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WEBINAR REVIEW Understanding and defining the customer journey

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Internet Retailing recently undertook research into the online customer journey. During the course of the project, Understanding and defining the customer journey, run together with research partners Apptus, Neoworks, SDL and Shutl, the team looked at ways of analysing and defining the experience in order to find new ways of connecting up the different points, and ultimately improve it. They gathered on a recent Internet Retailing webinar to discuss their findings.

Organising the customer journey in-store is a relatively easy job, thanks to the sales assistant and store layout that can guide the customer from the door to the checkout, by way of the stock. But online it’s a more difficult process. Internet Retailing’s recent research study, Understanding and defining the customer journey, started by setting out the main challenges in the customer journey, explained Liz Morrell, Internet Retailing research editor, as she opened a recent Internet Retailing webinar devoted to the study. The research then went on to explore the issues in interviews and round table discussions with retailers and research partners Apptus, website optimisation specialists, multichannel solutions provider Neoworks, experience management business SDL and 90-delivery specialists Shutl.

The study found that the key steps began with assessing where the customer journey starts, before going on to look in detail at the online experience, the checkout process, delivery and the aftersales service.

Even that starting point was an area for discussion, with different views on where the customer journey starts. Was it with the first brand interaction – or was it with the customer’s first visit to the website? Many agreed, said Morrell, that this “needed to be a life-long experience for the customer”.

The study then went on to discuss the online experience: on the whole, retailers “felt there were more improvements they could make for their customers online,” said Morrell.

Checkouts have traditionally been a sticking point, and complicated checkout processes can lose customers. But many of those interviewed now feel they have got to grips with the checkout process; only a small proportion said there was work to be done.

Delivery is a critical area for retailers, and one where they are currently focusing their attentions. Delivery that falls short can reflect poorly on the brand, said Morrell. “Retailers do need to embrace this moving forward.”

Finally, the customer journey is not complete when a sale is finished. Aftersales service is a necessary part of building a customer relationship that lasts. “Customers are more demanding than ever,” said Morrell. “They don’t care how hard it is to deliver the customer journey or the complexities of joining things up at the back end. They just want their products.”

Areas along the way that retailers flagged up included the importance of providing relevant content that encouraged customers to buy. Personalisation also emerged as a key area that retailers wanted to master. “It’s about doing everything you can to foster as close a relationship online as you would with the customer in-store.”

Roger Luxton, industry marketing director at SDL Campaign Management and Analytics, was the second speaker. He said he’s been struck by the revealing figure that only 23% of retailers taking part in the research had a single customer view, while more than half (53%) said they had disjointed departments and could not link their customer journey effectively, and 19% had lots of data that they didn’t know how to use. Some 38% of retailers didn’t personalise their offers at all.

“That fits with what we see in the market,” said Luxton. “Retailers are saying that you have to pull together three components data, technology and expertise to deliver a customer journey with a better customer experience. That means having data in one place, having the right tools to get to understand the customer and act on it and then really understanding the questions and campaigns you should be running to exploit that technology.”

He went on to map out a customer journey that would bring personalisation and recommendations into play, allowing the company to communicate through the best channel for that customer and personalise offers and recommendations.

Nigel Atkinson, founder and director of ecommerce consultancy and solution provider Neoworks, said customer journeys that it typically worked with might see customers moving between stores, the website and through mobile devices in their interactions with the brand. “Trying to join up different silos within an organisation and trying to ensure that whatever channel or touchpoint is critical,” he said.

He flagged up the importance of choosing key tactical objectives and defining customer journeys based on those objectives. Measurement and analysis delivers actionable insights that lead in turn to improvements.

The third speaker was Andrew Fowler, UK country manager at optimisation software developer Apptus, who said customers were demanding more relevant journeys. Based on their previous behaviour, customers can now travel through websites in a way that is entirely individual to them. “No two people should see the same two offers because they are personalised to their needs,” said Fowler.

“We think the message to retailers is less about sell, sell, sell on the journey and more about facilitating the buying process, allowing the customer to go on their own journey and see the products that are relevant to them,” he said. It’s also necessary to know as much about your customers as you can, learning from their onsite behaviour, while advanced science and maths can help to automate that journey.

Tim Williams, head of partnerships at delivery software business Shutl, then looked at the final part of the customer journey, delivery. “What leapt out at us about the customer journey was the fallout from the ecommerce journey funnel as consumers come to the website,” he said. “The numbers are pretty stark: 67% of shoppers abandon before checkout. So two-thirds of the people that you’ve worked pretty hard to attract to the website leave without buying anything. When we asked people why that is, two-thirds cite delivery as the reason why they left.” That’s 40% of website visitors and equivalent to £1bn in lost revenue, he said.

“The message we took from the report is that delivery is a major influencer on purchase decision,” he said. He said that Shutl was working to address that fallout through its delivery options of 90 minute delivery or delivery in a one-hour slot of the customer’s choosing. Making improvements to delivery, he argued, can improve conversions and also turn delivery from a liability to an asset.

Over the next half hour, the panel addressed questions on issues from free delivery to incorporating customer service online, where the customer journey starts, and managing the emotional side of the experience.

To hear the webinar for yourself, to view the accompanying slides and hear the question and answer session in full, visit the Customer Journey webinar page. For details of our other webinars visit our webinars page.

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