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Skip to 0 minutes and 8 secondsJULIA WOLNY: The research that we've been conducting, as you say with my students, has been around the multichannel behaviours and how they have changed with the proliferation of digital channels, platforms, and devices. Because I think neither you nor I would shop the same way today as we did 20 years ago. So for example, if I go and shop for-- I want to buy a pair of shoes, I would, for example, speak to a friend of mine maybe first, then look online and try and get some information from different sources about what's trending at the moment, what's in fashion. And that would be maybe through social networks.

Skip to 0 minutes and 47 secondsAnd then later on, I might do a search online and go to the shop. So there's a lot of different elements in that shopping process that can happen. And how do you shop for shoes, Lisa?

Skip to 0 minutes and 58 secondsLISA HARRIS: Well, I don't know if you can see my shoes. But certainly, I buy most of my things online. I don't have any inclination to share my purchases with other people, though, which I find a little bit odd. But I know a lot of people do.

Skip to 1 minute and 9 secondsJULIA WOLNY: Yes.

Skip to 1 minute and 12 secondsLISA HARRIS: But I understand you refer to something called the customer journey. So perhaps you could tell us a little bit about what this means.

Skip to 1 minute and 17 secondsJULIA WOLNY: So the customer journey is a way that consumers navigate this landscape of different platforms and devices to get from an intention or a thought about having, wanting a product, to actually purchasing it and later on to consumption. So there's a whole multitude of different activities and thoughts and actually feelings around this process that we are investigating to try and understand what's actually going on. Are the consumer behaviour models, which used to be very much linear, still in operation in reality, or has this actually changed?

Skip to 1 minute and 53 secondsLISA HARRIS: OK, so what does all of this mean for marketers, then?

Skip to 1 minute and 56 secondsJULIA WOLNY: Well, what it means for marketers is that they need to be quite careful how they approach customers and the way they're visible to customers. So the message and the type of image that they present has to be aligned across all the different touch points, which is a big challenge for brands.

Skip to 2 minutes and 16 secondsLISA HARRIS: What about if you're running a very small, what I might call ordinary business? Is that something that ordinary businesses like that can still get involved in?

Skip to 2 minutes and 24 secondsJULIA WOLNY: In a way, it makes marketing easier for smaller businesses, I think, the whole digital and multichannel type of approach. Because companies can try and create buzz around the product that doesn't necessarily mean lots of budget. It might actually mean just having a great video that they have created and creating a strategy, a campaign, to make it go viral.

Multichannel customer journeys

In this video, Julia Wolny introduces the idea of multichannel customer journeys and she talks about how this impacts on our shopping behaviour.


Multichannel and omnichannel

The term ‘multichannel’ was coined in the early 2000s to signify the integration of offline and online shopping channels, for example by large traditional retailers such as Marks and Spencer who added an online shopping and delivery element to their established network of stores.

This term has since evolved into ‘omnichannel’ to encompass the wide range of channels and social media now used by consumers to formulate, evaluate and execute buying decisions – often to make just a single purchase.

For example, with the location-specific and real time properties of mobile technology, consumers are increasingly incorporating the use of smartphones into their shopping experience. The following data comes from Ofcom’s 2016 market report which is freely available online and is a very useful source of detailed trend statistics:

The number of visitors to the most popular online retailers on mobile platforms has increased year on year. In April 2016, Amazon had the largest audience (32.5 million) compared to eBay (29.2 million).

In March 2016, more internet users visited online retailers on mobile devices than on laptops and desktops.

A range of mobile payment services are available in the UK that use NFC technology to allow users to make contactless payments using their mobile phone in selected retailers, as well as to pay for public transport in London.

Customer journeys

The term ‘customer journey’ refers to the complex ways in which customers navigate this multichannel landscape to get from their first inclination to check out a product, to finally buying and consuming it. In this environment, we would question whether or not traditional linear models of buying behaviour still have relevance to marketers.

Our research (Wolny & Charoensuksai, 2014) on customer journey types indicates that, depending on the industry, there are at least three types of customer journeys (the paper is available from a link at the bottom of the page):

Impulsive Journeys

Impulsive journeys are often triggered by emotional response to product in a store, or familiarity with the brand. The purchase is then often made on the spot, through the channel the user is engaging with at the time – online or offline.

Balanced Journeys

Balanced journeys can be triggered by exposure to product – seeing a new product in-store, or seeing an ad on TV, but then seeking more information from other sources e.g. thorough reviews in blogs and YouTube as well as asking friends. The purchase can be made online or in store.

Considered Journeys

Many shoppers gather information all the time - they read forums and watch YouTube videos, without wanting to buy a product at the time. Then they consider the information once a purchase occasion arises at some point in the future.

Every customer can also engage in a different type of journey every time they shop, which makes research into this area important and complex. This useful post from Smart Insights provides a number of customer journey examples and a template for mapping them.

So how can marketers respond?

They should ‘fish where the fish are’ with an active presence on appropriate social networks, and ensure they align their message consistently across all possible customer touch points.

Creative and helpful interactions need not require large budgets to sustain, if brand advocates can be encouraged to share their purchase stories. For example, by making it easy for satisfied customers to post and share their reviews of a purchase via their own social networks, this information can be incorporated into the customer journeys of potential customers of that product.

An interesting example about how the web has changed the way we shop is provided by BBC Radio 4’s ‘You and Yours’ programme featuring Catherine Shuttleworth, the founder of Savvy Marketing.

This potentially adds a further layer of complexity to the customer journey, as well as raising concerns about privacy which we will return to in a later Step.

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This video is from the free online course:

Digital Marketing: Challenges and Insights

University of Southampton

Course highlights Get a taste of this course before you join: