Why marketers can’t rely on old maps for the new customer journey

Email is the channel with highest ROI for marketers, and has been the reigning king for years. It continues to play a major role in influencing the customer journey and is a valuable retention tool. However, when it comes to email communications, marketers still rely on the tried and true. One increasingly unwieldy method of email is the campaign series. These series set customers on a journey of discovering brand values, new products, and promotions. Customers who convert are then sent along a different path, then re-routed back to the main journey. Unfortunately, the paths that marketers set are often based on assumptions of typical best practices rather than the way consumers make their purchasing decisions.

It’s become more apparent that marketers are no longer as in control over how much influence they wield on their customers as once believed. You might think your customers are getting relevant, multiple touches all the time via ad retargeting, through social influencers, or directly through various email drips and triggers. Perhaps the conversion on your newsletters is remarkably high. But if you are only tracking the success of campaigns through KPIs like conversions and open rates, there’s a risk of missing out on communicating with customers who didn’t make it through each step of the campaign successfully. For example, a high performing campaign might look very much like this company’s in the figure below:

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A typical campaign may lead to unnecessarily churned customers

For this company, 80% of new users who sign up convert. They are then pushed through a series of emails, and conversion stays low until a major promotion increases conversions, and so the cycle continues. The 20% of new users who did not convert end up receiving one follow-up email and if they don’t convert, are then left alone.

By the usual campaign metrics, this current communication strategy is an incredible success. However, there are two issues that need to be addressed: the 20% of users who didn’t convert, and the remainder of the series with the low conversion rate. That’s a lot of customers who either receive no engagement from a company, or aren’t getting the right content to kickstart the brand consideration that is needed to begin the decision making process.

The figure above might seem overly simplified, but in reality, it is a very typical part of the convoluted customer journeys that marketers map out. And often, that path isn’t updating as often as it ought to; unlike a GPS, these customer journeys don’t give real-time updates and course correction.

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Customer journeys end up weeding out anyone not ready to buy

Instead of engaging customers until they are ready to buy, these meticulously planned journeys are actually helping to weed out all the ones who aren’t a good fit as they are pushed down the funnel. That doesn’t mean that these customers will never purchase. If they’ve gone through the trouble of signing up, at some point, they were considering the brand. It is up to the marketer to bring the right content to provide information to aid in the decision.

In the end, all the careful email planning will just continue to highlight the most loyal customers and abandon all the rest. It’s a kind of customer engagement and retention, but with limited growth. As the loyalty loop keeps restarting, there’s a risk that the next email in the drip will be the one that loses customer interest. Marketers who stick to traditional email communication won’t be able to keep the loyalty loop active for much longer. It’s time to change our perspective about what makes email campaigns truly effective, and how email should be used to communicate with customers.