Digital Breadcrumbs

Marketers are constantly working to provide a more engaging, authentic, and compelling customer experience — and for good reason. Eighty-six percent of buyers say they’ll pay more for a better customer experience, according to Forbes magazine. In fact, 89 percent of marketers report that the customer experience will be their main differentiator in 2017.

Creating these flawless experiences, however, is not always easy. Sometimes customers shut down, without telling you why they stopped using your products, and marketers are left trying to put together the pieces to determine what went wrong.

In one famous Brothers Grimm fairy tale, Hansel and Gretel leave behind a trail of bread crumbs so they don’t get lost in the forest. Their plan ultimately fails because birds eat the crumbs. The basic idea is good, however, despite the edibility flaw, and marketers, can use a similar strategy, carefully collecting and interpreting the digital “bread crumbs” that customers leave behind. And those crumbs can’t be eaten by birds or any other creatures.

But where should you start? Here are five clues to watch for.

Consistently pleasing all customers is a difficult task. When dissatisfaction takes hold, churn can occur, leaving marketers to wonder what happened. Statistics provide some potential reasons, such as:

  • Sixty percent of customers stop dealing with a company because they perceive an indifference from salespeople.
  • Seventy percent of customers stop doing business due to poor service.
  • Eighty percent of these customers categorize themselves as either “satisfied” or “very satisfied” prior to leaving.

Understanding the potential reasons people jump ship is a good start, but if you want to stop customer churn and grow revenue faster, you must also uncover the exact reasons. And to accomplish this, you need one critical resource to unlock the mystery: data. But what type of data?

Start collecting data points about the customers who are leaving your business. For example, you may discover that 20 percent of customers who churn had a billing issue within 60 days of canceling service. If so, this could be a “digital breadcrumb” explaining the churn. Any customers who have payment issues could be put in a special marketing program, where you work to rebuild that lost trust through delivering high-value, personalized content or by providing special offers and coupons to ease their disappointment and encourage them to come back.

Some customers churn because the onboarding process for a new service isn’t user-friendly enough. However, data may reveal that group of customers spent double the amount time as did others setting up their new accounts. You could isolate this piece of data and put these high-risk customers on a special track, where they receive videos and tutorials walking them through the common challenges of setup.

Key takeaway: There are plenty of breadcrumbs to find when it comes to customer churn, but you must dive deep and look for the factors that are playing the largest roles in your organization.

In the past, we tried to understand the behavior of customers through looking at cookies on individual computers. But those clues were difficult to interpret and oftentimes inaccurate, because they weren’t always a reflection of a single person using a computer. Roommates, family members, and friends could all be using the same device. So all those breadcrumbs didn’t belong to one person, but rather to several. This makes creating personalized experiences difficult.

Geolocation is changing how information is collected. Typically, a single person uses a cellphone, so all the data collected is about a unique user rather than about several. As a result, marketers can learn much more about their customers.

For example, a company previously may have emailed a promotional coupon during the summer months. But through geolocation, that same company can now send the coupon when the customer is within 50 yards of the business, making it more contextually relevant.

Key takeaway: Marketers provide customers with coupons, offers, and other marketing materials, but what’s sent is not always in context. Geolocation allows marketers to increase response rates and conversion through more contextually relevant offers.

Even if your website visitors don’t convert initially, it’s important to track their behavior on your site. Understand what they’re doing there and, most importantly, how you can influence that behavior.

For example, what are your page views for each unique visitor? How much time is that person spending on your site? What kind of comments is he or she leaving when visiting your blog? Even if the person isn’t making a purchase today, it’s still important to capture this data. These interactions are important because you can leverage the collected information to drive specific behavior, such as:

  • Longer periods of time spent at your site.
  • Higher conversion rates.
  • Larger dollar amounts spent through upsells and cross-sells.

Let’s say the majority of your customers are spending a lot of time on a specific product page, but many of them are not converting. The product purchase price is high, but without any wiggle room to adjust pricing, you must increase the perceived value of that product. Seventy-three percent of US adults are more likely to buy a product or service after watching a video that explains it. So you decide to place a video on the page, and soon conversation rates increase by 40 percent.

Key takeaway: Customers are leaving you subtle clues on your website, but you must know where to look for those clues. Start with understanding their current behavior and you’ll be a step closer to unraveling how to drive greater conversion rates.

Above we talked about how poor customer service is one of the top reasons that customers churn, but it’s also a huge opportunity. This single element is a critical factor when customers decide whether they’ll do business again with your brand. In fact, 97 percent of global consumers cite customer service as important in their brand choice and loyalty.

When a customer reaches out, it’s important to gather feedback and learn about that person’s likes and dislikes. For example, let’s say a customer wants to return a product. Processing this transaction as quickly as possible is key. But it’s also important to learn more about his or her experience in a meaningful way. So, instead of asking “Why don’t you like the product?” prior to the return, flip the order of the steps. First process the refund, then give the customer what he or she wants, and then finally ask for feedback on the product. At this point, the customer is in a different mindset and can give you more valuable input.

Key takeaway: Most breadcrumbs have already been dropped, but there are some (like the example listed above) that require a little work to extract. You must fish for them and say something to the customer like, “I understand you don’t like this product, but if you tell me why, maybe we can improve it in the future.” This type of interaction will also help the customer feel more appreciated and understood.

Social media is full of digital breadcrumbs that contain many clues about how customers feel about your brand. In fact, statistics show that millennials spend an average of 5.4 hours on social media each day.

For example, do you want to know what customers think about your customer service? Turn to social media to find out. Collecting social media content that includes mentions of your brand and sentiments about your company can pull together data such as complaints, questions, and positive feedback to paint a more accurate picture. If you discover a large percentage of the sentiment is negative, you can create targeted marketing strategies to focus on turning around those perceptions.

Key takeaway: Social media is a platform that customers regularly use to ask questions and express frustrations about brands. Turn to this platform to discover honest and valuable insights about your brand to shape marketing efforts.

Paint a detailed portrait

Customers and marketers have something important in common. Marketers want to understand customers — and customers truly want to be understood. Bridging this gap, however, is not always easy. There are vast amounts of data available, and marketers must determine which breadcrumbs are worth extracting

But the payoffs are worth it. Taking these tiny bits of data and transforming them into valuable insights cracks the customer experience code wide open and lets marketers create experiences that are truly authentic and engaging.

What data do you think is most important to the customer experience? Please share your thoughts below.