What most companies are missing from their customer journey insights

Most companies define the customer journey in a similar way to how they define the marketing conversion funnel: with just a few simplified stages. These stages are most commonly known as the awareness stage, the consideration stage, and the decision stage — or the top, middle, and bottom of the funnel.

The reality is that the path to purchase for a customer is much more complex than those three stages suggest, and most companies are blinded by these buckets and by the limitations of their own insights.

A major pitfall most companies have when attempting to understand a customer’s path to purchase is failing to see the complete journey from when a prospective customer enters the market for a product to all the customer’s actions — both relevant and irrelevant — during the span of the journey to the final stages, even if that journey lasts weeks. This happens because companies are not equipped with the tools or the data to collect and analyze this information into digestible and actionable insights.

How are companies measuring the customer journey today?

The customer journey often includes multiple touchpoints that never result in a website visit, such as reading product reviews, browsing across multiple retailers or searching for comparisons to competitors.

Today, most companies rely on targeting technologies to reach prospective customers during these early stages of the research decision-making process. However, a company’s visibility into this activity is severely limited. Analytics tools such as Adobe Analytics or Google Analytics provide companies insights into how a customer reaches their website, but those tools are unable to provide any context as to related activity that occurs outside company-owned websites.

For most consumer products, the research and the path to purchase last beyond a single website session and may actually last weeks for higher-priced goods or niche products with a long decision-making cycle. The true path to purchase may span multiple website sessions across multiple domains and needs to be pieced together to generate a true path to purchase map. No matter what attribution model a website is using, relying on analytics providers alone will result in data blind spots along the customer journey.

Finally, while traffic source and session insights are great for assessing owned DTC performance, the same is not readily available to companies that sell through retailers for the customer journey during which a consumer makes a purchase on a retailer’s or marketplace’s website. Nor are these insights great for assessing a competitor’s performance. This leaves a lot of companies that have omnichannel strategies with gaps in path to purchase insights.

How can I actually measure the full path to purchase?

Most companies have yet to harness the power of clickstream data, which acts as a window into a user’s online behavior and includes browsing details across multiple websites. You can read more about this in our blog, “The Essential Guide to Clickstream Data.”

At M Science, we help companies map the full path to purchase with insights from clickstream data, capturing the entire customer journey from initial category browsing activity to purchase or demonstration of intent to purchase, not only for their own brand and products but for their competitors as well.

M Science’s customer journey module helps companies answer the following questions:

  • Where does the customer journey start?
  • What is the customer journey duration? What percentage of my customers spend <1 day, 2-7 days, 2-4 weeks, or 4 weeks+ on their journey?
  • How many brands are considered throughout the customer journey?
  • Which brands are considered most frequently?
  • Which retailers capture the most browsing attention for my product category?
  • How many retailers are considered throughout the customer journey?
  • What non-retail sites do customers visit by magnitude of sessions?
  • What irrelevant activity do customers engage in while they are on their journey? What buyer personas come to light?
  • What does purchase intent look like on a weekly basis? Do holiday periods have a higher purchase intent for my product?
  • Do customers who purchase during the holiday period spend months researching and wait for holiday sales? Or do they have a shorter journey than non-holiday shoppers?
  • How do non-Amazon shoppers differ from Amazon shoppers?

Being able to answer these questions helps companies inform key strategies, including:

  • Media placement
  • Partnerships (brands and content creators)
  • Customer affinity
  • Product placement and allocation to retailers
  • Marketing activities such as blogs, YouTube videos, social media
  • Marketing investment in Amazon PPC or paid search
  • Buyer persona identification
  • Prospective customer reliance on blogs and reviews
  • Non-retail touchpoints along the journey

Where does the path to purchase actually begin?

Long before a customer lands on your website or views your product listing on Amazon or browses other e-tailers, they likely have done their research online or visited many of your competitors’ websites or product listings. They may have even read a blog or watched a YouTube video.

M Science believes the journey’s start, or the beginning of the path to purchase, actually occurs as soon as the person engages in any digital activity related to the product category. It is the earliest date and domain with any activity and can include browsing a specific product on a retailer or e-tailer (including Amazon) or searching using terms related to the product category on a search engine.

Being able to define this date and where this activity occurs is key to segmenting customers by journey start and journey duration.

Where does the path to purchase end?

Defining the end of the path is just as important and is equally as tricky to assess without access to the right data and tools. A customer could visit a DTC website and then walk into a store and make an in-person purchase, or a customer could visit multiple sites and then make a purchase on one site.

The journey’s end can be defined as the demonstration of purchase intent.

How long does the customer journey last?

For some products, the journey can last minutes, but for many it can last days, weeks and months. Some shoppers who are new to the category may do much more research and browsing than others, while others may make an impulse purchase and proceed from start to end in a single day.

Identifying the journey start and intent to purchase actions will inform the journey duration.

How many brands are considered, and which brands are considered the most during the customer journey?

Browsing brands and products on DTCs and retail websites are touchpoints collected in clickstream data, which can be analyzed to identify which competitors are considered the most and the competitiveness of the category. Understanding which brands command the greatest share of browsing can help answer questions such as:

  • Do people review multiple brands before making a purchase?
  • Are incumbent or disruptor brands browsed the most?
  • Which competitors are taking the most mind share? Which competitors are lagging behind?

How can knowing irrelevant activity help me drive more sales?

Understanding what activity consumers engage in outside your product category, but during the same browsing sessions, can uncover buyer personas. For example: analyzing irrelevant activity can uncover that customers who are browsing kitchen appliances are also browsing home renovation and technology retailers.

How M Science can help

M Science is a global data-driven research and analytics firm, with years of experience uncovering new insights for some of the world’s largest corporations and financial institutions. We revolutionize research by discovering new datasets and pioneering methodologies to provide actionable intelligence. Learn more at: mscience.com/corporateintelligence. M Science is a portfolio company of Leucadia Investments, a division of Jefferies Financial Group Inc. (NYSE: JEF).

Interested to talk to a member of our sales team for a demo of our solutions?

Carolina Mustafa
M Science | Senior Corporate Account Executive