In the era of the multichannel shopper, understanding the end-to-end customer journey is essential to marketing success. Armed with deeper insight into how specific tactics impact campaign performance, ecommerce decision-makers can make smarter choices about how they allocate their digital spend.
In a world inundated with content and all manner of Internet-connected devices, today’s consumers are increasingly hard to pin down. During the course of the day, a person may see an ad on their mobile/social feed in the morning, another when checking email on the desktop at work and finally make a purchase when surfing the web on their tablet at night. Which ad gets credit for the sale? In a multichannel world, how can marketers accurately assess which of their strategies are the most successful?
The reality is that consumer’s entire journey to a conversion matters as much as the destination for ecommerce marketers who care about maximizing loyalty, ROI and lifetime customer value. But attributing the relative influence of each and every “touch point” between the first click, final sale and beyond can be tricky, especially as performance campaigns run across an increasingly diverse number of channels including display, mobile, email, search, social, online video and more.
Here are five best practices marketers should follow to better understand, and ultimately optimize, the customer journey:
Track and analyze
Analytics technologies have advanced quite a bit since the days of historical BI reports. Today, marketers have a wide range of sophisticated tracking solutions to choose from that allow them to see, in real-time, how an ad or coupon is performing. How many people are viewing the ad? How many are clicking? What are the demographics of the consumers who ultimately buy? Analytics that use multi-touch attribution models can further help marketers drill down to understand which specific channels, ad units and affiliate partners are having the biggest impact — a key capability for mapping the customer journey.
Focus on the metrics that matter
With billions of potential data points to track, however, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the volume. It helps to take a targeted, incremental approach to attribution. What are your most important metrics? If, for example, average order value or an ability to capture new vs. existing customers is a factor in determining affiliate commissions, focus first on understanding the paths of these specific customer segments before moving on to others. Additional data streams can be layered in as needed once a good working attribution model is up and running.
Break down the silos
The only way to accurately attribute the impact of each touch point on the customer journey is to capture a single, integrated view of data from every marketing channel. Analyzing data in channel-specific silos – mobile, social, display, etc. — is not only incomplete, it can also be misleading. For example, an advertiser may find that hardly any purchases are happening on social channels and incorrectly assume their marketing investment in this area is not performing. But a holistic analysis of the cross-channel journey might instead show that social is a critical influencer of ecommerce desktop sales. The “first” or “final” click is not always the most important one. When data is only analyzed in a channel-specific vacuum, it is impossible to get a true picture of what’s really moving the needle on sales.
Sniff out the pretenders
Bad players such as bot traffic cheats and cookie stuffers thrive when advertisers lose track of all the steps along the customer journey. For example, if the last touch point on a conversion path is a cookie drop a few milliseconds before a consumer goes to a landing page, something could be wrong — especially if the previous touch point comes from a trusted marketing partner. Real-time visibility of every click will protect marketers from paying for fraudulent traffic.
It doesn’t end with the “final click”
Most retailers are after more than a one-time sale. An ability to track post-conversion events like account log-ins, app usage and additional purchases helps marketers predict the customer lifetime value (CLV) of a consumer, which forecasts how profitable the relationship is likely to be over time. By identifying marketing strategies that work, businesses can help ensure that the journey continues for their highest value customers.
Santi Pierini is President of CAKE and COO of Accelerize.