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The consumer journey shouldn’t be creepy

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Marketers hear a lot about it, but exactly what is the consumer journey? The consumer journey is the path that a user takes to engage with, and ultimately buy from, your brand. And it doesn’t end at the sale: Post-sale service is an incredibly important part of the overall customer experience.

One of the best definitions of the consumer journey that I’ve read stated, “It is a walk in the user’s shoes, so to speak—from their online search for your product type, brand or category, all the way through your landing pages, shopping carts, checkout process and payment partners. By breaking down each online interaction into a single step on a longer journey, you can uncover friction points in the conversion process as well as identify areas of opportunity to improve the user experience.” You can read more about the three phases of the consumer journey here.

Recently I’ve noticed a few common themes and questions buzzing around the marketing field which are very important to discuss, and a majority of them have to do with personalizing the buying path without essentially stalking consumers. Nobody wants companies following them around the internet, or knowing where they spend their evenings, unless they consent to such things.

Since we, as marketers, know that the consumer journey shouldn’t be creepy, how do we make sure that it isn’t?

Every breath you take, every move you make: Brands shouldn’t be watching you

So, where should we draw the line on personalization? How can we give customers what they want, when they want it, without being creepy?

Like most of the things we ponder in life, it really depends on the situation. For instance, if I go to a department store and buy maternity clothing for myself, then I expect coupons and offers for maternity and baby-related items to arrive in my inbox and mailbox. However, some people don’t want that sort of personalization, and that’s why brands need to pay attention to the signals from consumers.

Now, if I go to a store and buy random items, never making it apparent that I am pregnant, and then suddenly begin receiving mailers congratulating me on the new baby with coupons for cribs and diapers, I would definitely be spooked. (Does this story sound familiar? I bet it does!)

No one wants to feel like they’re being watched or followed everywhere we go. We do want to be heard, not stalked.

Don’t darken the consumer journey, light it with customer permissions

Simply because you have access to consumer data doesn’t mean you should always use it. Marketers really must put ourselves in the customers’ shoes. We are consumers; how do we want brands interacting with us? We should apply those same ethos when interacting with those on the consumer journey.

I personally expect a brand to use certain information about me to send relevant content and offers. If I did not offer up a piece of information to a brand – again using the example of being in the early stages of pregnancy – yet the brand knows this somehow, it doesn’t mean they should use that knowledge to send me offers for a crib. Certain topics should be left as private matters.

Society recognizes that technology is making leaps and bounds when it comes to marketing, so certain marketing tactics are expected. If someone purchases a pair of running shoes, they likely wouldn’t be shocked to see an email with a coupon for socks or shorts land in their inbox. However, if they receive a coupon for the exact pair of shoes just purchased, it’s safe to assume the marketing department of that brand doesn’t know what it’s doing, and its data is a mess.

Streaming services are another fantastic example of when consumers would like personalization. Nobody wants hundreds of suggestions to watch shows or films that don’t correlate with what the viewer actually likes. Personalization done right makes all the difference.

So, marketers, while working on your your next campaign, ask, “Would I want a brand or business to interact with me in this fashion?” It is always best to remain transparent.

And if you happen to slip up and cross the line, own it, apologize, learn from it, move on, and don’t repeat it!

Learn how to balance privacy and personalization so that you can engage along the customer journey. Watch our on-demand session here

Julie Brown
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December 6, 2018
Julie Brown

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