Understanding customer journeys in a digital world

New practices have changed the way we purchase. According to a study conducted by MarketWeek, 81% of brand marketers have seen significant changes to their customer journeys in the past few months. Consumers are more cautious, with 37% remaining indoors to shop altogether. For some customers, digital marketing will be the only contact they see.

According to Google, on average, customers engage in over 900 digital interactions with a car dealership before they make a purchase. So, what does this information tell us about the customer experience? Your dealership marketing strategy needs to include multiple digital marketing touchpoints to reach your audience throughout their customer journey. A Google study highlighted the various touchpoints that typically happen during the updated car-buying journey.

Mapping the car buyer’s customer journey

Match your typical car buyer’s customer journey to your sales funnel. The sales funnel has many of the same steps as the customer buying journey, but it centers on the probability of turning leads into a sale, as well as seeing where potential customers are dropping off.

With that in mind, let’s take those stages of the car buyer’s journey — Awareness, Interest, Decision, and Action — and explore how to align them with your sales funnel so that your marketing efforts pay off:

  1. Awareness: The Awareness stage is where car buyers hear about your brand. In this stage, the user typically has taken the following actions:
  • Searched organically on Google
  • Asked family, friends, and coworkers
  • Saw an online ad
  • Engaged on social media

At this point, buyers may skip all other stages to buy — if they have already done their research — but you most likely will have to lead them to the next stage of the funnel.

  1. Interest: The Interest stage is when buyers are likely beginning their research.
  • Browsed newspaper ads
  • Watched video on YouTube
  • Searched on mobile
  • Read professional review
  • Located a dealer from mobile
  • Visited dealer website
  • Requested a quote online Your goal at this part of the funnel is not to sell to them, but to provide them with value-added information that helps them decide whether to move forward.
  1. Decision: The Decision stage is where you will make the ask.
  • Filled out a form
  • Visited dealership
  1. Action: The Action stage is where the purchase will occur. At this point, your goal is to focus on retention practices to foster a long-lasting relationship with the buyer, so they come to you when they’re ready to purchase again.

Each of your dealership marketing tactics should fit into these sales funnel categories. But how can you determine whether these digital marketing methods are successfully bringing leads through the sales funnel? This is where measuring your marketing success at each part of the funnel comes into play.

Tools and resources for marketing attribution

Changes can be made to improve your online presence while still saving money on ineffective digital marketing. Figuring out which of your dealership marketing tactics are the most effective is essential to reaching your overall marketing goals. Salesforce reports that “78% of marketers in the US say that a connected customer journey across all touchpoints and channels positively impacts customer journey.” A data-driven attribution model is vital. You may feel strongly about your social media strategy, but if it isn’t leading customers to your website to fill out a form or sign up to receive promotional emails, then you need to be sure the spend on this channel is returning in the investment. If not, it may be time to pivot or refocus the approach. Make sure you are tracking multi-touch attribution so you know if social was part of the customer journey.

You can start by establishing KPIs and performance metrics for each potential touchpoint and digital marketing tactic to determine their effectiveness. For example, during the ‘Awareness’ stage you may want data on how many customers clicked an ad and then went on to call a specific phone number.

It’s also critical to keep in mind that your sales funnel will narrow as customers move through it, since only the most dedicated and engaged customers will progress to the final stage.(This is yet another reason why it’s so important to measure your marketing performance at each point in the customer journey.)

All touch points and dealership marketing tactics are not created equal. Multi-channel attribution as a part of your customer journey analytics lets you know what’s working and what could be improved. While there are many challenges in complex customer journey and attribution reporting, multi-touch attribution and total visibility into data on your customer journey can help optimize your budget.

Each part of the buyer journey corresponds to specific interactions. For example, paid ads, Google searches, and a test-drive YouTube video (Mobile watch time of test drive videos on YouTube has grown by over 70% in the past two years) work better in the awareness stage since these dealership marketing tactics will likely be among the first marketing channels buyers encounter.