News & Views

Opinion / Unifying the Journey

by Contagious Contributor
The time is now right to end the artificial divide between sales and media. Margaret Hung, SVP consumer dynamics, solutions and strategy at Millward Brown, explains how they can do it.

Marketers have long embraced the concept of creating seamless and rewarding brand experiences along the consumer journey. The challenge is that the complexities of coordinating the multitude of retailer and media touchpoints are extremely difficult.

Traditionally, the process has been made even more difficult by the fact that most organisations are split between sales and media teams, each with different goals, approaches and targets.

But digital changes everything and three key forces are driving both the need and the ability to combine these approaches:

Firstly, consumer journeys are now device and channel agnostic. Technology enables consumers to seek products, content and experiences when they want it through whatever means best suits them, depending on the present moment.

Millward Brown research demonstrates how consistent brand messaging across different mediums allows traditional media to amplify the impact of digital assets.
Similarly, consumers don’t distinguish between sales and media touchpoints, but well-coordinated efforts across both contribute synergistically to the brand experience and sales.

Secondly, e-commerce allows retailers to capitalize on both sales and media as revenue streams. Following the lead of digital pure-plays like Amazon, bricks and mortar retailers now sell media on their e-commerce sites. The strongest retailers leverage their negotiating power in-store to drive media revenue from advertisers online.

Thirdly, ad creative now goes well beyond brand messaging into overt selling. Traditional, one-way communication channels are giving way to new, two-way media platforms that directly connect advertising content to purchase opportunities.

For brands to take advantage of these consumer and industry changes they need to optimize consumer journey marketing efforts by re-inventing the way they plan, invest and optimize across all touchpoints.

Consumers, retailers and media owners continue to adopt new behaviours and business practices in response to digital advances, blurring the lines between traditionally disparate sales and media touchpoints that exist across the consumer journey.

An integrated sales and media planning lens is the key to developing the seamless brand experience that marketers need to drive brand, market share and sales outcomes. It’s not easy as there are hundreds of channels in digital alone and within each channel there are different best practices, different consumer mindsets, and different ways to reach and engage with consumers.

The solution is consumer journey mapping, which helps facilitate an integrated sales and media planning process by revealing which sales and media touchpoints play a role in the consumer decision-making process and how they work together to influence which product and brand is ultimately purchased.

This process begins by focusing in on consumer behaviours to understand what touchpoints are actually engaged at each stage of the purchase journey. This will whittle down the hundreds of channels available to marketers to a more manageable number that are truly relevant.

While surveys and in-depth interviews are commonly used to inform the mapping process, the best approach is to combine data from multiple sources. Digital clickstream, ad exposure, sales data and other passive data sources are powerful tools as they reflect what people actually do at a specific time, not simply what they recall doing some time later.

It’s critical to understand that there is no single path to purchase. Consumers have diverse needs and preferences, and there are a multitude of paths that can be taken to purchasing the same product.

For this reason, it’s important to segment consumers based on journeys that share similar behavioural characteristics. By whittling down the number of journeys to a manageable number, it becomes easier for marketers to identify specific journeys taken by consumer segments that yield the highest opportunity for brand growth.

A deep dive into those journeys allows marketers to isolate the media and sales touchpoints, or combination thereof, that most influence brand choice at each stage of the journey.

In this way, brands can develop a targeted and holistic examination of the consumer journey. It’s a set of maps that allow them to efficiently allocate resources across media and sales channels and orchestrate a seamless experience for the consumer.