The customer journey: A smooth path?

How many of us follow the same purchasing habits today as we did even five years ago? Very few. How many businesses rely on the same sales and marketing approach as they did five years ago?

More than you would think.

In the rapidly evolving digital era, the rules have been (and are still being) fundamentally rewritten. It used to be the supplier who created interest in their products and services, pushing out information and offers as part of lead generation campaigns. But now it is the consumer who is firmly in charge of their journey to purchase.

Of course, the availability of online information is at the root of this crucial shift in power. People prefer to ‘self-educate’ and decide when, where and how they interact with potential suppliers. Company websites, peer review sites, comparison tools and social media all play a role; indeed businesses that neglect social media platforms (and there are lots that still do) slam the door on commercial opportunities, and harm their reputation.

An overarching trend within the new customer journey is the growing appetite for authentic, personalised and emotional engagement with brands, especially in the realm of social media. A recent article by Forbesstated that 62% of Millennials “are more likely to become brand loyal if a company engages with them, sincerely, on social media.” There is still a role for brand promotion, but the balance between promotion and engagement must be carefully considered.

So, what are the six key stages of the new customer journey, and how can you optimise each opportunity?

1. Awareness

Brand awareness is crucial, so that your prospects have you in mind when they commence their research. Building awareness requires a nuanced understanding of your audience – such as which channels they use, their frequent pain points and typical needs. For certain sectors and channels, well-planned and executed brand promotion, such as paid advertising, will reap rewards. But as we introduced earlier, engagement via user-published and shared content often works better today than overt promotion.

Whether you are undertaking engagement or promotion work, it is vital to establish an integrated content strategy that encompasses digital and traditional media so that your messages and communications are consistent, informative and searchable across all channels. You should structure this strategy around a content calendar, so you don’t end up having to resort to ad hoc social media updates that don’t fit into a wider plan.

2. Interest

Awareness is not the same thing as interest. Once you’ve encouraged prospects to visit your website, blogs or social media, you need to analyse their initial interaction so you can glean information to inform your next move. Which touchpoints did they use? What content did they download? Web and social media monitoring tools can help to map prospects’ behaviours and preferences.

Engagement at this stage is crucial. On social media, encourage users to communicate with you by asking for questions and feedback. Endeavour to create a human connection with your prospects.

Providing helpful FAQs, downloadable information or easy to complete online surveys encourages would-be customers to engage with you. By completing a form or similar, people share information with your business about what they are interested in, giving you an opportunity to better understand their preferences and pave the way to that all-important sale.

3. Consideration

Today’s consumer is likely to verify your claims through a range of means, which is where peer reviews come in, and they may consult press articles, watch demo videos or read blogs. Improving your visibility and customer reviews on the right channels will help you to transition prospects to the next stage. Over 80% of consumers seek peer referrals before making a purchase.

Visual content works particularly well on social media as it stands out on social feeds. Any content should lead the prospect back to the information they need to help them make an informed purchasing decision.

4. Purchase

Purchase in the bag, it remains vital to analyse your customer’s behaviour and to deliver an excellent buying experience. Knowing which channels were used to make the purchase, how long it took and how satisfied your customers were, can be invaluable information to help you to improve the experience for other customers. At this stage you are laying the foundations for repeat purchases and long-term loyalty.

5. Retention

The average cost of new customer acquisition is on the rise; so it pays to hold on to your existing ones! Yet it is easier than ever for customers to ‘switch’.  Post-sale engagement activities can include sending further value propositions, product of service updates via email or offering compelling content on your website, blog or social media. Being aware of any problems at an early stage is also crucial; catch up meetings or calls can pre-empt this.

6. Advocacy

Consider how you can build loyalty and deliver ongoing value to your customers, for instance by regular account reviews, rewarding loyalty with promotional offers or by extra training, product add-ons and user videos. Customers love sharing good experiences – so ask them to write reviews, case studies or testimonials that can be used for PR, blogs, email marketing or website posts. On social media, keep engaged with loyal customers – those are the ones who are more likely to share your content.

Demonstrating that you have happy customers who are willing to be brand ambassadors is the ultimate way of encouraging more to embark on their journey to purchase.

In our experience, companies of all sizes are recognising the scale of the commercial rewards to be gained by understanding – and adapting confidently to – the new customer journey. Taking action now to update your customer engagement processes, supported by the right technology, will help to supercharge your growth and unlock the true potential of your business.

– by Mike Richardson

How to spend a limited digital marketing budget in 2018/19

It’s an important objective imposed on marketers every single year – how best to squeeze every drop out of the annual budget.

Even industry professionals who, on paper, have more cash to splash, are still pressed to make their spend go further. And then there are those less fortunate of course, who have their budgets cut whilst the targets remain as competitive as ever.

So, whichever scenario you find yourself in, if you’re faced with a ‘limited budget’, what should the focus be in 2018/19?

If there isn’t enough money available to delve into every digital marketing channel, where should the priority lie?

The important thing to note is that it is possible to be effective, even when constrained by the purse strings. It all boils down to being clear about objectives and results.


Before any money is spent on digital marketing, it is crucial to ensure the right measurement tools are in place – it’s impossible to optimise what you can’t measure.

So, set up Google Analytics if you haven’t already (and if you have a web partner on board that hasn’t done this for you, start the alarm bells ringing!) If you’re running an ecommerce site, GA should be tracking sales too, and on B2B websites, GA’s events and goals functionality will help to start analysing traffic conversion effectiveness.

It’s not just about Google though. Tools like Hotjar offer great insight into what users are doing on your website, for instance, which will help further down the line.

Start using a CRM

Another important consideration – particularly for marketers within B2B brands – CRM systems don’t have to cost the earth. Zoho is an affordable cloud-based solution for example, which will help establish a lead to sale conversion rate.

In the long run, such a metric helps measure the sales process all the way through the funnel, and therefore the underlying effectiveness of the marketing activity.

Don’t ignore lifetime value

An optional step before unleashing a digital marketing campaign, is to calculate lifetime value (LTV). By calculating what a customer is ‘worth’ over the duration of their relationship with your brand, it is possible to establish a more accurate cost per acquisition – in other words how much you can afford to spend per lead.

There are simple and complicated ways to arrive at such metrics – when time is tight a straightforward LTV is better than nothing.

Starting spending

A marketer can often make the most effective spend decisions when armed with reams of historical data, with which to compare new campaign ‘success’ to. In the absence of this data, it’s important to test channels and see which combinations are, ultimately, the most effective.

But the more limited the budget, the greater the need to be selective during this somewhat iterative process. With that in mind, and based on what is most likely to achieve the best bang for your buck, the following priorities should be given to marketing spend over the next year:

1. Conversion rate optimisation (CRO)

Marketing effectiveness can be assessed in terms of generating more website traffic or converting a greater proportion of existing traffic. Why not start with the latter? Even in the absence of any digital marketing activity whatsoever, a website should attract some visitors, so it makes more commercial sense to try to get more from them.

CRO can be very complicated, but in the interest of keeping things simple, ask yourself: ‘Do we have clear and obvious calls to action (CTAs) on our website?’

Then consider whether you could introduce softer CTAs. For B2B sites, a brochure download will always out-convert a quote request for example – you’re simply generating leads at a different stage of the user journey.

In ecommerce, start with the basics, e.g. do the product pages clearly tell a user all they need to know? More importantly, is it easy to buy?

There are tons of tiny changes you can introduce to make a site work better. Simple things like making buttons look like buttons and shortening contact forms as much as possible. Use session data from systems like Hotjar to review user experience (UX) and ensure results are measured following the implementation of tweaks.

Assuming the website is generating leads or sales at a healthy conversion rate (2% as a rough rule of thumb), then try to secure more traffic.

2. Paid search

From shopping campaigns and re-marketing, to text ads on Google and Bing, there is so much potential with paid search, at virtually any budget level.  There is usually a minimum baseline though – if you can’t afford to send enough traffic to generate a lead or sale, it will be difficult to achieve a return. But that’s where the LTV calculation will help – is it worthwhile bidding up knowing a client is likely to come on board for 12-18 months, for example?

3. Organic

Sometimes people refer to this as ‘free traffic’, which it really isn’t.

People finding you in a search engine do so because you’ve established a good brand or because they searched for something generic and you appeared on page 1. In either case it takes hard work to achieve that presence. So, expect great returns from organic traffic, but equally, be prepared for it to take time.

On a limited budget, do thorough keyword research and prioritise content creation including keyword progress that is achievable in the short to medium term.

4. Paid social

Thanks to the level of retargeting granularity in social channels such as Facebook, there is a lot you can do with paid ads in this space. Consider using an existing marketing database to create a look-a-like audience for example, or target a set demographic if you know precisely who you’re talking to.

In the interests of saving money, be selective in the social channels you home in on, rather than running paid ads across all. This activity will typically generate a lower conversion rate than AdWords, but the cost per lead/sale will probably be less.

5. Email

If you have email contacts at your disposal, use them! This is a fairly cheap way of communicating with lots of people and, with easily-editable templates available from the likes of MailChimp, it’s a quick process too.

In the B2B space, emails are a great way to remind clients and prospects of your brand’s proposition. In ecommerce there are vast options ranging from cart abandonment incentives to other promotional incentives. It’s a fairly cheap way of communicating with lots of customers.

Results will, however, vary upon the integrity of the email database and the quality of the email content.

6. Organic social

This isn’t just about sharing pictures of cute dogs. Good social activity should include thorough content and follower research and planning. Don’t just sell all the time, for instance, as users will better engage with posts that are interesting or offer some value.

Social media is also the platform most likely to require good customer service, as people will readily ask questions and complain if the response is unsatisfactory. There should therefore be a process in place to deal with the more disgruntled of keyboard warriors.

Of course, budget advice is most useful when it is tailored to the specific marketing objectives of the brand concerned. But when money is tight and general insight is required, this hopefully provides some interesting food for thought.

– by Andy McCaul

How E-Commerce teams can benefit from Marketing Calendar Software

It is a new year and several e-commerce marketing teams are looking for improved methods of operating efficiently. Lightly resourced are these departments considering the number of marketing channels or tactics utilized to promote their products and brands.

They’re inundated with communicating plans, changes to plans by constantly updating and sending spreadsheets across the organization. These activities are literally occurring until final publication of content to all digital, social and mobile tactics. A highly time consuming and challenging activity to coordinate.

The purpose of this post is to shed some light on how e-commerce marketing teams are planning and executing digital, social and mobile marketing initiatives through using marketing calendar software to simplify their operations and allow teams to focus their efforts on devising strategies to grow their business.


Planning is a constant activity when it comes to ecommerce and retail. Beginning with an annual plan, followed by a seasonal plan and then execution occurring at monthly and weekly levels. These planning activities are essential in aligning the execution with the defined strategy for the marketing teams.

Typically during the annual planning stages, the marketing strategy team starts with a blank slate selecting campaigns and tactics from the previous year that they deem were effective and are aligned with the next year’s marketing strategy.

This plan is then altered to address the goals for the next year. Seasonal planning is an activity that occurs periodically through the year and requires marketing planning teams to analyze the previous season’s performance understand whether their strategies were effective, define seasonal events and promotions. In order to achieve goals for the seasonal plan, marketing teams would need to execute tactics monthly and weekly.

These tactics would include leveraging several digital, social and mobile channels to promote events and products for the ecommerce business.

Change Communication

E-commerce is a dynamic business, plans are constantly changing to ensure competitiveness and to cater to new trends. Unlike the traditional brick-and-mortar retail business, online retailers need to be swift and agile allowing for rapid shifts in their merchandising and promotional strategy.

Strategies such as lowering prices or advancing an event’s promotion sooner to attain market share typically require changes to originally planned marketing activities. These changes need to be easily communicated and synchronized across the organization for alignment. Managing your marketing plan through marketing calendar software allows ecommerce teams to effectively communicate changes across the organization and align all stakeholders within the process.

Downstream Integration

In order to achieve widespread adoption and eliminate the need to duplicate work across multiple systems, the marketing calendar software integrates with downstream systems to transmit the marketing messages and promotional content.

E-commerce departments that are able to define their plans in their marketing calendar and once approved, the information automatically propagates to downstream execution systems, eliminating the need to re-enter information and ensuring strategy and execution are aligned.

Performance Measurement

Measuring performance of a marketing initiative is a vital part of the marketing process and with ecommerce it directly relates to sales and margin. Ecommerce marketing teams are consistently measuring their marketing efforts to determine what worked or didn’t work. Also running test marketing initiatives can provide results that help marketers establish baselines and scale their efforts.

Daily & weekly KPIs for traffic, sales and average basket are overlaid on the marketing calendar to help illustrate the impact of marketing investment. Also, budgets and results for each initiative are incorporated into the marketing calendar tool providing a holistic view of the investment and return.

Each initiative depending on the type will have its own metrics allowing the marketing team to evaluate the level of success. For example open and click-through rates depict performance or effectiveness of email campaigns while a number of likes & comments depict the level of engagement on social media.

With the new financial year approaching, it should be time to consider how you can improve the productivity, communication and alignment of your marketing efforts with a marketing calendar software.

By the way, at CrossCap we have researched and put together a guide to marketing calendar software features, and we explained the benefits of each to help you make an educated buying decision.

– by Rahim Kassam

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