Everything You Need To Know About The Customer Journey Starts With Social Media
From the last-minute impulse purchase to the longer term, heavily research-based buys, there are many ways consumers can find their way to the "place your order" button. This customer journey is so complicated in fact, that many marketers, data scientists and analysts alike have gotten more than just a few gray hairs trying to make sense of this ever-evolving and changing process. As many are well aware, Big Data is an enormous undertaking that can cost companies up to $600 billion per year. And, with 56% of marketers struggling to make sense of the real-time, complex data sets housed in disjointed tech platforms, true data integration has quickly become the difference between the innovative and unimaginative. While 39% of marketers also cite the complexity of the customer journey as a major barrier of success, there is a very real solution, and that's social media.
The Breadcrumbs Your Customers Leave Behind
How does social media map the customer journey anyway? Well, let's start with how dominate social media has become in our lives. Americans spend a mind-blowing 4.7 hours a day on these networks, checking and engaging with content as much as 17 times a day on their phones. So not only are your customers likely checking their NewsFeeds at this very moment, but this activity only skyrockets with younger age, with teenagers checking their accounts as much as 100 times a day. Moms, dads, young professionals… even grandparents are tweeting about television shows, pinning outfits they want to buy and commenting about their favorite brands-all interests and behaviors that can be traced back to their digital identity.
The Pathway To Purchase
Discovery, learning, trying, buying, using and advocacy-inevitably, your customers will go through all or most of these stages. In a recent study by The CMO Club, social media was #1 most impactful in each area with the exception of buying, where it was only superseded by company website and email. Simply put, America's obsession with social is not just a passing trend, but has a real implications for your ROI. Marketers, with the right technology, can collect, normalize and interpret social data in such a way that aligns with business goals.
Why Social Is So Significant
As users reveal more and more of their personal preferences online, it's no wonder why the channel represents a tremendous opportunity for marketers. But what does that have to really do with the consumer path to purchase? Two words: digital identity. An identity, unlike internet cookies, is a much more accurate and reliable representation of a person. The essence of why a digital identity is so much more valuable than cookies can be broken down into three main areas.
First, cookies are often computer-based rather than person-based. Take for example, a family computer, where there are multiple people using the same unit. Unless they are extremely diligent about implementing different logins specifically for using browsers (highly unlikely), all of the preferences, activity and behaviors recorded will be a hodge-podge of the entire family. This muddies any ad targeting based on cookies, making it significantly less likely that you are effectively enticing the family member you desire.
Second, people online don't particularly like the idea of the cookie, viewing them more as a violation of privacy than a helpful tool. In fact, 41% of internet users purposely set their browser to disable or turn off cookies, and 32% of users age 18-49 actively attempt to avoid advertisers on the web. This resistance reduces the effectiveness of cookies further, as people continue to seek to eliminate them as much as possible.
Lastly, cookies tend to get 'lost in the sauce' when as users switch devices. While many of us have our "go-to" for the majority of our internet use, the average U.S. household owns 5.3 devices. Add in the complexity of having multiple mobile apps on many mobile devices, and it quickly becomes apparent as to why cookies simply cannot keep up. In fact, it is nearly impossible for cookies to identify the same person across devices, mobile applications and browsers.
Social on the other hand, is much more granular in terms of differentiation, negating the challenge of "guessing" identities, behaviors and preferences, and eliminating any cross-device inconsistencies. This is because your login is your own, and the very nature of social encourages users to share, engage, communicate and follow their interests, therefore increasing transparency.
Where Big Data Becomes Actionable
We've established that social is critical in the customer journey, and consequently, your bottom line. But where does one even start in terms of applying learnings to marketing strategies? We've got three ways in which you can leverage social data in live campaigns.
Better Targeting: The richness of social data means that you can segment to your marketing heart's content. Facebook alone has thousands of dimensions that you can mix and match to fit your product, audience and promotion. You may also want to compare your social fans and followers to the trends of the entire network to better understand the nuances in activity.
Compelling Creative: Because social by definition allows users to express likes, dislikes and more, marketers can look at the highest performing posts from industry influencers, competitors and trendsetters to determine what works best, and adjust creative accordingly.
Cross-Channel Competence: Because social data is identity-based, it has uses for other marketing channels as well. You can use audience identity trends and other learnings for television, search, email and other mediums.
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