With so much emphasis placed on lead generation and the point of sale, key points of conversion - from MQL to opportunity, and from customer to returning advocate - can often get lost in the mix.
So, how do you create journeys that keep your customers and clients engaged with your brand?
In our recent session for marketing leaders, ‘The Last Mile – Investing in Journeys that Convert Customers’, our digital, communication, and customer journey experts shared everything you need to start optimising the key stages of your customer journey.
To join an upcoming event, take a look here.
In this article
- What is a customer conversion strategy – and why does it matter?
- How do I improve my customer conversion strategy? – 5 pieces of advice from our experts
- Key considerations when investing in your customer conversion
What is a customer conversion strategy – and why does it matter?
Defining the ‘sales journey’
The sales journey can be defined as all interactions that a company has with a consumer in the hope of driving them towards a sale.
Over the years, these interactions have changed and become more convoluted.
Touchpoints are now less about pushing sales and more about the customer’s experience and putting them first.
‘New competitors and brands are now operating in established markets and have ripped up the rulebook. They have driven expectations higher than ever before.’
Why does a strong customer conversion strategy matter?
Beyond the obvious value of 'better conversion', there are a number of factors that mean a great customer conversion strategy should be one of your top priorities:
- You don’t have to rely on competing on price alone
- You retain existing customers
- You increase your customer lifetime value
- Build personal relationships (which can better help with personalisation)
- Create new brand advocates
However, before customers can become loyal to a brand, there are several factors that can impact your customer conversion.
customer conversion - Changing trends and expectations
So, if the focus of your strategy is now shifting more towards customer experience and retention, what do you need to be aware of?
‘The pandemic has changed how we purchase from brands, and there has been a shift towards more digital journeys, and more of a focus on tech.’
Here are 4 trends that our experts have seen in the customer conversion process during this period:
#1 – opportunities to use Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) for customer re-engagement
Sara Parrish, Lead CX Consultant at krow group, notes that a more recent opportunity for businesses looking to build better customer journeys comes with the rise of the ‘Buy Now, Pay Later’ option for purchases.
‘You can bake ‘Buy Now, Pay Later' into your messaging, especially for premium products where there is more of a consideration around purchase.’
According to Frontier Enterprise, the adoption of Buy Now, Pay Later is also being embraced by more retailers as they look for different ways to stay relevant.
BNPL is providing ‘traditional brick-and-mortar retailers with new ways to advertise and reach out to existing and potential customers.’
#2 – TAKING a holistic APPROACH TO your customer CONVERSION journey
Sara highlights that a noticeable change in recent years has been the growth in understanding of marketing efforts as part of a wider conversion experience.
She stresses the value of understanding every stage of your customer's experience to drive stronger conversion.
‘Take your customer's delivery experience - that's not just this 'operations' part of your business anymore - it's really a key value for your customer conversion.
For example, Amazon Prime's delivery process is one of the best out there - and that convenience is a huge driver for customers to use Amazon over another platform or retailer. If you can't match it, there's marketing to be baked in and around that journey to add value in other ways.
Mapping that customer journey and identifying where there's some broken parts, and meeting customers’ expectations, is integral.’
#3 – The rise - AND FALL? - of the subscription model
‘We have seen how quickly business models can flip since COVID. Lots and lots of businesses thought subscription was the best thing during lockdown.'
However, whilst the potential has continued to rise, so have the challenges. Subscription models rely heavily on the retention of customers, with a big emphasis placed on the post-purchase experience and brand community.
'Now we're seeing that not everybody now wants to buy toilet roll monthly.
We're seeing that customers might not be as loyal as we think when it comes to particular products.’
#4 – Greater competition in the digital marketplace
As highlighted by the global management consultancy firm McKinsey & Company, changes in consumer behaviour due to the surge in digital means that companies must now compete harder for customer loyalty.
This customer loyalty is emphasised in McKinsey’s consumer decision journey model, as explained by Sara: ‘It encapsulates loyalty and brand advocacy in a way that the traditional funnel in isolation just doesn’t consider.’
Naeem shares how recent years have changed what matters most to your audience.
‘The greatest opportunity we see with the brands we speak to, is how you can leverage what's going on behind the scenes to encourage repeat purchase - the brand, the content, the storytelling.
Nowadays, if you just hammer people constantly with discounts or sales, eventually they're going to unsubscribe.
The brands that do this well at the moment have a really nice balance between the 'transactional' communications and that wider story with their customers.'
How do I improve my customer conversion strategy? – 5 pieces of advice from the experts
#1 - Assess your current journeys and identify the real pain points
What are you able to see and control across the customer journey?
Whilst marketers are prone to having a wealth of data across their user's digital journey, finding the data that actually moves the needle can be a challenge.
Osh Rice, Managing Director at Daydot advises that, ‘data tells you what your customers are doing, but not why they’re doing it. Without the research to uncover the ‘why,’ you could be left scratching your heads.’
‘For example, you’ve identified a ‘conversion choke point’ where there are a lot of drop-offs.
There are lots of different types of research to identify why. You can spend a lot of money on research that tells you everything about your customers, but none of it is very actionable.
You need something which translates and can be articulated - into either a new experience or way of engaging.’
On where you might be losing out on conversions in the customer journey, Mark reiterates this.
‘When we're looking at the overall customer journey or touch points, you don't really feel pain unless you can see it or hear it.
If you don't have an understanding of why something is happening, it can be very easy to dismiss the data to focus on other objectives.
So, making sure that you have both the data - and the people - that can really bring some of these pain points to life, it keeps you afloat of the real pain points that customers are feeling, instead of going on a gut feeling.’
#2 - leverage the right tactics for your customers - and follow the data
Mark advises, ‘if you don’t understand why something is happening, it can be very easy to dismiss the data to focus on other objectives.
Lack of investment in tools and people means we might be prioritising things based on best practice rather than what the customer is feeling.’
In terms of prioritising, there are lots of channels to explore across your customer journey - but choosing what works for your audience is key.
Personalisation IN YOUR CUSTOMER JOURNEYS
When it comes to reengagement, personalisation can play a key role in the overall customer experience - but as Mark says, it’s important to focus on its purpose.
‘We don’t want to just show off what is possible, we need to do something that is relevant to the customer.
'Example - if a customer has a bad experience with one of your courier service providers, and shares this with you, a useful way to leverage personalisation would be to take that feedback, and give them the option to change their courier for the future.'
Something else Naeem recommends exploring is the idea of storytelling and brand messaging as part of your customer journey.
'After two years of repeated lockdown, customers became more conscious of where they were spending their money.
People are looking for more insight and information about your brand, and a great opportunity we have seen is how brands leverage behind-the-scenes stuff like content and storytelling.’
As customers begin to expect more from their experience, branding can play a big part in how they perceive and interact with your company.
Start by thinking about their needs, habits, and circumstances. Use data and research to build out audience personas to define your position in the market.
On the importance of brand, Charlotte Graham-Cumming, CEO of GO! Network Member Ice Blue Sky, says, ‘Getting to the essence of what your business is a difficult task, which is why many don’t do it. But it gives the brand integrity and longevity and ensure the customers know what you stand for.’
Download: The (Re)Brand Workshop
#3 - Remember - customer conversion is still a numbers game
Sara points out that at its heart, conversion is still a numbers game.
‘Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) is absolutely worth doing, and there's loads you can do with UX and CX in that space, but don't lose sight of how important driving traffic is.
Conversion rates are notoriously low - 0.5% is pretty standard, and only a handful of people out of 100 are going to convert.
So, in some cases, it is just easier to focus on traffic. If you double your traffic, you double your conversions.
CRO is always key, but for some businesses, the truth is that just maximising that traffic is going to be easier to tackle.’
#4 - leverage feedback the right way when revising your journey
When identifying the 'why' of your customers, there's nothing more straightforward than asking them directly.
But how do you ask the right questions - and when - to avoid missing out on the information that will drive them back?
Sara gives the example of the ‘How was your experience’ face reactions often found in airport toilets.
‘It doesn’t tell the airport anything about why people had a good or bad experience. If you’re gathering feedback in a rudimentary and meaningless way, it’s not going to help at all.
Customers are willing to provide feedback if you ask for it and open a line of communication that’s meaningful. Google reviews are a good example – people write paragraphs of feedback - it's just about how you ask.’
#5 - Look for direct routes to your customer
As with any process, it can be easy to ‘over-engineer’ the way that it is managed.
Naeem gives the example of a business he has recently been talking to. ‘They have an insight team within the business, and even hire external agencies just to gather the information, but it’s hugely over-engineered.
If I need an answer on something, I just need to speak to one of the territory managers because they speak to 2000 businesses every week.’
So, rather than investing a lot of time and resource into gathering data, think about whether it could come from elsewhere in the business.
Check out one of our previous articles to discover more ways to build customer experience into your current strategy.
Key considerations when investing in your customer conversion
There are hundreds of different ways to reach and engage with your customers. With four key approaches singled out below, what you choose to invest in will depend on what you need:
- Branding - For strengthening passive loyalty, building interest, and changing how a customer perceives and interacts with you in the long term
- Content & engagement/storytelling - For adding value beyond the transactional messaging, community building, and passive interest
- UX and digital experience - For better order experiences, more personalised communications, and smoother journeys
- Research and customer retention - For keeping your finger on the pulse of your audience, and a dedicated strategy for your conversion efforts
Before you head out to transform your conversion strategy, remember to answer the following:
- Where do I not have visibility of what’s impacting my customers?
- Where are there inconsistencies in the journey?
- How am I understanding my customers as they stand?
- What are the largest pain points?
And, if you’re looking at assessing your customer journey and need further advice on where to invest, including any of the above, get in touch for some free and impartial advice.