As CMOs look ahead, gaining greater clarity into how buying behaviors are changing is becoming one of their most important aims. Never more pressing as digital channels expand and become more immersed in the conduct of commerce. At the same time, the ability of marketing to influence and support the entire customer lifecycle continues to expand.
Such pressing concerns have CMOs seeking better ways to understand the entire buying cycle, as opposed to marketing’s traditional concern with building awareness. The idea of understanding the customer journey or buyer’s journey has come into vogue during the past couple of years. Interestingly, it is not a new concept.
The journey concept first popped up during the initial Total Quality Movement in the ‘80’s and made popular by Deming. When the concept of customer experience burst onto the business world in the late ‘90’s, a natural extension became customer journey mapping. In fact, the first large scaled buyer persona development initiative ever done was accompanied by detailed customer journey mapping in 2002.
The idea of the consumer journey or buyer’s journey, as you can see, is not an entirely new concept. (For the sake of clarity, we can refer to B2C as the consumer journey and B2B as the buyer’s journey). However, there are two notable dynamics about the consumer and buyer’s journey we should consider:
- The need for Marketing to understand the path buyer’s take in making choices and decisions is extending throughout the entire customer lifecycle
- The way consumer journeys or buyer’s journey are constructed are inadequate for the needs of Marketing and Sales
If we touch upon these two points, one aspect we see is the role of marketing is extending beyond just customer desires to learn and become aware. Consumers and buyers desire more capabilities to arrive at choices and decisions on their own, as well as, with the assistance of sales. Thus, the importance of overall brand experience has surged and creating the need for branded content and media throughout the entire customer lifecycle.
The second aspect to consider here is journey mapping, as done today, still has its claws in processing mapping dating back to the TQM movement. Why is this an important factor for CMOs to think about? It means, largely, that journey mapping is focused on tasks and activities. And, this approach also assumes there are neatly defined stages with a beginning, middle, and end. Today, buyers are taking multiple paths and journeys, which do not fit into neat stages with a beginning, middle, and end.
The overarching fundamental flaw with this approach is consumer or buyer’s journey mapping may define what activities consumers and buyers may perform, what tasks organizations may need to perform, what questions customers want answers to, and how a consumer or buyer may do a specific activity – but – it cannot capture why.
3 New Perspectives: Goal-Directed Journey
In order for CMOs to gain deeper insights into the consumer or buyer’s journey, it will require three new perspectives and ways of approaching the general concept of the customer journey. Resulting in more focus and clarity. These three perspectives are:
1. Consumer And Buyer Goals Drive Choices:
For years, perspectives on the customer journey (both consumer and buyer) have focused on tasks and activities. Whether these tasks and activities are specific to being initiated by consumers and buyers or specific to the type of interaction. Thus, we get plenty of journey perspectives related to detailing web, email, or phone interaction.
In order for CMOs to arrive at how to truly tackle customer engagement, they will need to gain deeper insights into the goals of consumers and buyers, as well as, their goal-directed behaviors influencing decisions. This is where consumer personas and buyer personas can be helpful. That is if personas are authentically researched, developed, and mapped to goal-directed behaviors and decisions.
2. Consumers And Buyers Take Micro-Journeys:
The expanding digital economy has transformed consumer and buyer behaviors. In general, consumer and buyer’s journeys are not one elongated stage-gated event with a beginning, middle, and end. Rather, the influences of digital technologies are allowing consumers and buyers to take micro-journeys specific to the goals they are attempting to accomplish. For example, consumers and buyers can take a micro-journey specific to discovery and researching, which can involve its own elements of goals, tasks, activities, and desired outcomes.
3. The Entire Consumer And Buyer’s Journey Is Goal-Directed:
Studies in goal-directed behaviors have shown consumers and buyers can have several goals and sub-goals influencing their paths, choices, and decisions. When consumers and buyers are taking a series of micro-journeys, each micro-journey may have very specific goals that are being pursued. The point here is CMOs will need to recognize that to achieve deeper customer engagement in consumer or buyer’s journeys, they will need to connect with the goals and goal-directed behaviors occurring throughout the entire journey and series of micro-journeys.
Taking The First Step On A New CMO Journey
In many ways, CMOs will need to embark on a journey of embracing new means of understanding consumers and buyers today. Primarily driven by changes in consumer and buyer behaviors. Some are heeding to this call.
A recent IBM/CMO Club survey of one hundred (100) CMOs revealed greater than fifty percent (50%) plan to allocate more time and resources in understanding the entire consumer and buyer’s journey. Allocating more budget related to content and other marketing media to the later stages of the consumer or buyer’s journey. In this same study, a discovery to advocacy journey perspective was offered. The stages termed as Discover, Learn, Try, Buy, Use, and Advocacy.
To go beyond this stage-oriented approach, CMOs can apply these three (3) new perspectives and view them as micro-journeys. Investing in both qualitatively understanding the goal-directed behaviors for each and investing in the right marketing media that helps consumers and buyers do one simple thing – know how they can accomplish their goals throughout the entire journey or path to a purchase.