Dude, Where’s Our Customer?

I’ve always enjoyed designing and analysing customer journeys and mapping user behaviour. With the uptake of new technologies and everyone’s desire to become a multi/omni (or whichever adjective is in vogue this month) channel brand, being able to understand the many ways your customers want to interact and purchase from you is how good marketing is done.

Increases in interactivity, device ownership and message targeting techniques do, however, mean that the journey of today’s customers can appear fragmented. And then there’s the proliferation of a wider consumer trend towards personalisation. Allowing people to engage with you on their own terms is not only expected now, but also demanded. Just as people consume content in multiple ways due to context, device, time etc, people want to be able to purchase in the same way. And that makes mapping these journeys even more complex. So where to begin?

For many years online heat mapping has been a tool used by digital marketing professionals, but I always felt that this was only part of the story. Heat mapping, along with other analytics informs Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO), which has become something of a buzzword over the past few years. Yet while this definitely increases the UX and drives sales/sign-ups etc, it neglects a whole world of offline journeys. As whatever digital strategists might like to think, customers don’t just interact with brands online.

Which is where it helps to draw on our analysis of the ‘real world’ journeys too. In-store layout design, and the psychology behind it, has been a booming industry for decades. I remember being schooled in the ‘golden triangle’ – the journey between the entrance/exit, your product, and the till – and influencing traffic flow. It is clear to see how integral this still is when you visit an Ikea store – shepherded from place to place with no hope of a pre check-out escape route.

Ikea aside, however; most retailers are not following this kind of approach. Instead, many are doing just the opposite, offering new services, product demonstrations and tailored experiences which the customer can choose to engage in at at their leisure. Which, again, makes for a proliferation in personalised customer journeys.

There is help at hand though and it isn’t just interactive mirrors, AR displays and EPOS that has benefitted from recent technological advances. Companies such as Retail Nextand Euclid Analytics use, respectively, in-store cameras and in-store WiFi to detail customer flow that in turn allows retailers to produce heat maps of their stores. And in looking for an updated approach to guiding customers around stores, Macy’s and Walgreens in the US and Tesco in the UK are trialling in-store mapping that lets customers ‘map’ their shopping basket giving them the optimal route around the aisles or a simple way of finding products that they may have forgotten.

There are also new attribution models being developed in line with these changes to allow for a more holistic, and frankly more useful, approach to customer journey mapping rather than relying on somewhat outdated models such as Last Click. The phenomena has led to a whole new way of thinking and Google’s ZMOT is one of the leading voices around this.

Though retailers are getting much better at being multi/omni channel and delivering cross world experiences, the fact is that even with these advances there will always be an element of the unknown when it comes to understanding fully the journey of the customer of today and the future. Definitely a challenge, but you can also view it as an incredibly exciting prospect – that’s my option anyway.