Marketers often measure channel performance through a simple linear customer journey but the choices available to customers today mean they don’t want to be restricted nor told how to interact with brands.
In this challenging time, Marketing spoke with AIMIA director Parijat Priyadarshini and Steven Ladd, lead loyalty business consultant at AIMIA, a global data-driven marketing and loyalty analytics company, about navigating the new customer journey.
“The customer journey cannot be linear,” Priyadarshini said. And unlike what many might think, a linear touch point mapping is not the answer to reducing your cost, she explained.
"It might look simple to start with but the way to reduce your cost is to first deduce which touch points at whatever stage they may be are the most effective rather than trying to be everywhere. You can’t be everywhere,” she said.
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The first step for journey mapping, Priyadarshini explained, is customer segmentation in terms of behaviour and understanding exactly the segments you need to engage and also how different they are to each other.
As much as we want to as marketers we can’t cater to everyone. You have to cut your losses.
Ladd added that it comes back to what exactly the brand stands for when creating a seamless experience. He used the example of Shangri-La Hotels which has branded itself as a personalised and premium brand.
“You don’t need to commit to doing a thousand different journey maps for every single person. But you do have to figure out for example if your audience is made up of frequent travelers, which common touch points will matter most to them at a certain time” Ladd said.
Right from the moment the guest steps off the plane, Shangri-La is looking to manage the experience including offering WiFi in the car from the airport to the hotel for those who don’t want to activate roaming all the way, to personalised greetings and service.
"It invests a lot of dollars in training to ensure technology directly meets guests’ needs and they have structured it so that operationally it works,” he said
Priyadarshini said that there are two leading approaches to strategising the customer journey mapping after segmentation.
The first is a milestone-based journey where prospects need to be progressed across stages such as, from an interaction to a sale to an up-sell to advocacy. The other is touch point mapping, which is less about moving the customer and more about asking which are the main channels the customer will interact with.
“When you look at an optimal journey you should focus on the milestones rather than the channels,” she said.
Marketers must remember that a channel, while important, is the operational side whereas a milestone is the strategic side and strategy should always come first before technology.
“We would recommend not to use technology as the start point but as an end point for the experience. Get the objective right for what you want to achieve and then use the technology as a lever to get there,” she said.
She added that the foundation of marketing doesn’t change with new technology.
“It’s not a question of which technology should I use. It’s about getting to the why before the how. Marketers need to focus less on what is 'in' at this moment and more on the why,” she said.It comes down to “testing and learning” gradually with new technologies.
“In loyalty, a good test and learn is needed to identify which reward suits which channel by putting the same message on each and measuring the response from your segment. Every customer is unique and they are at different life stages so you can’t have a one-size fits all. Loyalty is not just transaction, it’s interaction.”
Loyalty and the new value exchange
Priyadarshini defined three main types of rewards and exchanges for customer loyalty: Tangible value-based rewards; experiential rewards; and competition-based, gamification rewards. The third gamification exchange taps into customers’ competitive side and is something that will make them feel like a champion.
She cited the Irish fuel and energy company Topaz who gained recognition back in 2013 for its innovative approach to loyalty. The brand previously offered cash-back rewards like all the other fuel companies so there wasn’t much loyalty, she said.
"It was a matter of simply choosing whether to turn left or right for customers,” she added.
But Topaz flipped this strategy on its head with its ‘PLAY or PARK’ loyalty game encouraging customers to register and collect points before every month choosing to either play a game to win a high-value prize or park their points to use for another month. Every player also received a token prize whether they won the grand-prize for the month or not. As a result Topaz saw a steep increase in profit and customer-base as compared to competitors and did something unique to encourage loyalty.
“The company changed the way the dialogue that was happening for loyalty programmes, making it more fun. You do have brands trying to do things differently.”
Priyadarshini underlined that it is the “corner store concept” that technology should always enable, the personalised feeling that a business knows your needs and how you interact with the brand. Starbucks is one example where this is being carried out effectively.
“When you can use the data to have a personalised interaction in-store, then you are winning. Even with the number of Starbucks that exist in Singapore when you go into a store they almost always know who you are,” she said
Ladd also referenced Starbucks’ solution to an age-old problem.
“With coffee drinkers queues are always an issue, especially at those peak times. So they implemented the ability to pre-order drinks in the loyalty app to avoid queues by listening to the customers’ pains,” he added. A simple, but effective solution.
“The thing that excites us most is that we are now more able to make that one customer who is taking the same journey as millions of others feel special and as though their journey is completely new,” said Priyadarshini.
To discover more about keeping up with the evolving customer journey join Priyadarshini, Ladd and many other experts from brands including Pizza Hut, ZALORA, Mondelez and foodpanda at Customer Experience 2017 on 25-25 May. Reserve your place by visiting here or contact Daing Hazran at +65 9186 9324 / +65 6423 0329.