Commentary

Retail Leads Customer Journey With Mobile, Web, Email, Social

It’s no secret that mobile plays an increasingly important role in the customer journey.

While consumers continue to make the most of their retail purchases in physical stores, the influence of mobile along the way has been well documented.

And for customer journeys across a range of industries, retail dominates in terms of engagements in a range of channels, based on a new study.

Retail accounted for the majority (52%) of customer interactions by industry -- up 5% from the year before, according to the State of the Customer Journey study by Kitewheel, which analyzed more than 1 billion brand and customer interactions.

Customer interactions across multiple touchpoints -- including Web, email and in-store activities -- vary depending on industry. Here’s the breakdown by industry of where customers are engaged across a range of channels:

  • 52% -- Retail
  • 15% -- Travel
  • 11% -- Healthcare
  • 10% -- Telco
  • 8% -- Auto
  • 2% -- Education

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But it turns out that in the overall customer journey, not all channels are equal.

For example, brands’ omnichannel investments are dominated by mobile app, Web, email and social but the role of each is evolving, according to the study.

Both the Web and email channels are growing consistently while social has declined, with simple social listening on the downturn.

In this context, there are two sides to what’s happening with mobile.

While mobile app interactions are at the bottom of the interactions list, with fewer than 1% of total transactions, it is showing the fastest growth -- 10 times higher than the growth in any other channel -- with no signs of slowing.

Of course, the influence on a purchase is not necessarily evident at the actual stage of the transaction, especially when it happens in a physical store.

And leveraging mobile apps as opposed to mobile Web sites can deliver much greater relevance for the consumer, although it requires a strong and smart real-time capability, according to the study.

It strikes me as logical that retail would take the lead in multichannel activities, since consumers today can shop all the time, as in when they’re at home with a PC or tablet, while in transit and even via mobile while in a store.

Numerous studies show that this is where consumers are tapping their phones to make sure they’re getting the best price around as well as to research products they’re considering at the moment.

Retail is a more iterative rather than serial process.

This study is another reminder that one person researching or purchasing one way is a thing of the past. Many screens, mobile and desktop, provide many options, both based on time and location.

For example, anyone who travels knows that multiple devices are frequently used before and during a trip, along with interactions with various people in the industry along the way.

An air traveler may research online, book by phone or via an airline app, interact with ticket and gate agents and then go back to the mobile app when landed to see where luggage is coming in.

Based on one estimate, 248 million people in the U.S. engage with digital content and of those 156 million engage specifically with travel content.

By device, most (63%) interactions are by smartphone, 41% by PC and 27% by tablet, according to a recent study of U.S. smartphone owners conducted by comScore for Expedia.

And it’s not only airlines that are feeling the multi-level customer journey as booking for hotels and car rentals also have become multi-touch processes.

The key is all of this is that each interaction is an opportunity for a brand to enhance its value to the consumer.

On the other hand, each of those interactions is also a time and place for a customer to be frustrated or dissatisfied.

The customer journey is a lot of space to have to cover.

This column was originally published in MobileShopTalk on May 25, 2016.

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