product and service – which they probably are, and they're probably a factor in why someone buys – but it might not be the thing that tips the motivation as to what actually gets them across the line. If you truly understand that bit, and you focus on that in your messaging, then you're going to be getting much stronger results.
David Bain 21:10
I’ve been your host, David Bain. You can find Becky Simms over at ReflectDigital.co.uk. Becky, thanks so much for being on the Strategic Marketing Show.
And thank you for listening. Here at IFP, our goal is simple: to connect you with the most relevant information, to help solve your business problems, all in one place. InsightsForProfessionals.com.
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