When a customer comes into contact with your brand, whether it’s before (perhaps viewing an advertisement), during (perhaps a visit to a retail store or website), or after a sale (their positive or negative feedback, return experience, newsletter sign-up, etc.) -- all these interactions are called touchpoints along their customer journey.
Anyone who has written about this topic agrees that it's not a linear trip and that customers can slide back and forth between media, your website, search, social platforms, your competitor’s website and recommendations from friends and relatives as they gather product intelligence and pricing -- or they can pull the trigger after seeing your very first ad.
You often see the customer journey diagrammed with specific benchmarks: some version of brand awareness, consideration, on-boarding, education and finally, product engagement.
This can also be called the purchase funnel, which includes benchmarks like awareness, interest, desire, and action. Your job is to get the buyer down the funnel from awareness to purchase as expediently and as cheaply as you can.
If none of this makes any sense to you, you are in the wrong profession and should be on an entirely different website than MediaPost.
Sellers are encouraged to build a wall of sticky notes detailing every touchpoint, and develop a plan to engage buyers in ways that lead them “down the funnel.”
If you are a consumer and you stumble on websites that go to extraordinary lengths to help sellers map their consumer journeys, it can feel like you are the object of some considerable manipulation.
You see, ideally, the seller is supposed to interact with you at nearly every touchpoint (with content, an ad or a more personal message). This can result in the famous “red shoes that follow you around the internet for a month” after you decided not to buy them.
But if you are a savvy consumer and paying even a little bit of attention, you can discover those touchpoints can be leveraged to your advantage. For example, many sites offer a percentage off if you surrender your email address so they can build a database of known buyers.
But buyers learn quickly that if they abandon their cart before checkout, most sellers will email or text them with an additional discount to encourage them to actually check out.
Just as buyers are quickly learning that many sellers don’t really want their returns, consumers also have learned that they have more leverage than they first thought (like being willing to walk out of the car showroom after making a “final” offer).
A music service is famous for having a list price that suckers pay. Smart buyers simply cancel their renewal, knowing the company will cut their subscription price in half before letting them leave the service.
You used to be able to negotiate with your cable service, but now that they’ve realized their future is in providing broadband (a 21st-century necessity until 5G is born for real), not in entertainment, they simply say, “OK, see ya.”
I'm not convinced that interacting with consumers at every touchpoint is really such a smart idea.
By pretending to be interested in your offering, consumers can corner sellers by appearing to be “in market” simply to see just how aggressive the sellers will get with things like free shipping and returns and greater discounts.
You might find yourself with a database of bottom feeders who won’t ever be willing to give you the kind of margins you need.