Opinion: Why brands need to invest in consumer journey in 2021 and beyond

Amandeep Singh on relevance of consumer journey

Amandeep Singh, VMLY&R Delhi sheds light on the relevance of the consumer journey in the post-COVID-19 world to keep a connected consumer mindset, as paths to purchase, change patterns at disruptive levels.

The moment is as clear as a crystal in my head – it was an organic chemistry class and I was picked amongst scores of students by the professor to answer questions on the chemical equations. While I started blurting out whatever I could, the professor asked me to calm down, take a breather, and said, “When in trouble, go back to the basics.”

The lesson has stayed with me till now somehow (if you are curious, the professor enabled me to solve the equation in the next 30 seconds), for it is so ‘basic’. And in our industry, what is more, basic than a consumer journey, or a path to purchase, for marketers and business leaders? Everyone seems to assume they know it because it is, at the end of the day, a humble consumer journey, though it may have become more complex with the rising of digital. Still, people think they have got it covered.

Why Consumer Journeys are Important than ever in 2021 & Beyond?

Enter 2020, an unfortunate pandemic shakes all of humanity and the world. Businesses were also left helpless. All the traditional frameworks they were used to, suddenly failed, and they were forced to go back to drawing boards – relooking at the humble consumer journey.

Today’s consumer is much smarter than the traditional journey is built for. With myriad touchpoints available at their fingertips, they require a seamless, authentic experience with as close to segmentation of one as possible. We call this a connected consumer, and each of those touchpoints they have access to, provides a unique opportunity for brands to tell a story that will take the consumer to their purchase funnel. As a brand, that’s where you need to focus your journey. It is more important than ever to map their journey in detail and design your strategy so you can be where your consumer is, at any given time.

Let us take an interesting example of tractor brands we work with. Through research and multiple workshops, we realized that the consumer journey of today’s young farmer is far more complex than we, and the brand initially thought. A large proportion of our prospective customers use smartphones, and their data consumption is getting higher every year. YouTube, which grew significantly in rural India during the lockdown, is where they are getting not just their dose of entertainment, but it is a knowledge hub for all their farming needs. Facebook and WhatsApp groups drive their community exchange and communication.

Hence, today we can successfully reach out to these farmer segments across Indian states in real-time, on the right medium with contextual communication driving from the top of the funnel to the bottom. Needless to say, it is a continuous process that looks like the infinity loop below.

Amandeep Singh on relevance of consumer journey

How to Design your Consumer Journey?

The fundamentals remain the same however, it’s the intermingling that has changed and moved online. Let us look at important steps on how you can also embrace designing these journeys for your consumers.

  • Get into Consumer Shoes
  • Build Consumer Personas
  • Map touchpoints for each persona
  • Dig out all data you have
  • Make an empathy map
  • Map the consumer journeys

Let us look at a car company. The consumers can be divided into various personas:

  • First Time Car Buyer
  • Upgrader (Addition of Family)
  • Second-time buyer
  • Achiever (buying a car for his upgraded status)

The journey which was quite linear say 10 years ago has become complex with digital touchpoints and influences. With COVID, the car-buying journey has changed further with people rethinking ownership, safety, and convenience. There is now increased usage of digital rather than spending time say at dealerships.

Also read: Opinion: How Augmented Reality is transforming CX now more than ever

Changes in Consumer Journey Post-COVID-19

Let us focus on how a shift in consumer behaviors during pandemic has been impacting the consumer journeys and how you can stay on top of it. Apart from the other factors, below can be two major shifts in the car buying process.

  • Virtual Demo of the Car
  • Car Subscriptions

Amandeep Singh on relevance of consumer journey 1
A sample exercise while mapping consumer journey for a car buyer. Note the empathy mapping and touchpoints.

If one looks at data, you might see that virtual demos, test drives have been on the rise. This means you need to invest in CX on your virtual car dealership, leveraging technologies like AR and VR further.

The next step would be empathy, the role of sales assistant in person is very important in the purchase. A real person provides the human touch and assurance which helps the customer make his decision. The question you should be asking is that how best you can replicate this experience on a virtual/digital demo.

Moving to another big shift – car subscriptions. With safety becoming the biggest concern, customers might not be comfortable using shared car services like cabs, anymore. But subscription is a model that lies right in between complete ownership and using shared service like Uber or Ola. In a recent article, Greg Moran, CEO and Co-Founder at ZoomCar Mobility Services, said, “We are already seeing a 400% rise in demand and we expect this to settle down at 200-300% over the next few months.”

Most of the major players including Maruti Suzuki have scaled up their subscription services recently.

Hence, adding the right experience, messaging, information during the consumer journey would play a role. Note that subscription is a very new concept in the Indian market. You as a company need to open up to the idea of helping customers explore this option and make a decision, they find best for them.

Conclusion

As you see, mapping the consumer journey should be the first step no matter what business you are in. Your entire CX to marketing and performance strategy should be built upon this journey. The way people meander their path to purchase would keep changing with diversity in platforms and services coming up. You will have to adjust your channel strategies, investments in building experiences on the right touchpoints and adjusting your marketing plans.

The important takeaway is to peel the layers in the journey and emphasize with your consumers. The key is not about isolating based on mediums (online or offline) or looking at it in a linear way – but be a lifelong student of the consumer journey as a whole.

And don’t forget – when in doubt, go back to the basics!

This article piece is authored by Amandeep Singh, Business Director & Branch Head, VMLY&R Delhi


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