How well do you know your customers? No matter whether you’re selling a product or service, understanding your customers and how they interact with your brand is more important now than ever. Google recently partnered with Boston Consulting Group and found that “brands that create personalized experiences by integrating advanced digital technologies and proprietary data see revenues increase by 6% to 10% – two to three times faster than those that do not.”
Why? Because customers today not only purchase more when they are targeted with highly relevant content, they have also come to expect highly relevant content. In fact, Think with Google also reports that “Over half of U.S. consumers say they are interested in seeing personalized content when shopping. And they say they are comfortable sharing their information as long as they feel like they’re getting value in return.”
So how do you position your product or service as valuable in exchange for customer information? The answer is found in focusing on customer journey marketing.
In this blog post, we’ll walk through each stage of the conversion funnel and explain how customer journey tracking drives increased marketing efficiency by delivering the data needed to optimize the customer experience and drive incremental revenue.
What is Customer Journey Tracking?
The customer journey is the total sum of actions your customers take as they engage with your brand and move through all stages of the buying process.
Tracking the customer journey gives you insight into your customer’s behavior before, during, and after they navigate to your site. As a result, you can identify which assets, messaging, and campaigns are driving optimal customer engagement and more efficiently spend your marketing budget by tailoring investment to the initiatives that are performing the best. This insight helps you make data-driven decisions about how to best allocate your marketing budget for conversion rate optimization and the highest return on investment.
Marketers typically organize the customer journey into four different stages. This way of organizing the customer journey is referred to as the conversion funnel. This conversion funnel helps you understand how customers flow through the buying process and provides a logical framework to assign stage-specific KPIs based on where users specifically are in their journey:
Awareness: Awareness is the customer journey stage when a customer first discovers or becomes aware of your brand through one or multiple marketing channels. This may result in a site visit or purchase but doesn’t have to.
The purpose of the awareness stage is to introduce your brand to users. Display, search, social, and video channels can play a key role here since these channels have a large reach and, with their organic counterparts, offer a low-cost way to get your brand in front of new people. Typical awareness actions to track include inbound traffic to site or likes, shares, and comments on your social media posts and videos.
Consideration: Consideration is the customer journey stage where users start interacting with your brand across different advertising and marketing assets.
The purpose of the consideration stage is to provide engaging and educational information about your brand to users in a way that increases engagement and makes them interested in becoming customers. Paid advertising and site content usually play a key role here since these initiatives help drive potential new customers to site and keep them actively engaged with your brand. Typical consideration actions to track include time on site clicks through your product pages, or items added to a saved list.
Conversion: Conversion is the customer journey stage where the user completes your desired action, most commonly a purchase of your product or service.
The purpose of the conversion stage is to convert users into customers. Typical conversion actions to track include products added to cart, billing and shipping information filled in, or incomplete orders due to users abandoning their cart before purchasing.
Loyalty: Loyalty is the customer journey stage where the user considers repurchasing from your brand or seeks support for services or products they have already purchased.
The purpose of the loyalty stage is to maintain a good relationship with the users you know have already completed all of the above stages and become a customer. Typical loyalty actions to track include post-purchase engagement, number of repeat orders, and customer lifetime value.
Why is Customer Journey Tracking Important?
It is important to talk to your customers in different ways depending on where they are in the customer journey stages. You can talk to them through your ads, email campaigns, or build specific messaging into the user experience as they navigate through your site. Customer tracking allows you to connect these different touchpoints in the customer journey stages so that you can better understand which parts of your marketing and advertising efforts drive the most conversions, and determine what messaging works best for each stage of your conversion funnel.
It’s estimated that about 85% of websites use the free version of Google Analytics to track the customer journey. However, Google Analytics does not include the same robust capabilities of an enterprise version such as Google Analytics 360.
Google Analytics 360 offers more granular insights such as full customer journey attribution and increased audience accuracy. It also includes things like higher hit limits, removal of data sampling, and a thorough SLA (Service Level Agreement). But more importantly, Google Analytics 360 includes integrations with other tools in the Google Marketing Platform like Display and Video 360 and Search Ads 360, as well as native integration with Google’s BigQuery. This integration is vital if you want to get a full picture of the customer journey since advertisers can manage large data sets (transactional, CRM, offline, email, etc.) in Google Cloud, and plug them directly into Google Analytics 360.
When you can manage all of your customer journey data (online and offline data) in a single place, you can better understand how your offline touchpoints complement or detract from your online touchpoints. This leads to overall increased efficiency in your marketing campaigns because you can understand which channels have the best ROI no matter whether they are online or offline. Then, you can justify adding spend to successful touchpoints while pulling spend away from any touchpoints and/or channels that do not provide a good ROI, instead of struggling to prove which channels need more or fewer investments.
How Does Customer Journey Tracking Cut Waste in the Customer Journey Stages?
Customer Tracking in the Awareness Phase:
You can use customer tracking in the awareness phase to answer questions about user actions before they first visited your site. These interactions can inform where and how you spend your media dollars as they move down the conversion funnel. And if you start to see a trend in where users behavior before initially navigating to your site, you can allocate more marketing budget to trending channels and discover new audiences to target. Proper customer tracking in the awareness phase can help you find new target audiences, make better informed data-driven decisions about new user acquisition, and ultimately drive increased return on investment by optimizing overall marketing strategy.
Customer tracking in the awareness phase should answer questions about the most efficient ways to introduce users to your brand or get them to initially engage with your brand assets. You can measure things like impressions, clicks, followers, likes, shares, comments, or traffic to site.
Most importantly, with proper tracking, this is the stage where you can learn the most about how users are finding your brand, and what’s causing them to initially engage. This gives you insight into what initiatives are working to drive new user acquisition and helps you understand how to adjust your marketing strategy to increase your user base, your share of voice, and market penetration.
Customer tracking in the awareness phase also helps inform frequency caps so that you can run more efficient display campaigns by limiting the number of times a user is shown an ad, and prevent wasting ad spend on users who are unengaged. For example, by showing the same ad to the same person too many times, it’s possible that you might actually decrease their likelihood to engage because they are annoyed with seeing the same ad over and over. But is the user simply uninterested, or is the ad itself inefficient? Proper customer tracking helps you identify all-important signals — audience, placement, creative, and messaging — so you have the insight you need to answer this question and optimize your campaign strategy accordingly.
You can also use customer tracking in the awareness phase partnered with a plugin like Ads Data Hub, to compare partner cookie unique reach overlap, which helps you determine if you are targeting the same people while running media across different partners.
We’ve seen that 75% of impressions reach 98% of your unique audiences and converters. Given this, you could save the extra 25% of your marketing dollars, or reallocate them to reach new unique audiences. Impressions savings like this help contribute to overall marketing efficiency.
Customer Tracking in the Consideration Stage:
The consideration stage is one of the most insightful phases in the conversion funnel. Since this is where users start to interact with your site, you can use an analytics tool like Google Analytics 360 to segment users, develop audience insight, and connect digital engagement with both online and offline conversions.
In this phase, customer tracking helps you understand how users move through your site and help you determine which events and behaviors drive them to take a desired action. As a result, you can make changes to your website design or content that better support the user experience your audiences respond most to.
Custom-tailored ads are one of the most important aspects of a strong user experience. This builds credibility with your users and improves ROAS since users feel more of a connection to your brand. This connection to your brand drives increased brand loyalty, which in turn encourages repeat conversions.
You can use different types of segments and reports in Google Analytics 360 to break down your audience into predefined criteria and sort users into high, medium, and low-value audiences, or generate an Audience Insight report using your product purchase page or desired action landing page as a baseline. Then you can use resulting data trends to inform your contextual ad adjacency, data targeting, and remarketing strategy.
Google Analytics 360 also integrates with Display and Video 360. This cuts waste and provides significant cost savings since you can reallocate marketing funds from low-value audiences and use those funds to target high-value audiences instead.
You can also customize your ad creative and messaging while allowing for more accurate targeting that drives increased ROAS and lowers advertising costs, both of which contribute to overall increased marketing efficiency.
Finally, customer tracking in the consideration phase helps determine and measure customer lifetime value. Understanding customer lifetime value becomes especially important in the next phases of conversion and loyalty. You can determine which users drive the most ROI for your business throughout the entire conversion funnel, and make choices about how you retarget them. Finally, you can even find other customers similar to your top converting customers based on lifetime value.
Customer Tracking in the Conversion Phase:
You can also use customer tracking when you need to troubleshoot where, why, and how users fall off your site and ultimately don’t convert. Customer tracking in the conversion phase can also help you connect your customers’ online and offline behavior, which offers valuable insight into how your offline and online digital marketing efforts work together to increase your conversion rate.
Marketing attribution valuing the customer journey means setting up the right segments, tracking, and conversion funnels within your analytics system. This helps to determine how many users fall off during the conversion phase and why.
Customer tracking in this phase can also help inform your attribution model so that it will assign more credit to the most valuable touchpoints along the customer journey, and less credit to the touchpoints that are not as influential to conversions.
There are a variety of attribution models that fit different digital marketing goals, and you can learn more about them and when to use them in our blog series on attribution in Google Marketing Platform, such as data-driven attribution in Google Analytics 360, or custom attribution modeling in Google Marketing Platform and BigQuery.
Aside from using customer tracking to inform your attribution modeling and narrow in on why customer’s drop off, you can also use customer tracking to discover how users shop for your product and/or service offline. It’s vital that you are able to track offline activity back to your media so that you can optimize based on the relationships you uncover through your data. One way to do this is through Google Analytics 360 integration with Google Cloud and BigQuery.
The ability to sync online and offline user behavior helps you build custom-tailored ads for your best audience, and further understand which media channels drive customers to your brand. For example, you can export your attribution data from Google Analytics 360 for comparison to customer data from your CRM and other tools such as Campaign Manager.
As a result, you can actually look for customers in your CRM that are most similar to your top converting ones, and use this data to see the channels and ads they were exposed to. Once you’ve proved that these channels bring in your most loyal customers, you can allocate more budget to them and cut wasted budget on the channels that do not drive high conversion rates.
Customer Tracking in the Loyalty Phase:
It is slightly more difficult to track customers during the loyalty phase because you’ll need to shift from strictly measuring in your analytics tool to measuring from your CRM system, where you are regularly logging your most loyal customer’s actions.
Using your customer tracking data in tandem with your CRM data also means that you can send users content at the right time, and in the right way, which builds trust. You can also see things like purchase history to make sure users do not see any ads for products or services they have already purchased from you. Finally, you can use customer tracking in this phase to anticipate what a customer will be interested in purchasing next for a personalized loyalty campaign.
This is where understanding the lifetime value of your customers becomes even more important. When you understand the lifetime value of your customers, you can allocate your marketing dollars to the channels that are most likely to help keep users coming back to purchase from you, therefore increasing overall marketing efficiency.
You can also use ‘predicted lifetime-value’ (pltv) to predict who is going to become a high-value, loyal customer in the future. This helps identify the customers you should dedicate more resources to nurture because of their potential for high return. You can make these kinds of predictions using site-side behavior in Google Analytics 360, purchase history in your CRM, and demographic data (if available).
Finally, you can use Churn Prediction to retain your customers and increase loyalty by predicting who is likely to churn in the near future. This is especially relevant for subscription services such as insurance but can also be applicable to other companies focused on retaining loyal repeat customers. By anticipating churn, you can focus on retention efforts on customers who will end their relationship with your brand if no relationship rescue efforts are put in place.
The data from your CRM paired with your customer journey tracking insights help inform who you should focus your retargeting efforts on, and helps you make data-driven predictions about your customers’ lifetime value. This allows you to avoid wasting any budget since you can allocate your remarketing dollars efficiently and decide how to create additional campaigns that speak to your loyal customer’s proven behavior and interests.
The ultimate goal of customer journey tracking is to better understand who your customers are and how they behave as they move through each phase of the conversion funnel.
A strong analytics solution, like Google Analytics 360, provides the in-depth capabilities needed to track your customer in real-time, and connect your customer to each touchpoint in the funnel. This allows you to make data-driven decisions about how to spend your marketing budget in a way that speaks to your audience at the right time, in the right place, in the right way.
This ensures overall marketing efficiency since you can easily pin-point low performing channels and audiences and re-allocate spend to high-value audiences and channels for increased ROAS.
You can learn more about customer tracking and user segmentation in our blog covering how you can minimize wasted ad spend in Google Analytics. You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin for regular industry updates and ideas from our team of data-driven marketers.
Ready to take your ads, and your business, to the next level? Get in touch with the DELVE team today.
DELVE is your strategic partner for site-side analytics, campaign management, and advanced marketing science. As experts in the Google Marketing Platform and Google Cloud Platform, DELVE drives client growth through a data-driven mindset that converts digital inefficiency into hard ROI.
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