Consumers' interactions with brands - whether passive and triggered (exposure to a branding ad), research-orientated (comparing prices) or purchase - are omnichannel and multi-device. The path to a purchase is not linear anymore – devices drive people in store and vice versa. Almost 80% of recent purchases in the UK involved a connected device (source IAB UK/Firefish, December 2013). Consumers may be interacting with your brand across one, two, maybe three devices and each of them may have a different role in the path to purchase.
Let's illustrate with a concrete example. I recently bought a new coffee machine with a milk frother – my path to purchase was all but linear:
- Research online from my office laptop: I start my purchase journey searching for shops that sell coffee machines with milk frothers. The variety of options and price ranges to choose from is confusing.
- Research in physical store: With so many options, I have to go to the department store that same day to see the machines and seek advice from a clerk.
- Price comparison from my smartphone: While still in the shop, I go onto a price comparison website from my smartphone to check the best offers to ensure I get the best value for money. I also visit some of the brands' websites. I decide not to buy now. Pay day is a week away anyway – I'd better wait.
- Close to a decision on my tablet: At home the following weekend, I'm on my tablet checking news feeds on Facebook and reminded of coffee machines by a retargeting ad –15% discount on one of the items I saw in store and on the web.
- Purchase in store: My department store loyalty card gives me a free coffee and pastry this month if I shop at the store. I go to the store in the afternoon and use my 15% voucher code to buy the machine and I actually end up buying coffee cups from the same brand too.
That's five potential interactions with a coffee machine maker, from research to purchase. With the omnichannel off and online purchase journey, brands have a new opportunity to amplify experiences with their consumers and influence them throughout the funnel - their success will depend on their ability to:
- - Reach consumers across all those interactions: The pre-requisite for omniscient customer experience is to be able to actually reach those consumers across all these interactions and with consistency. In my case, the brands will need to reach me across multiple devices: laptop, tablet, smartphone and in store – across their own properties, price comparison sites and other sites/apps. Acquisition and retention strategies, across all channels, should not be designed independently from one another and should be built with the consumer at the very heart.
- Capture data from all those touch points, all the way to a sale: Understanding at what stage a consumer may be in the purchase funnel is key to driving the right message. But doing so requires collecting data from all those different touch points and making this data actionable. With multiscreen consumers, capturing interactions is not enough – without linking device interactions to one consumer, the picture is fragmented and incomplete.
- Predict in what phase of the purchase journey these consumers are: Linking digital interactions with transactional data (online and offline, captured via a loyalty card for example) and CRM data is a common challenge. But when overcome, it can enable marketers to build models to predict at what stage a consumer may be for a given interaction. This in turn allows brands to define winning customer engagement scenarios. That store that gave me a discount probably had identified me as having a strong propensity to be close to making a purchase. And they were right.
Recent innovations (including Acxiom's AOS) allow marketers to turbocharge marketing interactions across devices and channels and tap into the opportunities offered by today's consumer purchase journey.
This has resulted in integration with multiple channels (not just display) enabling companies to reach consumers across all interactions. Features such as universal and persistent ID, used as a common denominator across devices and channels give the ability to capture all online and offline touch points and link them together. That means we can obtain a true and 360-degree view of consumers and can better predict what phase of the journey they are in and deliver an optimal experience.
All in all, this means you can define 1:1 optimal omnichannel and multiscreen engagement scenarios to focus your budget on the winning moments.
Chloe Grutchfield is Digital Products Team Leader at Acxiom in the U.K.