By Carl Holmquist, Founding CEO, Freespee

The future of marketing lies in the understanding of the customer journey. As consumers, we constantly engage with brands through various marketing channels, such as emails, display ads, paid search ads, social media, and direct website visits but do we make purchasing decisions on all marketing channels?

No, we do not.

The decision-making process usually starts by the consumer becoming aware of a need and considering if this is a true need, leading to an intention to buy, and finally making a purchasing decision. Display ads and social media act as awareness builders. When we progress in our decision-making process and have an intention to buy, we usually research the item or service of interest on the internet. Once we have made our decision, we visit the website of the vendor we have chosen.

Various experiments have been conducted to create a shortcut in the consumer decision-making process, including being able to buy directly on Facebook which is in the awareness-building stages.

It rarely works.

Creating social footprints using Facebook and Twitter raises awareness, but ultimately no purchasing decisions are made on these channels. Facebook is currently very successful at raising awareness using retargeting technology whereby consumers who have shown an intention to buy a product but dropped off are retargeted with messages related to this purchasing intention. Retargeting is successful everywhere, regardless of which website the consumer is on however Facebook is a particularly effective retargeting channel as people spend so much time on the social network.

Google have just released a brilliant report based on data collected from 36,000 Google Analytics accounts mapping the customer journey and showing where various marketing channels sit in the typical online path-to-purchase. However, what this report doesn’t tell you is that online consumers complete transactions beyond the internet as well, including over the phone. This number is growing in direct correlation with the amount of time spent on our smartphones (a native voice communications device), which is quickly overtaking the amount of time we spend researching on the computer. When using a computer, the opportunity to talk to a consult at a contact centre would typically require you to pick-up a separate device to be able to talk to somebody.

Here are some interesting facts that marketers might not want to ignore when using analytics tools or when consuming data from the Google report:

■ The online path-to-purchase ends with either an online transaction, or a serviced transaction over the phone.
■ More than 50% of ecommerce transactions for non-commodity selling verticals such as finance, insurance, automotive, healthcare, and travel are serviced over the phone.
■ All marketing tools that you are familiar with today, including Google Analytics, lacks the ability to collect data from ecommerce transactions that have taken place over the phone. These customers are then treated as drop offs or bounces.
■ Marketers don’t like bounces and want to reduce those numbers where possible. By being data-driven in our decision making and trusting legacy analytics tools with big gaping holes in the transaction phase data of the customer journey, we are making sure that our most valuable audience will never find us again

Being data-driven in your marketing comes with the responsibility of being interested in data, constantly questioning the data model, and the ability to effectively collect data about user activities from marketing tools that you trust. It’s not rocket science. You can start by modelling customer journeys on a white board. While doing so, ensure you do not limit yourself by using only your existing analytics tools as input.

It’s quite easy to spot the marketers who’ve done their homework on data. When you visit websites that give the consumer two very distinct ways of buying (either through the online store or by speaking to a sales representative), you know that they have built a data-driven UX system. Both transations are considered online sales as they come from online consumers using the web to research a business, as well as for decision making.

Despite this, there are many more websites where there is still work to be done. Everyday I see websites of major brands (that I know manage some of the best sales teams in the market) and their website makes it almost impossible for me to talk to them if necessary. That’s not a data-driven UX system. It’s UX based on what can be tracked with legacy analytics tools, not based on how consumers choose to transact with you.

That’s a dead end, unless you’re happy for your business to stand still.