Catching Up to the New Customer Journey

A new article from the “Think with Google” series examines how to make sense of the customer journey in the mid-pandemic new normal. This new environment hasn’t just blurred distinctions between offline and online channels. It’s obliterated them. And marketers need new tools and methods to adapt to the disruption.

The article, “The Balancing Act: How to Manage the Split Between Online and Offline Activity”, offers a few illustrations of the dilemma.

“Should a coffee that was paid for through an app but collected from the counter count as a ‘mobile conversion’? How do we categorize groceries bought online, but collected curbside?” the article’s author, Celia Salsi, writes. “Too often outdated metrics, organizational structures, and mindsets hold us back from understanding these new consumer experiences for what they are and effectively marketing them to our next set of customers.”

A Decade’s Worth of Change

Of course, Google notes that the pandemic didn’t invent, but did accelerate these trends. To make this point, the search engine cites the fact the eCommerce penetration jumped 87% this year. More growth than the prior decade produced.

 

Tips for the New Normal 

The report offers several ideas for adapting customer acquisition practices to this new environment. So here they are.

Single Data View

The idea here is to look at offline and online data as part of a unified customer experience. Google illustrates this point with an example.

“Due to the pandemic, driving in the U.S. fell by almost 40% in April. A leading insurer incorporated aggregated and anonymized traffic data from public sources, such as state governments, to identify mobility trends. The chain used insights provided by combining these data sources to automate thousands of small decisions on its media planning, turning advertising back on in a given area only once traffic rose above a minimum threshold.”

Automation

Google advocates automation as a way to adapt quickly to shifts in customer behavior. It uses a quick-serve restaurant chain as an example. The chain mistakenly predicted customers would come back to its restaurants after lockdowns. Instead, they stuck with carryout.

“The chain adopted an automated approach to keep its calls to action and creative messaging aligned with unpredictable fluctuations of customer behavior. The same chain is also focusing on the role its mobile app plays, as the line between online and offline customer experiences continues to blur. The app provides a better understanding of its most loyal customers’ behavior, a channel to respond and communicate in real-time, and a means to purchase in-store, all while providing better attribution.”

Performance-based Optimization

The article contends that even as businesses shift to dramatically new commercial models, automation can still drive growth.

“Like many retailers faced with shuttered stores, a leading pet supplies shop quickly built a click-to-collect service. But compared with online fulfillment, curbside pickup has distinct considerations, cost implications, and attendant marketing challenges. By automating its campaigns to optimize demand and local availability, the retailer was able to nimbly recalibrate efficiency targets and dynamically direct customers to the best and most profitable solutions.”

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