Data’s role in reaching today's shoppers
Antonio Tomarchio
October 25, 2017

The customer journey has become a critical focus for marketers, yet it has become more and more elusive.

We don’t need to look further than Amazon to see how quickly consumers can adapt to new ways of buying. Further, customers today shop in various channels, often at the same time. For marketers, the insights that come from consumer journey mapping are no longer "nice to have" -- rather, they are vital in helping to explain which campaigns break through and lead customers to buy products and which customers change their habits when presented with ads.

To try to stay ahead of consumer habits, marketers are tracking the journey their customers take when shopping for their own products as well as those of competitors, leaving them with no shortage of data to sort through to make conclusions about how customers discover and buy products.

The value of location data

Location data has increasingly become a more necessary component of this data mix. This is particularly true for certain verticals for a variety of key reasons. For example, in the auto sector consumers typically visit multiple competitive locations before making a purchase. For QSR, the majority of transactions still happen in cash. For retail, it is interesting for the brand to understand behaviors at the brand location (time spent, frequency, etc.) as well as how it overlaps with online behaviors.

When combined with sales data, location data can also help marketers better map the funnel. Understanding how many consumers visited a store versus how many purchased the brand product allows marketers to get more granular on consumer behaviors and measure performance. For example, the data can shed light on such situations as why customers may be visiting an auto dealership but not buying its cars.

Location intelligence can also help brands to understand how they are pacing compared to their competitors. Since marketers only have access to their own transaction data, location data can help marketers to benchmark their consumers' journey to those of their competitors' consumers.

For example, say the consumer receives Barnes & Noble emails promoting a book release or sees an ad that triggers a purchase -- not at B&N, but on Amazon. These behaviors can be very telling and, even for online-only businesses, the offline behaviors of customers can reveal interesting insights.

And while such instances are revealing, there are challenges when it comes to creating a more holistic picture of the customer journey.

The cross-channel predicament

We know there are many channels from which to map the customer journey. Marketers are aiming to reach customers in-store, online and on mobile. Yet cross-channel measurement has been a major challenge for a variety of reasons from technology limitations to data access. According to a recent report from the CMO Council and SAP Hybris, less than 25% of marketers worldwide say they have full access to data from across their organization to give them a holistic profile of their customers.

Furthermore, Figurr reports that just 12% of retail sales happen online. This figure doesn’t even take car or fuel sales into consideration, which can skew the e-commerce figure even lower. A customer journey map that only takes online data into consideration can be missing over 90% of all retail sales, and can lead to several key insights to be lacking:

  1. The impact of brand impressions made in non-digital media like print, TV, and OOH advertising.
  2. Time between the ad being seen and when the consumer visits the store or buys the product.
  3. The post-purchase journey, either as the start of the next purchase in the cycle, or a path to understanding service and support experiences that drive loyalty and retention.

Marketers need to continuously map their whole journey across channels to better understand customer activity. The benefits to connecting the offline and online dots can also extend beyond marketing. Such insights can provide brands with other critical information on things such as product pricing and expanding into new regions and locations.

When marketers work towards closing the loop on consumers' behaviors along the path to purchase, they gain clearer full-funnel visibility. These deeper insights can also help their entire organization chart a course for success ahead of the competition.

Antonio Tomarchio is the CEO of Cuebiq.