At every moment, the consumer interacts with hundreds of brands on a daily basis without even being aware of it. Each of these moments, or touchpoints, are opportunities to connect with the customer; and if successful, a sale can be made. These key points they experience along the Customer Journey are crucial to detect and optimize weaknesses in the different channels, improving the customer’s experience with the brand.
In this article we will explain the importance of touchpoints and how they affect the final purchase decision.
What are touchpoints?
Knowing the Customer Journey is essential to map the process that consumers go through throughout their interaction with the brand. The journey encompasses all the moments and channels that a person goes through from the moment they identify a need until they acquire the product or service that satisfies it.
Each of these moments where the brand interacts with consumers are identified as “touchpoints” or contact points. These touchpoints do not necessarily have to be tangible or verbal: they can be the impression a person makes when seeing a brand logo or the sensation produced by the smell when entering a store.
Although it is not always possible to keep track of all the touchpoints a consumer encounters, it is important to take them into account from the moment you start building a brand. Look for the possible associations they will encounter and make an objective judgment as to whether that product or service can meet their needs.
It is essential to monitor touchpoints and to know throughout the purchasing process whether consumers’ expectations are being met. In this way, points for improvement and possible obstacles or doubts that may arise throughout the process can be identified.
In order to optimize the key moments of the experience, it is necessary to consider all channels of contact with the customer, taking into account their preferences. Consumers are impacted through multiple channels and do not only interact with one in particular. For example, the same customer could be receiving physical communications in their mailbox, as well as hearing about the brand on the radio or in reviews, seeing billboards or ads on the street, and so on.
Are channels and touchpoints the same?
It is very common to confuse touchpoints with contact channels, although they are different elements within the buying process. Touchpoints are specific moments in which the customer has conscious or unconscious contact with the brand, while channels are the means of communication through which these interactions take place.
For example, a customer wants to return a product via the web. The channel, in this case, would be the company’s website. Some of the touchpoints that the customer will generate are: web navigation, access to the returns section, the specifications for the return, the options available for returning the product and the subsequent communication from the brand for the refund.
How many touchpoints can exist within the Customer Journey?
There are infinite touchpoints throughout the buying process. A good strategy to identify them is to classify them according to the stage of the Customer Journey they are in.
The customer experiences different phases before reaching the moment of purchase:
- Discovery of the need, or what we can also call “breaking the status quo”. This moment triggers the next steps, search and reflection. The previous steps are key for the brand to be chosen among the competition. In the first contact, the brand must answer the question that every customer asks: How can you satisfy my need?
- The search phase is the first stage in the sales funnel, in which the customer interacts with the brand through online and offline media (social networks, blogs and other websites, ecommerce, search engines, billboards, brochures, etc.). The company must be present in these channels offering the simplest and clearest information about all its products and/or services offered.
- In the reflection phase, the final evaluation by the customer takes place. The reputation of the brand in the consumer’s mind and the previous touchpoints are fundamental, as he will try to compare all the options, making sure he makes the best decision.
After the final decision, the moment of purchase arrives. In this stage, the experience at the point of sale or ecommerce is crucial, since the user has trusted the brand to make his investment. The brand has full responsibility for the customer experience.
It is a delicate moment that the retailer must take care of, since the customer can change his mind and stop buying at the last moment if he dislikes something. Often, simplicity wins out. Offering a clear shopping experience with few steps builds trust and facilitates the process.
In the physical store, taking into account all the obstacles that the customer will experience before making the purchase will increase the chances of reaching the final stage. For example, parking, the layout of the store, the behavior of the employees… All these touch points are essential to achieve an efficient interaction on the part of the brand.
As for the online store, it is much easier to control the points of contact that the user has once he enters the website. Knowing the most visited areas or the most recurring obstacles, provides the brand with information to implement improvements throughout the purchase journey.
After the purchase of products, it is necessary to ensure optimal customer service and follow-up. The retailer has the opportunity to create new touchpoints to maintain and build customer loyalty so that they return to the store.
Maintaining the link with customers after the purchase will allow to evaluate and optimize the shopping experience. The use of Marketing Automation tools can help the retailer to manage a personalized content strategy for their Buyer Persona and automate their communication plan through specific journeys for each stage of the funnel.
Theory is all reviewed, but… what about practice?
We will now show a use case in the food retail sector. It analyzes the Customer Journey of loyal customers. This analysis helps to prioritize the moments of the experience or touchpoints, identifying the wow moments and pain points that we must enhance, correct and exploit.
The wow moment is a brand action or communication that surprises and excites the customer, leading to the construction of positive memories. On the other hand, pain points are all the obstacles or problems that customers experience during the customer journey; generating negative feelings and reducing the chances of finalizing the purchase.
The analysis is divided into 3 main channels: the physical store, the online store and the app, where users have the possibility to register in the loyalty program.
The in-store customer experience is a sum of the shopping experience along with the moments before and after the sale. With the image you can see the impact of a memorable experience versus a negative experience where you encounter multiple obstacles.
In the first case, the customer manages to realize a wow moment, resulting in a full cart and a positive review on social media. In the second case, the touchpoints that the customer has had with the brand have been pain points: the schedule planning, lack of space in the parking lot, the distribution of products in the store, the waiting time in line….
All these negative touchpoints are obstacles that reduce customer satisfaction, so it is necessary to analyze the situation and identify possible improvements. The goal of every retailer will be to achieve a complete absence of pain points and to achieve the maximum possible number of WoW moments.
The customer journey in ecommerce begins with the search for retailers to access for shopping. In this step, the image and brand value present in the consumer’s mind is crucial for the final decision.
In the image you can see the different key moments that the user experiences. The ease of navigation of the website, the security at the time of payment or the attention in the shipment of the order are some of the aspects taken into account in their experience.
Even if the purchase has been made successfully, if the customer needs to make a complaint or contact customer service repeatedly, it is very likely that the experience will be influenced by it. For this reason, it is necessary to keep in mind that touchpoints never end once the purchase is completed; even in the loyalty stage there are interactions with the customer.
The brand’s app is an essential channel for engaging and retaining customers.
Some of the obstacles that users may encounter in this channel are: difficulty in registering, poor distribution of categories, lack of payment options, incidents with the order, customer service, not receiving push notifications about discounts or promotions available on the app…
The voice of customer is the key
The aforementioned pain points are reasons for the customer not to repeat their experience with the retailer. For this reason, the subsequent analysis of customer journeys is vital.
To analyze touchpoints, it is necessary to know the customer’s opinion. Surveys or accompanied visits are some of the methods that brands implement in their strategies. In this way, they give customers a voice and improve the shopping experience in all their channels.
Other methods to know the quality of the experience offered by the retailer are social networks and online reviews. A unique opportunity to know the opinion about the brand and products through public and private messages from users.
A good way to optimize customer interactions is through marketing automation tools. As mentioned above, they are the key to personalize the experience according to customer preferences and opinions.
Do you want to know some use cases?
At Cognodata we are experts in the design, governance and execution of Customer Journeys. As well as in the optimization of touchpoints, through a proprietary methodology proven by more than 20 years of experience in the retail sector.
Do not hesitate to contact us if you need advice or want to share your experience with us.