The Digital Voice

The Digital Voice is a PR company with a difference. We are the voice for clients including ​Impact, Adnami, Cavai, White Bullet Solutions, tmwi, Audience Store, Adverty, and Covatic. We are the voice for the digital advertising industry.

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The customer journey will never be the same again - just ask your parents!

by Julia Smith

April 1, 2021

By James Leonard, director of digital activation, tmwi

To get a fresh perspective on how the consumer journey has evolved during the pandemic, ask an older friend or relative what has changed for them on the shopping front.

Some of them may have been digital-first consumers before; if so, they aren’t likely to prove this point. But the ones who began 2020 with an unshakeable lifetime preference for browsing the aisles - those are the consumers who now have an entirely new tale to tell: about online convenience, choice, bargains and apologising to the postman about all these parcels.

The older e-commerce convert is just the most extreme example of the changes that 2020 wrought upon the consumer journey. All the way along the line we have adjusted our habits, and we might not adjust them back again. Groceries, alcohol, medicine, toiletries - all of these have become increasingly common D2C purchases, and suddenly their prominence on supermarket shelves is just one of the things FMCG brands need to consider.

Limitless e-commerce makes us think about what we really want

In an increasingly online marketplace, SEO immediately becomes more important for brands, and search has to reckon with the fact that an online consumer journey doesn’t necessarily map directly to an existing offline model.

Where consumers might previously have scanned the physical products on offer in store and picked the best one from a limited range, now they can search for what they really want: local produce; an eco product; a bulk buy; some variant they haven’t necessarily actually seen before.

Any search strategy needs to grasp the different ways we shop now, and it is critical that it is integrated with the rest of a brand’s media planning. Brand loyalty faces new challenges amid the sheer choice of online shopping, and brands need to get to grips with positioning themselves as the answer to different kinds of questions.

Tailor content to the new shopping experience

In an online world, it is essential to consider the factors that previously made e-commerce resistible to many consumers. The main one is information - the ability to ask questions, learn more about what they are buying, get a demonstration, see the item in the flesh. The advantage brands have online is that they have the credibility to address these issues, and content is the way brands explain, demonstrate, ease worries, show what is possible.

Inevitably, different consumers need different kinds of information, so it becomes vital that we map and understand the different varieties of customer journey, taking into account channels, customer profiles and exactly where they are along the funnel. Tailoring creative according to the platform, the audience and their stage in the purchase journey is key to resonating with the consumer.

First-party data is vital

Google’s decision to withdraw support for cookies next year, combined with the walled gardens of fellow giants like Amazon and Facebook, all conspire to tell us less and less about what consumers do within those walls. As a result, the customer journey becomes disjointed if we don’t find other sources of insight.

There are new challenges on the horizon, with many questions still unanswered. However, brands need to take this moment as an opportunity to revert to more sustainable strategies in the search for clarity. And that specifically involves a better, more considered use of first-party data, new third-party data partnerships and a structured and tiered approach to audience planning.

Now that Google is seemingly turning away from one-to-one targeting, first-party data reinforces its claim as the wellspring for all such marketing. With quality centralised data, we can augment against other data sources, including publishers and commercial data vendors, to gain reach, frequency and response. And using AI and attitudinal and behavioural overlays such as social analysis, TGI statements and open-source data sets, we can create audience clusters which feed into dynamic campaigns.

Take care of the basics first - and ask lots of questions

It is true that more data brings greater complexity, which is why data housekeeping is critical. A data audit is often a worthwhile early part of any strategy. What data do you have access to across your business, on and offline? What are you currently collecting? What third-party data sets would help you find more customers? What do you want to know about your customers?

Learn what defines your existing consumers. Are there geographical hotspots for converters? Attitudinal and behavioural identifiers? Common themes appearing across customer segments? What sites perform best for your business? Who uses your platform, and who converts? Can customer feedback surveys tell you more?

The consumer journey has changed, and while the return of physical shopping will restore a hybrid world, nothing is ever going to be quite the same again. The good news for brands is that they have all the tools they need to reinvent and future-proof themselves for the new challenge, in the knowledge that the future is here already.

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