A touchpoint is any contact or interaction that a customer has with your product or service that might change how they feel about it.
These critical interactions within the customer journey can positively or negatively change the way customers perceive a brand, product, business, or service. They can create interest, inform, educate, impress, persuade, invite, help, delight or annoy the prospect or the customer.
Touchpoints are any physical or virtual component of your brand and its marketing that a customer may encounter before, during or after the purchase.
Every touchpoint in the customer journey is an opportunity to deliver positive experiences that encourage prospects to become customers, and customers to become loyal brand advocates.
Touchpoints include advertising, communication, a web page, blog posts, app, customer ratings, product reviews, word of mouth, FAQs, the physical store, point of sale, packaging, instructions, customer service, return policy or the warranty process. This is not a comprehensive list, but you get the idea.
Touchpoints are sometimes confused as channels, but they are two different things. A touchpoint is a customer interaction with your brand, a channel is where the interaction happens, like on TV, on your website or in the store.
Touchpoints provide the brand experience
Brand experience can create loyalty or defection. A salesforce study titled “State of the Connected Customer” found that 80% of customers say that the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services, and 57% of the customers stopped buying from a company because a competitor provided a better experience[i]
Grouping all the touchpoints chronologically presents a complete picture of the experience an average customer has with your business.
Individually, touchpoints nudge the customer down the funnel toward the path to purchase, collectively they tell your brand’s story, and provide the desired brand experience.
Each touchpoint has a role to play individually and collectively, just like the individual pieces of a symphony. When all the instruments are in sync, hitting the right cords at the right time, the collective experience is as desired by the composer.
Brand experience in a non-linear customer journey.
At the beginning of the 21st century, the average customer typically used two touch-points when buying an item, today over half of all customers regularly use more than four touchpoints.[ii]
A Google and IPSOS study revealed that customers who bought laptops on an average used 3.4 touchpoints. Adding to the challenge of providing a coordinated customer experience across the customer journey, is that a typical customer journey is less likely to be a straight line. It is non-linear and involves a complex network of touchpoints, both online and offline across multiple channels. Customers can go straight from awareness to purchase, skipping the in-between stages of the funnel or they can go online, offline and back again. On average, only about 11% of consumers can be treated strictly as online customers,12% as exclusively offline customers and the balance as both online and offline customers. [iii]
This mix of digital and physical interactions make it important and more difficult to deliver a synchronized and relevant brand experience across touchpoint, channels and devices that customers want.
Customers seek a tailored brand experience
The same Salesforce study mentioned earlier (Salesforce, 2018) found that customers are looking for contextualized and connected interactions at every turn. 59% of customers would choose companies that provide tailored engagement based on past interaction, from product recommendations to proactive service.[iv]
Company’s don’t have much control over touchpoints like word of mouth and reviews, but most are in their power. Yet marketers can often annoy customers with disconnected and irrelevant communications touchpoints and channels.
To provide a synchronized customer experience, it is vital to discover all your online and offline touchpoints, understand their individual and collective impact on customer experience and identify points at which customers are most open to influence.
Doing a touchpoint analysis requires data. However, most marketers only have access to data at some touchpoints because not all physical and digital touchpoints are easily measurable. Further, the available data may reside in disparate data silos, making it difficult to combine and analyze.
In the absence of available data, here’s how to identify, understanding and prioritizing your touchpoints.
Step1: Audit your existing touchpoints
List and categorize your known touchpoints according to when they occur, before purchase, during purchase and after purchase.
Step 2: Walk the customer journey
Adopt a customer mindset and walk in your customer’s shoes through the customer journey (link). Work with your marketing, sales and customer service people and answer the following questions.
- How your customers seek solutions to a problem that your product/service category can solve.
- How they go about identifying available solutions to their problem?
- How do they evaluate the solutions?
- How they make a purchase decision?
- How they encounter the business after the purchase?
Walking through the customer’s journey step-by-step will help identify gaps in your existing touchpoints.
Step 3: Ask your customers
Have your customer, and that of your competition, walk you through their customer journey. Qualitative research techniques like individual or group interviews with your target audience work well in identifying the touchpoints on the path to purchase.
Step 4: Map and plot your customer journeys
Compare the three lists of touchpoints generated in the first three steps to help identify any missing and redundant touchpoints in your customer journey before, during and after purchase.
Recurring patterns indicate the relative importance of each touchpoint in the customer journey. These findings can be further validated using quantitative surveys to better understand and confirm the points where customers are most open to influence and how you can interact with them at those points.
Turning insight into action
Knowing your touchpoints and understanding their influence allows you to prioritize your touchpoints and allocate resources and spending, but that is not enough. The end goal is to optimize the customer experience at every point to ensure that the customer journey as a whole delivers the desired customer experience.
To optimize touchpoints requires measuring customer satisfaction at every interaction. This can be done by running customer feedback surveys at each critical touchpoint or by deploying customer experience management software. With this information, you can measure results and make improvements to enable a better customer experience across every touchpoint to boost customer satisfaction.
Understanding the influence of each touchpoint in moving the potential customer further down the funnel helps marketers realign strategy and resources to where they have the most impact, thereby improving marketing effectiveness.
[i] “State of the Connected Customer Report Outlines Changing Standards for Customer Engagement.” Salesforce.com, Salesforce Research, 2019, www.salesforce.com/company/news-press/stories/2019/06/061219-g/.
[ii] Marketing Week. “Omnichannel Stats You Don’t Want To Miss.” Knexus, Marketing Week, 20 Aug. 2018, www.knexusgroup.com/show/blog/Five-Omnichannel-Statistics-You-Need-to-Know/.
[iii] Google CEE & IPSOS. “Study Reveals the Complexity of Modern Consumer Paths to Purchase and How Brands Can Make Inroads.” Google, Google, 2019, www.thinkwithgoogle.com/intl/en-cee/insights-trends/research-data/study-reveals-complexity-modern-consumer-paths-purchase-and-how-brands-can-make-inroads/.
[iv] “State of the Connected Customer Report Outlines Changing Standards for Customer Engagement.” Salesforce.com, Salesforce Research, 2019, www.salesforce.com/company/news-press/stories/2019/06/061219-g/.