Customers Are Using More Channels than Ever to Interact with Retailers

Measuring the shopper journey has become even more important and no less difficult

Author: Krista Garcia

June 7, 2018

Understanding the customer journey has always been paramount for marketers—especially in the retail industry—and the ability to assign attribution is becoming more fine-tuned. At the same time, though, consumers are interacting with more channels than ever.

According to a June 2018 report from customer analytics platform Kitewheel, the number of customer interactions climbs each year. Interactions for all industries across its platforms more than tripled from 2014 to 2017—surpassing 3 billion—and retail specifically grew 93% between 2016 and 2017.  The highest retail channel growth rates between 2016 and 2017 were ad tech (350%) and in-store (116%). 

Retail relies on one of the most diverse blends of channels compared with other industries. Websites, where conversions happen, are the biggest source of interactions, followed by email, a tool for re-engagement and retention.

Interactions using social media and mobile phones shrunk 58% and 50%, respectively. One takeaway from this data is that marketers are shifting from channels like social, with return on investment (ROI) that's hard to measure, to owned channels because they are richer sources of data that can ideally be used to create better customer experiences.

Since the customer has always been central to retail, that industry is further along in measuring the customer journey than others, according to the study. Telecom, travel and finance are still starting and piloting programs, while 37% of retailers are actively rolling them out and 21% have moved on to scaling them.

Rolf Olsen, chief data officer at advertising agency Mindshare North America, explained in an eMarketer interview why it's important to have measurable customer experience metrics. "The role of marketing is often to drive people somewhere. 'I want you to be aware of my brand,' or 'I want you to go to my store.' Typically, these things are ignored from the attribution modeling exercise, but they’re important. If someone goes to a store and the staff is rude or the product is displayed weirdly, it will diminish your ability to convert that consumer into a sale," he said.

Optimizing the customer journey across multiple touchpoints was an area of utmost importance to client-side marketers worldwide surveyed by Econsultancy and Adobe in January 2018. In North America, 77% of respondents said future digital plans involving the customer journey would be "very important" over the next few years. 

This is easier said than done, though. A leading technical challenge of building an integrated view of the customer journey, according to a September 2017 IBM and Econsultancy survey of client-side marketers worldwide, was the complexity of the number of customer touchpoints (46%). Difficulty in unifying different data sources was also a prominent challenge, cited by 43% of respondents.

The number of US companies using multichannel attribution models is on the rise. We forecast that model became a majority (53.5%) last year and will increase to 62.0% in 2018.