The Customer Journey, Stage 1: Awareness & Consideration

Customer Experience

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As I explained in the Intro arti­cle, the tra­di­tion­al sales fun­nel mod­el is no longer valid.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 opti­miza­tion

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 opti­miz­ing 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.

Orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished on

Customer Experience
Michael Plimsoll

Posted on 01-17-2017

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