McKinsey & Company tells digital marketers to increase agility, remove friction and trust your data

Customers are an unreasonable lot, and digital has made them more so. They want their information when it suits them, and they want seamless integration across the whole omni-channel experience — shops, call centres, mobiles, computers and tablets.

Marketers need to tap that sentiment to sell more widgets, and companies need to make sure that behind the brand, the whole commercial platform hangs together — from conception, through the supply chain and into the buyer’s hot little hands. And back again, if the business has been smart enough to close the loop.

According to a new paper from McKinsey & Company called “Digitizing the consumer decision journey” authored by Edwin van Bommel, David Edelman, and Kelly Ungerman, big data and the Internet of Things will help improve how digital marketing can help companies understand the consumer decision journey.

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(McKinsey & Company’s David Edelman, Edwin van Bommel and Kelly Ungerman)

What is a perfect consumer decision journey? McKinsey & Co takes the example of a young couple, Mike and Linda, looking for a washer and dryer for their new house. They research the retailers’ web sites and identify three models they like, add them to a wish list and decide to see them for real in a shop.

An optimised cross-channel experience would:

  • Help Mike and Linda find the nearest shop and give them directions with Google Maps;
  • Identify Mike and Lisa crossing the doors of the shop, thanks to their mobiles, and then send an alert to their phones welcoming them to the shop and offering them special offers;
  • Give them directions to the proper section in the shop and give the possibility, via a call-button to call a seller to ask for information;
  • Synchronise with other applications such as mails, texts, Facebook, a “virtual designer” app and an app to compare prices, so that Mike and Linda can ask to family and friends what they think about this particular washer and dryer, or see what would their house look like with the washer and dryer;
  • Allow them to pay quickly with Mike’s “smartwatch” and book a date for delivery;
  • Send an alert on the delivery day that the truck will deliver the product within the next 30 minutes;
  • Send another message, three weeks later, about offers for other products, to restart the cycle.

According to the report, companies have to improve the “3 Ds” which are the key for the perfect consumer decision journey.

Discover: build an analytic engine

Data availability is not the issue, says McKinsey. The problem, rather, is that a lot of data is unstructured or disconnected. “Tools like Clickfox and Teradata can help marketers gather these data” and thus structure all data in a central server. By building this “analytic engine”, companies could use the data to make “shop diagnostics”. Applications such as SAS and R and algorithms could thus, for instance, help determine that a particular range of consumers in a particular area read more emails on Saturdays. Marketers can then change the e-mail campaign and send e-mails on Saturdays only.

The pay off can be big … companies using these types of advanced analytics have seen significantly improved click-through rates and higher conversion rates (between three and ten times) … Using data to make better decisions can increase marketing productivity by between 15 and 20 per cent.

Design: create frictionless experiences

Companies must design the whole journey of the customer, just like in Mike and Linda’s example in which the retailer had designed the experience of the customer at every stage — from the research on the Internet to the messages they keep on receiving after purchasing the product. How can companies create similar frictionless experiences? They can create 24/7 digital “window shops” to test product ideas and collect rapid feedback. They can also offer “gaming” possibilities if they sell complex products: it allows consumers to test the product virtually (visual presentation, test options and prices) before they decide to buy it.

Deliver: build a more agile organisation

Analysing the data and creating the whole consumer decision journey would not be possible without a well-organised team that has people with different skills. It is important that this team meet frequently to brainstorm and talk about how to improve the consumer decision journey and how to use the data. The organisation must adopt a “war-room mentality” — being able to say which campaign works and which campaign doesn’t.

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(Video link: McKinsey’s David Edelman explains how purchasing decisions are made in a digital world. Source: McKinsey & Company)

According to the authors, successful companies will likely resemble tech companies and, interestingly, publishers — effectively using big data and digital touchpoints to drive growth and reduce costs. They will do this “while producing and managing a variety of content in real time across multiple platforms to create breakthrough customer experiences.

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