Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Managing the Circuitous Path

How do we manage a process with no end point?

Adding to the 'path to purchase' discussion, Yahoo! and McCann released their report:  "The Long and Winding Road".  And rather than a reference to the Beatles tune it relates to the customer path or journey thru various stages using one of three classes of tools:  Discover, Evaluate, and Socialize. 

The decidedly non-linear path, if we can even call it a path anymore, suggests that everyone has the potential to interact with everyone else – regardless of stage. The Path to Purchase blog lays out three major stages: Pre-shop, Shop and Post-shop, rather than the traditional linear funnel.   Since any media can be used in any situation it becomes a very dynamic and fluid scenario with the inclusion of after sale activity where customers become evangelists (see zuberance for a platform in that space). 

Of interest is the suggestion to 'create reward systems' - not necessarily to drive loyalty, but because shopping is now social and there is a sense of 'winning' that occurs with the use of coupons/promotions.  Research from GfK suggests the emergence of "Xtreme Shoppers" - those whose intent is to find the best value, and they use the smartphone to do it. 

This year's "Shopper Marketing Expo", sponsored by the Path to Purchase Institute featured Facebook VP Marketing Solutions Carolyn Everson and  Saatchi & Saatchi X CEO Dina Howell.  Their titles/companies should give us a clue as to what their keynote speeches were about. 

The following figure is from Forrester's "Emergence of Customer Experience Management Solutions" and does a good job of summarizing the current state.  Defining this space as:  A solution that enables the management and delivery of dynamic, targeted, consistent content, offers, products, and service interactions across digitally enabled consumer touchpoints.  (They are narrow in the choice of 'digital' touchpoints, IMHO)   

So, who manages this?   It isn't marketing and it isn't technology – it is a highbred that some are calling the Marketing Technology Office while others are going as far as suggesting that IT and Marketing merge.    Regardless of where it sits – what it does is clear:  Understand customer behavior/intent/interests in order to develop a plan to support them in their path to purchase.  

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