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How Digital Media Channels Influence the Customer Journey

This is a session recap from one of our guest speakers during Marketing Week at the University of Michigan-Dearborn Chapter of the American Marketing Association. Joe Morsello is the owner and chief digital marketer at Rithm Marketing, a digital marketing agency based in Metro Detroit specializing in small business marketing.

The consumer journey has never been more complex than it is today. Why? The simple answer is because of the widespread accessibility to the Internet. But let’s dive a little deeper.

From ratings and reviews, to influencer product promotions, for the vast majority of purchases, the Internet is being used at some point during the process. This is nothing new, or groundbreaking, but extremely important for small businesses and national brands to understand.

Today, digital channels drive commerce. People spend over six hours online each day (mostly on mobile), and while ecommerce gets most of the headlines, the reality is that eCommerce only accounts for roughly 10% of all spending. The other 90% of spending is happening offline and these purchases are being influenced by digital channels.

According to local marketing analyst and industry expert Greg Sterling:

“Many trillions of dollars in offline spending, as opposed to $500 billion in e-commerce, are being influenced by local search, online product information, reviews and so on…it’s very easy to imagine that half (or more) of the searches people do [online] ultimately lead to local transactions.”

This influence of digital channels has completely transformed the customer journey. What was once a fairly simple journey with only a few steps until a purchase, has become an extremely complex path where the customer is in control.

According to a study by Google, depending on the type of purchase, online consumer touch-points can range between 20 – 500. In other words, people interact with online channels a multitude of times as they research a particular purchase. This represents opportunities for businesses to reach these consumers while they are in the purchase process.

The reality, however, is that there isn’t one type of “process” that people are following when deciding on what to buy. There are some channels that are used more than others, but given the complexity of the digital ecosystem, people jump in and out of the process with regularity. The notion of the traditional “funnel” isn’t really applicable given today’s consumer.

You really start to see just how much the space has changed when you compare what the journey used to look like vs. what it looks like today.

Additionally, not only are digital channels impacting the customer journey before the purchase, but also after. When you think about online ratings and reviews or social sharing, businesses that deliver exceptional products and services can benefit from this online feedback. While others might suffer if they aren’t customer-centric in how they operate.

All of these channels and methods that consumers use to assess or research a potential business or purchase are simply moments that make up the customer experience (CX). This has become somewhat of a buzzword in the marketing space, and for good reason. It is a shift in how businesses need to think about themselves.

There was a time when having a great product was simply enough. Today, a great product is a start, but it isn’t just your product that your customer is engaging with. It is your website, your social channels, your reviews, your customer service, your technology and tools, your personalization, etc. A great product will get you in the door but building a fan base and a loyal customer requires a comprehensive understanding of how your customers engage with your brand.

Looking at the small business space specifically, it is understandable that many aren’t putting as much attention on understanding the customer experience, mainly because they don’t have the time to do so. Small business owners are running a business, wearing many hats at the same time, with very little extra minutes in the day to dedicate to such a complex undertaking.

While many businesses, and rightfully so, focus most effort on the product or service, the places where customers engage with the business online are often overlooked or not prioritized. But it’s worth it to invest in all aspects of the customer experience. It’s the difference between having customers and having loyal fans that sing the praises of your business to friends and family.

To sum it up, anyone getting into marketing or looking to start a small business, must get a strong grasp on how consumers make purchases. With this understanding, you can make informed strategic decisions to make sure you offer the most enjoyable brand experience possible.

-Joe Morsello

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