Examining stage one of the customer journey: Awareness

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Welcome back to my series on the customer journey.

As I explained in the intro article, the traditional sales funnel model is no longer valid. We now need to look to the consumer’s state of mind—that is, which stage a given customer has reached in his or her own unique journey.

The first stage in that journey is awareness—the customer is becoming aware of your brand and is starting to consider you as a possible option.

Every customer journey is launched, initially, by a question—for example, “How do I open an account?” or “How do I find the best home insurance product?” As the marketer, your question then becomes, “How do I connect with this potential customer?” In other words, how do you find the audiences you need to reach, and make them aware of your solution?

The need for optimisation

The old sales funnel model was based on a single channel, such as display advertising—putting your message in front of as many people as possible, hoping something would stick. The customer journey model, on the other hand, is based on optimising around channels.

Your brand has a lot of choices, not just in terms of screens and devices, but also in terms of delivery platform (websites, TV programs, in-app advertising, and so on), messaging, individual creatives, bids per click—the list goes on and on. There are simply too many microdecisions involved in raising every customer’s awareness in the optimal way, for the optimal spend.

This, of course, is why we have algorithms—and technology like the Adobe Ad Stack. They can do most of this micromanagement for us—manage the vast array of datasets available, create high-value audiences, and efficiently reach audiences across channels in a connected experience.

The first step in that process is to optimize your ad spend.

Buying low for high value

Say, for example, you’re a financial services institution. You’re handling large volumes of mortgages, current accounts, investments, and wealth portfolios. How do you start to raise awareness of your products?

First, you’ll want to buy media across search, display, and social, and ensure that you have a presence there. At Adobe, we’ve found that portfolio bid technology is particularly effective in helping to optimize this activity.

If you were trading in high volume on the stock market, you’d build algorithms to predict the highs and lows. Portfolio bid technology treats any biddable online ad space—keyword searches, display, social media—in the exact same way. It enables you to “buy low” and acquire customers who’ll rise in value.

At this point, you know absolutely nothing about these audiences. The next step is to find out who they are—and if some of them are people you already know. Here’s where you start leveraging the data you have to increase your addressable audience size.

Onboarding, suppressing, and expanding

At this stage, a data management platform comes into play. This platform enables you to do several things.

First, you can begin onboarding your own first-party data—your web analytics, customer relationship management (CRM) data, and so on—and use suppression lists to suppress advertising to existing customers. This brings enormous benefit not only in terms of efficiency and savings in your ad spend—of which you could save at least 20 to 30 percent—but also to your existing customers, who don’t want to be hit with redundant messages.

Next, you can start to onboard second-party data—customer data you exchange with partners—as well as third-party data, which you purchase from companies like Eyota, Axiom, or Nielsen. You’ll use these two types of data in concert with your own first-party data to increase your addressable audience. You’ll do this through lookalike modeling—finding new customers whose traits look like those of your own high-value customers. Although these people have never been to your website—and, in fact, may never have even heard of your brand—lookalike modeling will tell you that they’re quite likely to be high-value customers. At that point, you can begin to shift your ad spend toward those people.

When you use the right media optimization tools to optimize your spend, and then use a data management platform to increase your addressable audience reach and target new high-value customers, you’ll begin driving engaged, relevant audiences to your website.

Retargeting and re-optimizing

As consumers show their interest in certain products, you can start to engage with them in more targeted—and retargeted—ways.  For example, if a visitor to your site clicks on a display ad for a mortgage, then your website should carry a similar message each time that individual visits. You can also begin to use sequential and consequential messaging. For example, if you have multiple mortgage-related messages, you might try delivering them in a different order for different mortgage consumers, to see which works best.

On the other hand, if a customer doesn’t click on the mortgage message, maybe you should display a message about a savings account next. If the customer doesn’t click on that message, try showing one about loans. And if there’s still no click, maybe the customer is simply not interested in your services at this time. You can put these individuals on your suppression list, and avoid spending on ads for them.

Sequential and consequential messaging also enable you to frequency-cap. If you show a consumer, say, 10 ads in a month, and he or she hasn’t clicked on any of them, then maybe that visitor is fatigued by the message, and isn’t even seeing it anymore. It’s time to put these individuals on a suppression list as well, so you won’t spend any money serving ads to them.

All these activities—optimizing ad spend, onboarding data, building suppression lists and new addressable audiences, and using sequential and consequential messaging to retarget and re-optimize your ad spend—make up the awareness phase of the customer journey.

The second stage of the journey is acquisition: How do you acquire individual customers and accelerate them along the next stages in their journey toward a purchase?

That’s exactly what I’ll be covering in my next article in this series. See you then.

About Michael Plimsoll


Mike is a seasoned innovative marketer focused on driving efficiencies and improved return on investment through the better use of data and analytics. He currently works as an Industry Marketing Director at Adobe. 


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