I’m going to start with a controversial opinion, and that is that the art of marketing is dying. Everything has become about CPCs, CTRs, CPAs, CVOs and optimising everything around those.

Tweaking ad copy for better click through rates.

Throwing up overlays and huge banners on site offering massive discounts.

Abusing behavioural economics to manipulate your customers as in the image below…

I really hope no self respecting marketer did that. If you’re not sure what’s happening there, those subtle FOMO nudges are actually randomly generated.

A good customer journey optimization involves giving the best possible customer experiences, and giving them what they are looking for from your website. Whether that’s the products they want to purchase, the information they’re looking for, or a quick way of changing their marketing preferences.

Companies who take a Customer First approach and use tools like Reveal to optimize customer value will win in the long run. It might take years, and it might be tough, but these are the companies that will build a strong, loyal base of highly valuable customers.

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And I’m going to tell you how.

But before I get into that, it’s important that you’ve created a customer journey map and that you’re actually aware of how your customers engage with your brand, where they’re acquired from, whether they interact with CRM comms, whether they are loyal and engaged. Omniconvert has put together a framework to help you with this and you can find it here.

It Starts With Acquisition

I’m not going to touch on this too much, as billions of words have been written about advertising and acquisition marketing, and it’s not my speciality area to be honest.

But what I will say is,  the key here is messaging.

Are you targeting the right people?

Are you putting the right message in front of these people?

Are you building an acquisition funnel and using different messaging and creative for those who have never heard of your brand and those who have visited your site, browsed but not purchased?

It’s not as simple as just driving traffic to a website. It’s got to be the right traffic, with the right message. Get this right and you’ll make money regardless of what’s to come in this article (just not nearly as much…)

Then Comes the Conversion

For me, this is the most neglected part of the customer journey map. There seems to be this idea that once your site is live, products are listed, the add-to-cart and checkout sections work, that’s job done. Now the only thing to do is drive traffic.

And even then, when conversion rates and revenue are down, the blame tends to lie with ‘marketing’, although really it’s just the acquisition team. Very few businesses take that step back and think ‘well maybe our website just sucks…’

It’s so important to constantly test and optimise your site, but while that’s easy for me to say, the difficult part is knowing what to test.

So here are some of the top things you need to consider:

  • Does the landing page reflect your advert?

A really important starting point. Is the messaging that’s in your advert actually mirrored on your website. If you state there’s free shipping in the advert, have you made that super clear on the website?

If you advertise a specific product, are you landing those people on that specific product, and very importantly, is that product actually available?

Do you make any claims around sustainability or your products being vegan friendly? Again, make sure that information is clear on your website, and that you don’t contradict that. Burger King made the mistake releasing a meat free burger, getting people really excited….and then announced that it contains mayonnaise (not vegan friendly), and is cooked on the same grill as the meat burgers (not vegetarian friendly).

  • Make everything quick and easy.

I can’t state this more clearly really. Make your website quick and easy to use. 

If someone lands on your homepage they should be able to find what they want, and complete their objective within about 60 seconds (for standard ecommerce, obviously the more involved the buying process the longer it will take).

Let’s say I land on a fashion website looking for black socks. My journey should look something like:

That’s maybe 11-12 clicks including switching between products, choosing size, and ordering. 

How can you get in the way of that?

Poor navigation is a start. Your navigation should comprise of downdowns for each headline category, e.g. Mens or Womens, which then shows all the different clothing categories so customers can very quickly get to the area they’re looking for. It’s much better than having to click Mens, wait for the page to load, then click Socks, wait for that page to load.

Filtering and sorting are really important, make them easy to find, which is normally down the left hand side for filters, and above results for sorting. If you do want to place filters above, then break them out and make them obvious straight away. If someone has to click to open filters, they’ll probably miss it as they scroll down the page.

Generally any time you’re adding clicks to the process, where those clicks could be skipped, you slow down the process, you frustrate your customer, and you cause dropoff.

  • Is all the information available?

Information is key to the customer journey analytics. People want to know how your products were made, what materials they are, what your delivery and returns policies are, what people think of your products. So it’s crucial to make this info available as much as possible.

Offering free shipping? Mention it in the product description, or a permanent banner at the top of the page. Offering free returns? Even better! But make sure people don’t have to dig around to find that out, it’s a huge selling point.

Reviews are a really important part of the information process here, especially the 3 and 4 star reviews. 5 stars is obviously great, and people want to know why 5 stars were given, but equally importantly, they want to know why someone was happy, but not happy enough to give a full 5 stars. 

Final point on this, use live chat. It’s by far the most popular method of contacting customer support now for customers as its almost as quick as being on the phone, but far less hassle, customers don’t have to wait in silence while the CS agent finds what they are looking for, they just wait for the next ping a few seconds or a minute later. Live chat absolutely ensures information gets to your customers quickly (assuming properly trained agents), and it improves conversion rates.

  • Behavioural Economics

What’s behavioural economics? I hear you asking.

It’s the use of little nudges here and there in the journey that trigger emotional responses in customers. Used properly, they’re fantastic and work wonders for your business. Used improperly and they either put people off, or you get found out for being super unethical (as we saw in the screenshot above).

Three of the main ‘nudges’ are:

  • Loss Aversion

I’m sure you’re all aware of this, but basically people are more sensitive to losses than gains, and the emotional impact can be twice as strong in some cases. So how can you take advantage of this?

Optimise your discounts by targeting booking fees or shipping fees, or mention that on a certain date the price will rise. Lots of brands hint at this with timers saying ‘we can hold this price for you for 14:59’

  • Priming & Anchoring

Using this technique you can highlight the value of your product or service, by anchoring the price against something else. Subscription bundles and SaaS businesses tend to do this alot by making a higher priced item seem only a bit more expensive, but much more valuable.

One thing to be aware of is promocode boxes. This is a classic Prime which can actually have a negative affect if it actually sends customers away to look for that promo code. So if you have a prominent box on your site, you might want to consider hiding it, or auto-applying any available discounts and making that clear with messaging.

  • The Von Restorff Effect

While you may not recognise the name, you’ll 100% have seen this in use. When multiple options are presented, customers will choose the one that appears different and that stands out the most.

It’s commonly used on subscription packages and SaaS models, but lots of ecommerce sites use it as well with tags such as ‘Most Popular’ or ‘Best Seller’. Here it actually combines with some other nudges by providing social proof, and kinda of making people fear missing out on something that’s really popular.

Think you’ve done the hard work? Think again, now you’ve got to retain them!

Most people think of retention as a CRM function, which is kind of true, but only partly.

Retention is driven by customer satisfaction, and loyalty. If you give people a terrible purchasing experience, no CRM strategy will bring them back.

So where to start? Customer service of course.

It’s so important to provide good customer service, not just in terms of speed, but also results. It’s pointless emailing someone back every minute or 2 with question after question because you’re wasting both peoples time. 

Focus on First Contact Resolution, where you aim to gather as much information from the customer as possible, and provide as much as possible in return that not only fixes their current problem, but potentially heads off a future problem.  For example if someone contacts you asking about your shipping policy, lay out all the details in full, but then also give them your returns policy, as that’s likely to be their next question.

Then of course we have the product experience itself. 

It should be self explanatory, but the quality of your product should be good. It absolutely needs to meet expectations when you get into the higher prices, but if someone buys a desk fan for £20, they still expect it to work properly and cool them, they’re just not expecting the quality of a £350 Dyson.

I buy Taotronic headphones, the quality is great for what is simply an unbelievable price! (£38 for earpods that are just fantastic). The fact that I mention these to so many people is a great example of how product quality has driven not only retention, but word of mouth as well.

Loyalty & Engagement is such a huge piece that is often attempted, but poorly executed. I’m sure you’ve all signed up to various loyalty programs offering 1 point for every £/$1 you spend, but how much loyalty did that actually drive from you? You might have picked up a discount after a while, but these programs don’t actually drive much incremental revenue themselves.

A proper loyalty program needs to get the customer engaged with other areas of the business such as social media, and needs to drive…well loyalty, but also engagement and evangelism. Exclusive events, pre-order promos, even the chance to get involved with product development (more from a feedback point of view though…) are all great ways of building that loyalty, sometimes without even costing that much.

2 statistics are crucial at this stage. Firstly, it costs anything from 5-25x more to acquire a customer than to retain one, so by optimising your product experience, customer service, and loyalty programs you’ll retain more customers and make more money, simple.

Secondly, for every customer who gets in touch and complains, 24 just don’t contact you. But those are 24 disappointed customers. This is why you can’t rely on customer service resolving problems, you have to head things off BEFORE it becomes a problem, simple as.

Linked to that is the idea of Earned Data, and personalisation. This is the key, the goldmine. Engaged and loyal customers will gladly hand over more and more data, provided you are clear with why you want it, and what you’ll do with it. 

If it’s clear that you’re going to provide super personalised recommendations for them then great! A great example would be in the food industry, you can get someone to fill in a quiz or survey in exchange for a small discount, but by doing that you find out they are vegan, so you make sure your content for them is tailored around vegan products. People appreciate this personalisation (far more so that {{firstname}}), and reciprocate with loyalty.

Finally of course, does come the CRM piece.

When combined with the above using personalised content, not always selling to people, following up at the right times and just most importantly, providing value, a great CRM strategy will generate you an outrageous amount of money, quite often on autopilot.

It’s important to get the right tool, Klaviyo, Bronto or Dotdigital are all great tools for setting up automation, getting all your segmentation & personalisation in place using customer data.

Welcome flows, cart abandonment, browse abandonment, reactivation/winback flows are all super important, as while it’s worth tweaking and optimising these, they can just be left to run .

If you want to take things to the next level though, an RFM model is crucial. If you weren’t sure, RFM stands for Recency, Frequency, Monetary, and is a great way of segmenting your lists based on where each customer sits in their lifecycle with your business. You can quickly identify high value frequent purchasers, those who bought once and never came back, brand new customers, and many other segments, allowing you to tailor messaging for each group.

Not only does an RFM model help build out those customer segments for CRM purposes, but you’ll also get a clear idea of your Ideal Customer Profile. The algorithms will tell you who your least valuable customers are, and who your most valuable are. If you then dig in to your acquisition attribution data, you’ll see where these customers came from, what advertising or messaging brought them in, and you can double down where it matters (you can also use them to build lookalike audiences which is handy!).

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Looking to build a sustainable, valuable business?

The key is a solid customer journey, placing emphasis on the post-advertising stages. If you build a database of happy customers (because they’ve had a great first experience with you), provide them valuable content, an actual engaging loyalty program, and treat them as people you’ll do fine. If you run with the ‘build it and they will come’ approach, and just throw your budget into advertising, good luck, you’ll need it.

If you’re looking for help with the Conversion and Retention pieces don’t hesitate to get in touch on LinkedIn or drop me an email to [email protected] I’ve been building out these strategies and generating significant profitable growth for companies (including Europcar Group and Gamesys) for years and I’m always happy to chat!

Author bio:

Will Laurenson is a customer conversion expert, with 9 years experience optimising customer journeys to convert more traffic into customers, and retain those customers for longer helping companies achieve more profitable growth. He is also the host of the Customers Who Click podcast, interviewing guests from across the marketing spectrum to give actionable insights into growth.

LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/willlaurenson/
Website – https://www.monkeyblocks.com/
Podcast – https://www.customerswhoclick.com/