The way people shift from awareness to loyalty, through consideration, intention and purchase has radically changed in short, the purchase funnel is no more. The customer journey has become 'dynamic', and Altimeter are investigating this as one of their research themes. Here at We Are Social, we're lucky to be experiencing this evolution up close, from all over the world, and we can see the huge impact that conversations and social media are having.
Laptops, Smartphones, Tablets - connected devices of all flavours are now part of everyday life: being able to connect from everywhere and at any time means a continuous exchange with the people (and brands) we care about. Content has become a part of conversations, a spark to ignite them. To adapt to this age of conversation, content needs to be broken down into small pieces, suitable for continuous micro-interactions. The multiple channels that people use means you can take advantage of specific device characteristics: e.g. location based social networks (GPS), photo sharing (mobile camera and connectivity) or social TV applications (TV syncing technologies).
As Shiv Singh points out, social media is becoming more like “air”: part of everything we touch, see and interact with. While people interact with multiple channels, different types of content, people and brands in different parts of their social graph, social platforms like Facebook and Twitter understand the importance of aggregating various conversations and signals into a unified stream. Think about Facebook integrating external platforms (like Pinterest or Foursquare) into your news feed, or Twitter showing images and videos from external platforms in your Twitter stream. People choose to use social platforms based on what parts of their social graph are also using the platform and because of platform’s functionality. When they want to know what's going on amongst their social graph, it’s important they have one (or a few) point of reference: which is why social networks often try to act as a personal “dashboard” for your social life.
With over 500m people active on Facebook each day, the amount of content, information, interactions and call to actions that touch people’s lives has grown exponentially. Attention has become the scarcest resource people have: it’s very important to leverage technology to surface only what really matters to them, selecting what should be in the foreground. But while technology is an enabler in this process, the real element that decides what gets people's scarce attention is trust. With so many devices, platforms, connections and brands converging into a continuous user experience, people prioritise only the relevant and trustworthy interactions. Brands therefore must learn to participate in conversations to which they can add value, in order to build trust and develop a continuous relationship.
Research on brand side
In order to develop trust, it’s fundamental brands understand their audiences from a demographic, psychographic as well as sociographic point of view. It’s not enough any more for brands to know just the typical profile of the people they’re interacting with: it’s crucial to understand the people themselves and the dynamics of influence inside their groups. To do this, both listening to the conversations they are having and having a hands-on feel for the community dynamics are essential to generate relevant and actionable insights. And you must do this in real-time, in order to be able to participate in those conversations and develop effective relationships: brands must structure their offerings and internal processes in order to follow peoples' paths dynamically.
Conversation is the product
All the changes related to this new dynamic customer journey are evolving the way brands think about their business models. Conversational elements need to become part of their products and services: a reason to consider when making a purchase (or deciding to spread the word about a product) is how integrated it needs to be with channels people use everyday. Since social media is so embedded in people's everyday lives, offering a service through these channels can be a strong point of difference.
The evolution towards a dynamic customer journey also redefines the way people think about brands and products, putting a strong emphasis on the role of conversation. Companies have a huge opportunity to analyse and evolve their models gradually, allowing conversation to be a visible, differentiating and relevant element of their offering.