The customer journey evolution – from a linear to circular purchase path

Digital technology has accelerated the de-structuring of the purchasing process and has increased the complexity of the Customer Journey.

In recent years, the majority of the marketing and communication strategies of global brands have been focused on the logic of the Customer Journey and the so-called “funnel”.

A Customer Journey is the virtual “journey” on which  potential customers embark before making a purchase, while a “funnel” is the progressive selection of information that customers put in place to make their final decision: from the search for general information all the way to  the more detailed information necessary to make  a  well thought out purchase.

According to the “funnel” linear logic, customers start from an initial set of considerations and then systematically narrow down their options until making the purchase of their chosen product, essentially from the perception of the need to the solution.

In this perspective, the number of touch points along the Customer Journey, both online and offline, was limited and well defined and the strategy covered all such points, providing the right answer to the consumer for each evolutionary step while confirming the advantages of the product, so as to bring the customer closer to a considered choice based on defined and rational concepts.

What has changed in the Customer Journey?

The advent of digital technology has accelerated the de-structuring of the purchasing process and has increased both the customer’s possibilities and the complexity of the Customer Journey, making it more difficult and less controllable to elaborate a rational choice, not only by the companies but by the customers themselves.

The set of consumer information shrinks and then expands suddenly, without following a linear pattern, rather, it often retraces the same touch points to reconfirm one’s convictions or goes through unpredictable touch points that are not controlled by the brand.

The itinerary becomes circular and irregular and not all customers interested in a certain product category reach their choice through the same touch points.

At times, two different touch points overlap such as when potential customers look for product information via a smartphone while trying the product in a store. Furthermore, nowadays it is quite simple to share experiences after purchasing and testing a product: the evaluations of those who have already purchased a product intervene directly in the Customer Journey, with information parallel to that provided by the brand, sometimes actually conflicting with each other. This creates additional uncertainties and unexpected deviations in the potential buyer’s choosing process.

What strategy can brands adopt to intercept potential customers in the circular Customer Journey?

In order to be effective in this new context, marketing strategies need to become increasingly widespread and flexible. It is necessary to review, in real time, the decisions and reactions of target customers, processing adequate and non-standardized answers, identifying the most relevant touch points for the customer while focusing on budget and strategy.

The following are fundamental activities to be implemented for an effective strategy:

  • Go beyond the concepts of “awareness” and “loyalty” - Activities must be more specific, at the cost of being addressed to fewer potential customers.
  • Customization - Customers must receive the same message yet with a variety of different nuances, depending on the emotional phase in which they find themselves, and with systems that personalize the Adv based on the context and the individual consumer.
  • Word to customers - It is fundamental to use the “word of mouth” and “review” tools to your advantage. Digital pre-influencers become strategic, as well as the creation of spaces for customers for comparison and expression, so as to direct the exchange of information between one’s customers in an accessible and well-known space for brands.
  • Strengthen the sales points - Despite often being no longer the final touch point of the Customer Journey, stores remain strategic because they allow for a direct consumer experience. Merchandising and Packaging become fundamental to being recognizable and memorable, even online, and roughly 40% of potential customers change their minds regarding their purchasing decisions as a result of something they have seen, learned or experienced with the product in the physical store.

Bizeta is a key partner for Fashion & Luxury retailers, with software designed to collect and analyse sales and post-sales data at a global level: indispensable tools for studying flexible, current and winning marketing strategies.

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Published on 10/09/2019 in Trends & Markets