As a marketing executive at a national retailer, it’s vital to have a 30,000 foot view of your business. However, when you oversee brand building, digital transformation, and ecommerce performance, you can lose sight of something much smaller, but nearly as important: customer touch points.
Think about it, how does someone go from not knowing anything about your company to ultimately buying from you? They take a journey that begins with a problem or opportunity and ends when you provide the solution.
Along the journey are customer experience touch points that have the power to change the outcome just like a “choose your adventure” story. These key moments ultimately determine whether a person buys from you or a competitor.
Read on to learn what customer touch points are, why they matter, and how you can optimize yours.
What are customer touch points?
They start with touch points related to initial awareness of your brand. Flowing from that, there are touch points in the decision stage as well as retention stage.
Touch points significantly influence customers’ perceptions of both the brand and their experience with the brand. Think of each touch point as an opportunity to improve the customer journey.
Why are customer touch points important?
Ultimately, customers don’t think in terms of touch points. They think in terms of experiences and the feelings those experiences create.
Every touch point influences how your target audience feels about your brand, whether positive or negative. And the sum total of brand experiences can result in a single transaction or a lifelong customer.
Customer journey mapping helps you identify any customer interactions that create friction so you can craft a superior experience.
Customer touch point examples
Now let’s look at some examples of customer touch points at each stage of the customer lifecycle
Awareness stage customer touch points
During the awareness stage, a prospect first realizes they have a problem or an opportunity. However, they don’t fully understand the issue and may not be able to name it or identify the cause.
Google is often the first place people turn when they become aware of a new problem or opportunity. At this point, prospects tend to perform broad, general searches to understand their situation.
For example, imagine a 27 year old man who’s thinking about getting married. In addition to planning a wedding with his fiance, he’s now in the market for life insurance.
He’ll probably search broadly at first with terms like “life insurance” (246,000 monthly Google searches). Then, he may search “types of life insurance” (9,900), or maybe “term vs whole life insurance” (12,100). Further down the funnel he may Google “best life insurance companies” (18,100). Finally, near the bottom of the conversion funnel, he might search “Allstate insurance reviews” (1600).
You get the point. People search for lots of answers, in many different ways. Each time they search and find your content in Google, it’s a touch point.
Referrals are extremely powerful and often play an important role in the pre-purchase, awareness stage of the customer journey. Word-of-mouth (WOM) drives roughly $6 trillion in annual global spending.
Imagine a conversation about student loan refinancing between two close friends. If one friend had a good experience with your brand at the various touch points, they’ll probably recommend you. From there, potential customer would likely research your company and compare interest rates. The **** are high that they’ll ultimately purchase from you since referrals convert at a much higher rate than non-referrals.
Social media can be used at every stage of the funnel, but it’s particularly effective in the customer acquisition stage. It allows you to cost-effectively reach a large percentage of your target audience. In addition, it enables authentic interactions with prospects which build trust.
YouTube is the largest vertical search engine in the world and is sometimes one of the first customer touch points. Even if a person doesn’t search for something directly on YouTube, Google often shows videos directly in the search results.
If you know what your prospects want and which keywords they search, you can optimize videos to reach them. Video is effective for the awareness stage of the customer journey because it elicits greater engagement from the audience. Plus, visual information is easier for many individuals to remember.
Events such as trade shows or conferences are an excellent mechanism to meet your target audience face to face. Whether hosting, sponsoring, or speaking, you increase brand awareness and tee up future partnerships down the line.
Or, if you want to use a guerilla marketing tactic, borrow a page from Salesforce. The brand staged a mock protest at a Siebel conference (the 800-pound gorilla of the CRM software industry back in the day). Salesforce rented dozens of taxis to provide free rides for conference attendees. The trick was that the taxis were filled with Salesforce marketing brochures and covered in the “NO SOFTWARE” logo. This reinforced that Salesforce is web-based, not software-based like Siebel, a novelty at the time.
Although less effective than they were in the Mad Men days of advertising, print ads still generate brand awareness. Their most attractive attribute is low cost brand exposure compared to other marketing channels.
The global print market is projected to be $32.05 billion in size in 2021. While impressive, this would be a decline from 2020 when the market was $32.49 billion. Even though print advertising investments are trending lower, it’s still an important way to reach consumers at the awareness stage in certain markets.
Your website is, perhaps, the most important touch point in the awareness stage of the customer journey. It should be the epicenter of your marketing efforts. Your website should convince prospects to spend time with your brand, consume your content, and purchase from you.
If your site is easy-to-navigate, has compelling messaging, and has valuable content that addresses your customers’ pain points, you’ll create a strong first impression.
Decision stage customer touch points
The decision stage is when prospects understand their problem and begin to research solutions. They dig deeper into your brand and compare you against competitors on things like pricing, reviews and ROI. This phase includes every touch point from the start of research until they actually make a purchase.
It’s critical to identify customer touch points in this phase because they occur near the bottom of the funnel.
Communicating with company representatives
At some point, prospects may reach out to a salesperson to learn more about your product or service. This is an opportunity to make a strong impression on the prospect. So, fight the urge to provide boiler plate answers.
Instead take the time to truly listen and engage with them. Walk in your customers’ shoes, and make a strong connection between their pain points or needs and your solutions. More importantly, ask your sales team to pass along any feedback they receive.
If you sell online, potential customers will certainly visit your ecommerce site before they make a purchase. Make it easy for prospects to find exactly what they need and to compare multiple products. If your site provides an intuitive, pleasant digital customer experience, they will be more likely to buy from you.
If you’re looking to increase brand touch points for your ecommerce site, read our article about the best ecommerce marketing strategies.
You can use brochures to give prospects further in-depth information about your products or services. Creating educational content like this can help them make well-informed decisions.
Brochures are a good mechanism for taking more complex or multifaceted information and simplifying everything for the buyer. They boil it all down to the most important points. You can offer brochures on your website, hand them out at tradeshows and conferences, or mail them directly to prospects.
Data sheets are similar to brochures, but they’re shorter, more focused on a specific product or service, and more detailed. They may include specifications or other info that’s more technical than what is typically found in a brochure. Data sheets are especially helpful as a prospect gets toward the bottom of the funnel and is comparing the nitty gritty details of what you offer compared to your competitors.
Approximately 89% of consumers read reviews before buying products. And 93% of consumers report that online reviews have influenced a purchase decision. On top of this, consider that the conversion rate of product pages displaying reviews are up to 3.5X higher than those without reviews.
Customer reviews are a powerful touch point because they provide an unfiltered perspective on your company from real customers. A brand with a large number of positive product reviews is much more likely to be trusted than brands with few reviews or negative reviews.
Encourage your existing customers to leave reviews on relevant sites (Yelp, Angi, Google, Trustpilot, etc.) and respond to both positive and negative ones. This shows that you truly care about serving your customers well.
Point of sale (POS)
The point of sale, whether physical or digital, plays a significant role in whether someone becomes a repeat customer. A person might visit your store or make an online purchase once. However, they won’t necessarily make a second purchase unless they had a positive experience during the checkout process. The process needs to be smooth with minimal friction.
In addition, you’re likely to increase the chances of a repeat buyer when you enhance the checkout process with some form of delight. As a result, you’ll increase your customer lifetime value. Furthermore, if you can effectively cross sell at the point of sale, you’ll also increase your average order value. You need, though, to make customers feel like they walked away with great value or a superior experience.
Few things are more frustrating to customers than billing issues. Whether it’s getting charged for something they didn’t purchase, having difficulty upgrading or downgrading, not being able to access something they paid for, or not getting answers to their billing questions, billing problems leave a sour taste in people’s mouths. Consumers will be extremely hesitant to pay money to a brand when they anticipate any problems directly affecting their wallet.
On the other hand, billing is an opportunity to deliver a positive experience. Even if it’s noticed by customers only on a subconscious level, it’s still valuable. When billing is transparent, mistakes are corrected quickly, and you go above and beyond to do right by your customers, you’re much more likely to create a loyal fan.
Retention stage customer touch points
Given that it costs far more to acquire new customers than retain existing ones, retention stage touch points are critically important. If you have problems with these types of touch points, your churn rate will increase and your marketing ROI will fall. Essentially, you’ll be running in circles.
Voice of the Customer feedback surveys
A Voice of the Customer feedback survey at the end of (or after) a customer’s first experience with your product or service helps you gauge their opinion, which can be used to improve the experience for future purchases.
Surveys are useful for scoring your products, services, and the purchase experience itself. If your customer has an issue with your product, service, or brand, a survey gives you unique insight. Was it a one-off issue? Or, do you have systemic issues festering under the surface with the potential for major damage down the road?
And most importantly, surveys afford you the opportunity to fix the problem. If your customers run into any issues, proactively uncovering them enables you to address the problems head-on.
In addition, feedback surveys show customers that you really care about their experience.
Email gives you the opportunity to reach out to and follow up with your customers directly. It can be used to ask for feedback or conduct surveys at the end of a customer’s first experience with your product or service.
Onboarding campaigns can help customers better understand how to use your product or service, reducing the learning curve and making them more likely to stick with it. Email campaigns can also be used to deepen the relationship.
Use email to encourage high-value customers with exclusive offers or benefits. And don’t forget to use email to bring back customers that haven’t purchased from you recently.
Online communities such as Facebook groups, Slack groups, and brand-hosted groups provide a post-purchase place for current customers, potential customers, and brand advocates to interact with each other about your brand. They can be used to provide customer support, answer questions, announce new products or services, share success stories, offer tips, and more. Furthermore, community members can become unofficial ambassadors of your brand which represents a highly cost-effective way to activate your audience.
Effective customer support can be a major differentiator for your brand, and one of the best ways to stand out from the crowd. Surprise and thrill your customers with unparalleled support that goes above and beyond. This is one of the most cost-effective ways to build repeat customers and compound revenue.
Even if a customer hits a glitch with your products or services, it’s not the end of the world. The reality is that many customers are willing to forgive mistakes if they have an outstanding customer support experience. And sometimes it’s that exceptional experience that sticks in their minds.
Outstanding support boosts customer loyalty that will prompt them to both evangelize and defend your brand.
A loyalty program is designed to encourage customers to come back again and again, and drive repeat purchases. The goal of the customer loyalty program is to reward your most valuable, loyal customers. It can also help in making your company more valuable than any other option in your customer’s eyes. The more value you offer through your program, the more likely it is that customers stick with your brand.
Optimize your customer touch points along the customer journey
If you want to build a strong brand that over-delivers on customer satisfaction, create a better customer experience. How? By ensuring that the customer touch points along the journey help to cement a positive customer relationship. Assessing and then optimizing each touch point will help you to drive more leads, more revenue, and more repeat business.
After you map out all the customer touch points on the journey, evaluate them both quantitatively and qualitatively.
Quantitative data, such as the opt-in rate on a landing page, can provide you with a clear, measurable picture of how specific touch points are performing.
Qualitative data, like customer surveys, customer support logs, empathy maps, and site visit recordings can help you identify trends. From there, you can take corrective action where necessary.
Create a seamless, delightful customer journey from start to finish, and see your business performance improve and compound over time.