For those of you who went to Advertising Week or the ANA Masters of Marketing conference, the biggest challenge was not getting into the right party, meeting, or session (probably in that order). It was finding each other. The most common phrase uttered was, “Where are you now?” But texting that to friends, colleagues, or customers is relatively easy. You know they are out there and have some sense of where you’ll bump into them.
But back at your office, do you ever really know where your customer is spending the bulk her time? Sure, she leaves tidbits of herself all over her digital graph, from content to commerce, desktop to mobile, and search to social. And marketers have been actively mapping her digital customer journey for a few years now. There is a lot of data, and it’s all very specific.
But when she leaves the house and starts going about the rest of her day, do you know what she is doing? I recently did some research on this issue (PDF), talking to CMOs and chief digital officers at large consumers brands. Among their challenges:
• Most marketers don’t coordinate the map of online and offline journeys, leaving gaps in their understanding of what consumers do before, during, and after an in-store visit.
• Marketers are beholden to IT or the business intelligence team to buy and correlate data required to make customer experience and marketing decisions.
• Offline location data is not on the radar for them, despite a clear sense that they want to know what their current and prospective consumers do throughout their day.
Unlocking The Bigger Picture
Offline data helps explain the 90% or more of time that consumer spend going about their non-digital day. Work, school, coffee, gym–all are activities that help explain consumers’ shopping choices. Understanding the journey to a purchase, for example, can help determine ongoing improvements to where and when to place ads that work best. The journey after a purchase can tell you how customers incorporates the purchase into their lives, and whether they are likely to buy again. This is key to replenishment, relationship building, and advocacy.
So much of this insight can be obtained from the computer in nearly everyone’s pocket–the increasingly ubiquitous smartphone, which can derive your customers’ locations and infer what they are doing. Keep these attributes about solid location data in mind:
• Enough overall volume to analyze customer segments accurately: Billions of data points need to be collected monthly in order to segment and apply the data to unique paths, while maintaining the anonymity of individuals. Metric: data volume per month.
• Density of data per user to map the details: The volume of daily data collected per anonymous user needs to be high to truly reflect the paths that people take, at what time, and with what level of inferred activity (such as dwell time) to understand the details of their behaviors with minimal gaps. Metrics: data points per user per day and number of users seen per day.
• Geographic accuracy and precision: Location off by a few meters could mean standing in front of a competitor’s store (think Starbucks vs. Dunkin Donuts). The ability to determine exact locations within tightly specific parameters makes all the difference for offline activity. Metric: accuracy within X meters.
• Diversity of sources ensures collection: The number of unique sources of data that can be correlated needs to be high enough to confirm activity and better capture diverse segments of customers. Not everyone “checks in” or uses location-specific sites, such as Yelp or Foursquare, everywhere they go. Metric: number of apps used to collect location information.
From this research, we were able to conclude on a few actions items for marketers:
• All customer journeys have a starting point, but none should not have an end point: The beginning of your customers’ journeys start before they are customers. Learn how they find out about you, which channels and campaign led to the most loyal customers, and which channels yield customers with the highest lifetime value. Once you know how they got there, make sure you continue to understand where they go and how they get there. Once they are customers, they should always be on the journey with you.
• Remember that customers live in multiple channels, often simultaneously. Customer journey mapping across physical and digital channels is no longer a nice-to-have. Whether you are an e-commerce company learning about who shops your competition or a grocer for whom most customers are local and loyal, understanding customer activity beyond your own store will help you attract and retain the customers you want most.
• Even CPG and other manufacturers need to understand where consumers go. The case for mapping the customer journey is less clear for branded manufacturers, like food companies, automakers, and apparel brands, where the journey is managed by the channel that gets the transaction done. But location matters even when you don’t own the entire path to purchase. Brands need to understand location and customer journeys as well. For them, the link between advertising and which channel was chosen for the purchase is key, as it empowers the shopper marketing teams to create stronger ties to retail partners.