The customer journey in the digital age: reinventing the way we do marketing

In the digital age, the Internet, technology and social
media have become integrated into our daily lives. This has had a dramatic
impact on the way customers think, behave and make purchasing decisions. 
Social media is now considered to be the most popular online
activity in the world. With people turning to websites instead of TV for entertainment
and turning to Google for every need in life, it is hardly surprising that we
are thought to be in the midst of a digital revolution. The only surprising
fact is that so many businesses still choose to ignore this. 
For many years there has been a need for the way we perceive
the customer journey to change, as businesses have found struggling to keep up
with their customers as the digital shift sweeps the world. If we don’t adapt
now we will inevitably fall behind.
So how do we reinvent our marketing in the age of technology
and social media?  

Don’t Throw Out The
Marketing Funnel, Adapt It
The marketing funnel may have served us well, but the truth
is it came from a much simpler time when marketing, sales and advertising were
a smaller playing field. Today, with the volume of technology at our
fingertips, we see the growth of a new, empowered consumer. These consumers use
the social networks, they speak to their peers and they seek advice on
purchasing. Moving beyond traditional advertising and marketing when making a
purchasing decision, these consumers seek independent research and expert
reviews to help make more informed decisions. 
These changes in the decision making process need to be
incorporated into the marketing planning process. This is why social media and
other digital outlets for information and opinion need to be fully integrated into
every company’s marketing plan. 
A useful place to start is the RACE Digital Marketing Improvement
Framework (Chaffey, 2010) which is illustrated above.
Use Data To Improve
Customer Experience
Surveys, feedback forms, comments and reviews are a
traditional yet still very important way of gauging how well the current
customer experience works. Finding out what makes a customer follow the path to
purchase, and more importantly what deters them along the way, can help you to
improve the overall journey. 
And these methods are a small portion of the data now
available regarding customer experience. Thanks to social media channels,
forums, blogs and more there are many ways to gather information on the
customer experience. From listening to conversations about your brand on social
media and forums, to monitoring reviews and mentions of your brand in blogs. 
Build Customer
Relationships Using Social Media
Good customer relationships help you to gain useful data on
the customer experience. Crucially, it promotes brand loyalty, which in the
digital age is becoming a much stronger force in the customer journey. 
The best way to start building relationships with your
customer base it to form
a community online using social media platforms
that you know your
customers regularly use. Forming these communities will create a sense of
loyalty for your brand and give you a source of data regarding your customer’s
buying behaviour and opinions. And it will also give you a platform to further
sell to these existing or potential customers by making them aware of other
aspects of your brand they may not have previously been aware of. 
Use The Real Time
Data To Get Ahead In Your Market
Because social media and the Internet are fast paced, you
can use this to respond quicker to what is happening in your market. The faster
you respond, the more ahead of your competition you can become. 
And the fast paced nature applies to the decision making
process. As online shopping allows purchases to be made in seconds or minutes,
rather than having to physically travel to a bricks and mortar shop, this means
that the decision making process has been sped up. 
Some of these changes are much easier and cheaper to
implement than others, but over time companies need to adapt their marketing to
the new ways customers engage and buy. And in a society that has no intentions
of slowing down, the sooner companies adapt, the better they will survive in
the digital age. 
If you need a useful template for your marketing plan see one I prepared here
or more help looking at marketing models, see this guide to essential marketing