User path analysis (UPA) may not sound exciting but it is critical to enabling brands and retailers to win and retain customers, as well as boosting customer loyalty, says Jason Smith, VP UK & Europe at MoEngage.
The journey that consumers now take with their favourite brands has become more unpredictable and more complex in the past two years. And the mix of channels they use has changed; for instance, consumers like email and email is important, but bottom line, they prefer mobile.
The move towards mobile has been on the cards for some time, with most believing that mobile would eventually overtake email as consumers’ preferred communications channel in their buying journeys, but the global pandemic accelerated this mobile shift and we have seen adoption and preference for mobile boom.
Our data in our latest report shows that, pre-pandemic, a third (32%) of consumers ranked email as their preferred way to communicate with retailers and brands, but now as the pandemic is easing, only 20% said email communications were their preferred engagement method. This is compared to the 22% who said mobile was their top choice, rising +9 percentage points higher than compared to pre-covid levels.
Demand for brand engagement via social platforms from shoppers also increased by +5 percentage points compared to pre-pandemic levels, rising to 19% of consumers who said social media interaction was their preferred medium on which to communicate with brands. This also shows that consumers want more control over their shopping experiences and brand interactions, rather than having it served to them pre-baked, and have it personalised to them.
The growth in mobile phone use, the great enabler of a self-managed experience, supports these trends; Gartner estimates that smartphone sales grew 11% globally in 2021, and sales through mobile or mCommerce are expected to reach in excess of £92.17 bn next year. Add social commerce to this, as Accenture suggests it will grow three times as fast as traditional commerce by 2025, or $1.2 bn, and the opportunity for retailers becomes huge.
Mobile now sits at the heart of shoppers’ buying journeys and changes where and when consumers interact with brands. But email remains an integral part of a brand’s omnichannel customer engagement strategy, especially as shopping journeys become even more blended, across a greater mix of multiple-channel touchpoints.
And that blending is important because it gives mobile a broader set of roles under the banner of communications – from initial search all the way through the transaction and beyond to service, sharing and support. And it will be important for retailers and brands to understand just how important it is that there is consistency and connection across all these activities; put simply, retailers can’t afford not to join up the dots in a consumer’s omnichannel path to purchase.
Yet, at the moment, retailers are not getting this right, as research shows that 27% European shoppers said their biggest frustration when it came to brand engagement was inconsistent messages across channels, while a further 28% said poorly personalised, irrelevant communications was their top bugbear. Our research also showed 16% of shoppers have bought from new brands when they’ve failed to see the value in engagement and interaction with their regular brands, so the stakes for switching and lost customer loyalty from poor communications remain high.
Achieving consistency depends on the retailer having a single view of the shopper from which User Path Analysis can be built to determine the next best action to grow customer retention, lifetime value and customer loyalty. A unified, 360-degree view of the shopper also enables retailers to make communications relevant and personal, whatever channel is being deployed. But they must also be simple so that customers know how to engage across the journey.
Managing this depends on optimising the customer platform through a single platform that centralises, optimises, and analyses customer interactions across different touchpoints, and can map the user path for simpler analysis and, most importantly, action. Once the basics are being managed, it then becomes easier to move beyond acquisition to retention, growth and cross-sell/upsell.
Brands can also streamline their workflows and automate repetitive tasks, thus enabling the customer service teams to focus on long-term customer engagement and growth, as well as collaborate with other departments using shared goals and views of data.
Here are our top 10 ways retailers and brands can build a customer-first culture:
- Develop a collective focus across every team member to improve customer experience.
- Look at the brand from the customer’s perspective instead of focusing on internal goals.
- Encourage employees to innovate and give them the autonomy to take risks and make decisions.
- Focus on loyal customers rather than bigger volumes, as customer acquisition alone will always have a high churn element.
- Prioritise retention and add more value to the customer’s experience by analysing customer behaviour and interacting with them.
- Assess customer experience based on customer feedback through Net Promoter Score (NPS) for qualitative and quantitative analysis.
- Analyse customer data for trends and common challenges and share the insights with different departments to help them make data-driven decisions.
- Focus only on what the customers care most about rather than delivering unscalable ‘wow’ moments all the time.
- Gather real-time insights about customers to provide them with exceptional experiences
- Always take a ‘You’ approach instead of ‘me’ or ‘I’ in internal and external communications, which helps make the campaign more customer-centric and personal in tone of voice.
Credit: Jason Smith, VP UK & Europe at MoEngage.