Why mapping the customer journey is critical to your measurement program
Columnist Alison Lohse explains why insights into the customer journey are key to helping your measurement program reach its full potential.
Marketers today want hard metrics that prove business value. Old-school KPIs like click-through rates and number of social followers, and their methodological counterparts like last-click attribution, are slowly but surely fading away in favor of measurement techniques that definitively tie marketing efforts to real results.
Agencies and internal marketing orgs are focusing more on how their campaigns meet their objectives and less on vanity metrics that make them look good. This is all positive, forward progress.
I fear, however, that we’re throwing the proverbial baby out with the bathwater in our search for actionable performance metrics. A recent blog from Forrester’s Tina Moffett, summarizing a workshop that she and her colleague conducted on marketing measurement, states, “Our workshop participants” — previously identified as very savvy, sophisticated marketers — “flagged broad reaching metrics like impressions, time spent viewing, awareness, and intention as low value metrics because of their distance to a sale.”
This jibes with what we see in the attribution space. Some vendors no longer even offer “softer” results like customer journey mapping.
Moffett continues, however, by arguing that “nontransparent awareness type metrics have business value … [and] can be indicators of what a customer will do next, forcing marketers to connect different points of the journey. For a publisher, a time spent viewing can indicate better content for the end customer resulting in an eventual lift in the ultimate KPI — subscriptions.”
Which brings us back to the customer journey. I couldn’t agree with Moffett more. Yes, getting a view of paths to conversion by itself is not actionable. But it paves the way for segmentation, personalization, engagement, and a deeper understanding of the “fuzzier” aspects of marketing that, while not as easy to measure, remain integral to the practice.
At the highest level, analyzing your users’ path to conversion helps you see how customers really behave in the wild. We all sit in conference rooms and team meetings and plot out theoretical journeys, from initial impressions to retargeting to nurture streams to calls to action and hopefully, finally, conversion. We think we know what the customer will do.
But we also know that people are mysterious creatures who rarely behave consistently or linearly. If there’s one thing we can be certain of, it’s that some, if not most, of your target market won’t follow the breadcrumbs that you so strategically laid for them.
Mapping the customer journey connects those dots. At a more granular level, as Moffett mentioned in her blog, it also provides foundational information that complements or enhances other performance metrics. For instance:
Time to order (TTO) optimization
Customer journey mapping identifies the time between exposures and conversion, which lends itself to deeper analysis in a variety of ways. Parsing those time periods can illuminate the impact of different messaging strategies; the relationship and synergies between creative, channels and placements; and how quickly customers move through your funnel. All of these insights offer significant opportunities for optimization.
When you understand how your customers are really engaging with your multiple touch points, you can adjust them accordingly.
For example, the other day I was shopping on Hayneedle. I viewed a product, then navigated away. About 20 minutes later, they showed me retargeting ads for the product I was evaluating. In an hour, I received an email offer on the product. Hayneedle used various creatives in a defined sequence to keep me engaged and, ultimately, convince me to buy the product.
Customer path information can guide these types of strategies with insight into what types of offers, channels and publishers work best with your users.
Analyzing the paths of individual customers also allows you to layer in persona segmentation based on quantitative data. This can be a tremendous complement to more qualitative persona efforts, giving you deep insight into not only how your target audience should be segmented, but how each of those segments behaves: what channels they prefer, what media and creative work best, how long they take to convert, and eventually, how you can engage with them more effectively.
Marketing attribution provides a wealth of data, much of which can be relatively quickly and easily translated into actionable metrics and to-dos. But customer journey insights are equally important. Without customer path data and similar, qualitative information, your measurement program will never reach its full potential. As usual, marketing is about both art and science — and attribution is no exception.