The 'new normal' for what marketers have long called the 'customer journey' no longer has a clearly defined starting point or ending point, according to research from customer journey management firm BookingBug, which points out that customers can start their decision making process through any number of channels and touch points, and finish with any other touchpoint, without there being any predictable path between the two points. This article is copyright 2019 The Best Customer Guide.

The only thing in common, the study found, is that nearly half of consumers said that human contact during their final decision to purchase was of critical importance.

The research has been published as an e-Book, entitled 'People Still Need People', which explains the "start anywhere, end anywhere" approach to coordinated customer journeys. Informed by insights from a recent consumer survey, the data shown highlights key information businesses need to better understand what it takes to meet modern consumer needs and expectations, and the importance of bridging the gap between online and offline when considering any and all engagement strategies.

Despite many of the major retail closures of late, and the rise of "one-click shopping," findings show consumers still crave an omnichannel experience - including in-person communication. In fact, 64% of respondents said they typically spend or invest more in products/services after an in-person appointment or face-to-face meeting. To add, nearly 45% of respondents said that having the ability to speak with someone during their final decision to purchase was critical.

"Strong customer journey management - including optimizing the in-person experience - has emerged as a key differentiator in today's modern retail and banking landscape," said Glenn Shoosmith, CEO, BookingBug. "By closely following consumers along their dynamic journey between the digital and physical worlds, businesses will engage more effectively, build trust with customers and ultimately drive increased revenue."

Additional insights from the survey included:

  1. Bridging the Digital and Physical Divide with a Personal Approach is Essential
    Today's consumers are shopping and banking across multiple channels before acting - including brick-and-mortar, which still plays a critical role in the customer journey. More than half (64.8%) of millennial respondents said they schedule an in-person appointment at a brick-and-mortar location, outside of healthcare, one to two times a year. To offer a completely integrated path to purchase, businesses must be prepared to manage every touchpoint of the customer journey - not just digital ones.
  2. Appointments Lead to ROI
    Done correctly, unified and informed customer journeys move beyond short-term sales or single transactions - positioning businesses for long-term value, loyalty and future returns, with a highly engaged and informed workforce who knows how to deliver the "WOW factor." Having data-driven analytics to ensure that your workforce is prepared to handle every facet of a customer interaction is key, especially when faced with a complex purchasing decision. Both baby boomers (61.4%) and millennials (48.5%) said they typically spend or invest more in products and services after an in-person appointment or face-to-face meeting.
  3. Onsite Staff Must be Knowledgeable About Customers
    Once a consumer has made the effort to visit a retail store or bank in person, they have high expectations for the business to have personalized insights readily available - such as previous history with representatives (25.2%) or questions they have asked and reasons for meeting (63.1%).
  4. Unify Channels to Support Face-to-Face Interactions
    Because today's consumers are utilizing more methods of engagement than ever before, it's important for businesses to know and understand their preference, and ensure they have the capability to meet the consumers where they are. Further, it's important to understand what drives consumers to schedule appointments, and tailor the engagement based on customer priority. Baby boomers (62.7%) said having access to knowledgeable, well-trained associates is most valuable to them, while millennials were most likely to schedule in-person appointments if it saved them time (44.4%). Understanding these nuances will allow businesses to provide the most positive, personalized experience possible.

"For businesses to thrive in this new age, they must be agile enough to evolve with consumer expectations and behaviors. Additionally, they must be prepared to closely follow the dynamic customer journey in order to establish a lasting brand connection that can support a start anywhere, end anywhere approach," concluded Shoosmith.