30-second summary:

  • If digital marketing is a landscape, why not think of the phases in the modern customer journey as regions, paths and locations?
  • The awareness phase imagines a wandering consumer, or top-level POV.
  • Touchpoints change in the search and research areas of the landscape. Site design and UX increase in importance.
  • Post-purchase consumers go back into the landscape. How can they advocate for the product, service, or experience?

We often refer to the digital marketing industry as a landscape – an electronic place in which consumers spend their time engaging with content as well as buying goods and services.

The analogy is useful. And trying to visualize it in order to understand it better makes sense. But often when this landscape is represented in a more visual way (adapted transit maps and periodic tables spring to mind) I question how practical these visualizations are.

Source: Gartner

My method of visualizing the landscape breaks it down into areas. Short of actually producing a visual map (which I find can get overwhelming very quickly), I rely on a sort of amended idea of a modern customer journey but with some of the landscape areas added to it.

Thinking of digital marketing in this way can be helpful to those trying to get a handle on this hidden and complex world.

1) Awareness – wandering the landscape, a regional point-of-view

When thinking about the awareness phase of the modern customer journey, we’re really visualizing things at the topmost level. Imagine Google Maps zoomed out so that the entire globe fills your screen.

Our customer is there in the digital landscape, but they are yet to become aware of the paths or places accessible to them.

Awareness might be generated by something they stumble upon in the digital realm – perhaps a social media post or a display ad. Or they may well be tipped off in the real world, via things like word-of-mouth from friends and family or content they have seen on TV.

The awareness generators are generally quite vague at this point. The consumer doesn’t yet know much about them and is some way from fostering a real connection.

But in a similar way to how we might glance a name on a signpost or spot some storefront branding, our customer’s understanding of the landscape is starting to get a little more detailed.

Example touchpoints:

  • Online ads – display, social media, video
  • Billboards – out-of-home (OOH), digital-out-of-home (DOOH),
  • TV – ads, features, product placement
  • Radio – ads, features
  • Print – flyers, magazine and newspaper ads
  • Word-of-mouth – from friends, family, neighbors, colleagues (happening online and offline)
  • Email marketing
  • Mobile – in-app ads, text messaging, push notifications
  • Social media posts (sponsored and non-sponsored including blog posts)

2) Search – selecting a path through the landscape

The next phase of the customer journey sees our consumer move from awareness to a position of active interest or search.

Referring back to the idea of moving through the digital marketing landscape, this is the point at which the customer commits to a particular route.

There are many ways we travel from A to B in the real world. Similarly, consumers in the digital landscape do not all take the same paths or mode of transport as each other.

As the digital marketing landscape becomes more complex, the variety of routes consumers take to travel through it become increasingly diverse. Some might take months to travel and take in many stops along the way (the scenic route). Others might be more direct and take just a minute or so.

Example touchpoints:

  • Search engine – organic and paid/PPC (Google boasts more than 70% market share while Bing and Baidu have around 10% each)
  • Search on ecommerce sites – such as Amazon (more than 63% of ecommerce journeys start here rather than search engines), Ebay etc.
  • Search on social media – Facebook Marketplace
  • Google maps (important to remember when consumers are searching for real world stores, locations etc.)
  • Mobile apps

3) Research – places for browsing

Our consumer is well on his or her path now.

The research phase is seeing the digital landscape in even more detail. In a sense our customer is looking through shop windows, browsing sale racks, as well as talking to store assistants and other consumers in the same location. They are comparing items side by side and looking at prices.

Example touchpoints:

  • On-site content – product descriptions, photos, video
  • Customer reviews
  • Conversations with friends, family, neighbors, colleagues (happening online and offline)
  • Social media (including blogs and forums)

4) Conversion – going to check-out

Another phase on the customer journey, another location. Now our consumer is even more zoomed-in and experiencing the digital landscape on a more macro level.

Of all the areas, digital check-outs are most like their real-world counterparts – with shopping carts and payment options – even if there can be some variety between the types of touchpoints consumers interact with.

UX and usability is massively important at this location. The sites and apps which which are most streamlined here see the best conversion rates.

Example touchpoints:

  • Brand website
  • Ecommerce site
  • Mobile app

5) Advocacy – back into the landscape

After purchase, the customer moves back into the landscape.

Superficially, this is a very similar landscape to what we know from phase 1. Many channels, with many options for consumers to interact. But there are some subtle differences.

According to KPMG, around 30% of consumers share feedback on products they have bought. Marketers need to understand that good experience and good products have the potential for the customers of today to drive awareness for others in the digital landscape of tomorrow.

Example touchpoints:

  • Seller’s website (feedback, reviews on brand/ecommerce sites)
  • Seller’s apps (feedback, reviews on brand/ecommerce sites)
  • Social media (remember brand pages and personal ones, blogs, vlogs, forums)
  • Word of mouth (including offline and online)

Takeaways for marketers

Paths to purchase in the digital-first era are increasingly unique from consumer to consumer.

In much the same way that you or I would choose to walk across a city, we are unlikely to take the same forms of transport, the same roads and alleyways, and we are even less likely to notice the exact same landmarks, shops, and other details along the way.

Much like how we navigate the real world, the digital landscape has its defined areas and its particular touchpoints in those places. Consumers interact with it in increasing detail as they pass through it and get closer to their destination, or conversion.

Marketers have the job of understanding how each of these areas or steps on the journey differ from each other, but also in acknowledging how they can help or hinder a consumer getting from A to B.

Building awareness in the first place sees a different range of touchpoints and subsequently a different approach to messaging than in the search phase that follows.

On-site content and UX increase in importance when the customer moves to the research and conversion locations on the journey. Consumers, here, want concise information and a smooth purchase process to ensure they can get what they need and be satisfied with their experience.

This satisfaction is massively important as we imagine the consumer heading back out into the landscape. Are they an advocate for that experience now? How easy is it for them to share their experience with others either offline or online?

This post-purchase landscape is subtly different for the customer. Understanding this can help spark awareness for other consumers as they wander the landscape too.

The post The digital marketing landscape: Visualizing the 5 locations of today’s customer journey appeared first on ClickZ.

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