A touchpoint can be defined as any way a consumer can interact with a business, whether it be person-to-person, through a website, an app or any form of communication (“Touchpoint Glossary”, n.d.). When consumers come in contact with these touchpoints it gives them the opportunity to compare their prior perceptions of the business and form an opinion (Stein, & Ramaseshan, 2016).
Touchpoints in marketing communications are the varying ways that a brand interacts and displays information to prospective customers and current customers. Touchpoints allow customers to have experiences every time they “touch’ any part of the product, service, brand or organization, across multiple channels and various points in time (Pantano and Viassone, 2015 and Zomerdijk and Voss, 2010). Customers' opinions and perceptions are largely influenced by the contact that is made with these touchpoints, which can be positive or negative depending wholly on the individual person (Meyer, & Schwager, 2007). Touchpoints have the ability to influence a consumers buying or intent to purchase, all throughout the five stages of the buyer purchasing decision-making process: Problem recognition, information search, the evaluation of alternatives, purchase decision, and post-purchase behaviour (Kotler, Burton, Deans, Brown, Armstrong, 2013). Touchpoints can happen in both a Business-to-Business setting and a Business-to-Consumer setting (Lemke, Clark, & Wilson, 2010). A touchpoint is a message or way a brand reaches out to their target market providing engagement as it allows the brand to be seen by the prospective customer in a favorable way. The goal effective touch points is that it will create opportunity for the purchaser to choose their brand over another competitor.
Touchpoints are an element in the IMC (integrated marketing communications), which portray the willingness on behalf of the brand communicators to use specific communication motives to reach the appropriate target audience. This is used to engage customers in the pre- and post-purchase experience when they purchase a good or service. Touch points allow prospective customers to become knowledgeable on the brand and the benefits offered and allow them to make a decision to whether they will buy the product or service. An example of a brand using effective touchpoints in their marketing communications is Toyota selling the Yaris car model to the youth segment. The way in which Toyota did this was firstly advertising the Yaris in television programs such as Prison Break, whose viewers are typically in the age bracket they were targeting. Toyota hosted an Internet contest where consumers could create their own three-minute television commercials. This method engaged the youth segment as it was interactive and let the prospect consumers experience the brand. Toyota also knew that the youth age group were social and would likely attend social functions; this meant that Yaris cars were featured in many sponsored events. They were also integrated into television comedy programs, which attracted their target segmentation during adverts. (Shimp, 2005, c2009) Touchpoints in after sales market are Reception, service desk, Service manager, Dialogue inspection, workshops, Rental car.
Pre-purchase, purchase and post-purchase
The consumer decision-making process is highly influenced by brand touch-points. In saying this, touch-points influence the pre-purchase, purchase and post-purchase stages of the decision making process. This is because they are constantly in contact with the consumer by way of consumer experiences with a brand or service, advertising (all forms), contact with employees, social media and many other ways. Each stage of the decision making process is also an opportunity for the brand to influence the consumer's decisions, regardless of whether or not the consumer has made a decision to purchase.
There are many ways in which touch-points can influence the pre-purchase stage of the consumer's decision making process. The pre-purchase stage can be said to be one of the most important stages of the consumer decision making process as it is where the consumer recognizes that they have a need for a product or a service. It is at this point of realization that pre-purchase touch-points are crucial, because of the fact that this is the stage where the consumer actively searches for information about a certain product. Such a search for information can be conducted via advertising, social media, internet search, word-of-mouth and family and friends’ experiences etc. It is important that during this stage, in order for consumers to consider purchasing from a brand, that they create relevant touch-points that increase brand appeal. To further reiterate such a statement, in the present day, consumers have access to multiple electronic devices such as smartphones, laptops, tablets and television and are sometimes connected to all such devices simultaneously. As a result, brands may not acquire the desired amount of exposure because of the consumer's tendency to frequently switch from one device to another and from one task to another task. Therefore, brands must create short and engaging advertisements in order to capture the attention of the consumer during the pre-purchase stage of his or her decision making process. Such action will ensure that the consumer will be able to relate to a brand and will instil the belief that the brand has their interests at heart. Although brands or companies cannot precisely manage the touch-points at the pre-purchase stage to work in their favour, they can only do so much as to make sure that they monitor the channels by which consumers search for product/service information to make sure they are readily accessible.
Touchpoints for the ‘purchase’ stage of the decision making process are somewhat more direct, whereby the consumer evaluates the information they searched for in the pre-purchase stage. Evaluation in this sense is when the consumer has selected a set of brands from their information search and compares them to one another. At this point of the consumer's decision making process, brand touch-points become the difference between a decision to buy or a decision not to buy. Touch-points during the purchase stage, as mentioned earlier, are more direct. The reason is that touch-points during the purchase stage can be found in store (or office if looking for a service) as store layout, through the sales team and staff, the point of sale and many other elements. The store layout is a whole touch-point in itself as it includes all types of atmospherics that help influence consumers. Such atmospherics involve using the senses to relate to consumers on a more personal level through the use of store scents, visual appearance, music and the ability to touch products. This can be further explained using the concept of ‘The Consumer’s Culture’ where the psychological core of the consumer determines the effectiveness of brand touch-points and influence. When consumers are exposed to such elements of a brand, it is at that point where they make the decision to buy or even the decision not to buy. To reduce the chance of having the consumer turn away from buying a particular brand, there is a need to ensure that staff are properly trained in product knowledge and also in interpersonal skills. The reason for this is because the staff touchpoints are a physical and human representation of what brands are all about. Therefore, it is important to note that in order for the customer to have a sense of trust in the brand or the company, the staff need to build rapport with the customer to retain such trust. This can further be established at the point of sale where the customer purchases a product and feels that the product they have chosen may serve their needs.
Moreover, emphasizing the fact that touchpoints are any point in which the brand communicates with the consumer, the post-purchase stage of the decision making process is where the retention of consumers becomes vital. In saying this, examples of post-purchase touchpoints are, customer satisfaction surveys, product warranties, post-purchase customer service and support, loyalty programs and even billing processes. All such touchpoints enable brands or companies to retain customers and nurture the relationship between consumer and brand. These touchpoints also provide brands with a sense of being able to control the post-purchase element of a consumer's decision making process in a more effective manner. This is done in the hope that customers can relate to the brand on a positive level. To further highlight the importance of the post-purchase touchpoints, there is a need for brands to be readily available to and accessible by customers in order for them to remain trusting of the brand, rather than being perceived by the customer as a quick opportunity to make a sale with no post-purchase care.
A brand touchpoint, also known as a brand encounter is formed when a consumer is exposed to a brand. This exposure can occur in many different forms such as an advertisement featured on television, radio, in a newspaper or magazine. Other forms of advertising could include a display on a billboard located on the roadside, discussions regarding the product on talkback radio, a product in a window display or a verbal discussion between friends and family, all giving exposure to the brand. All of these touchpoints create a “brand experience” for the consumer .
Touch points are the first association that a customer has with a product or service offered by a company or individual and are the contact points between a customer and said provider of services (Clatworthy, 2011). The touch point offers a link between the customer and the service, acting as a go between of what the customers wants and what the service provider is offering, providing a central service in the communication between customer and supplier (2011: 16). The touch point is the first interaction that a customer has with a company and that interaction is considered as the starting point of a customer journey (2011:15). The customer journey/experience is the full involvement that a customer has with a particular brand, starting at the first connection between customer and service, and ending with the purchasing of a product or service and the advocacy of said product or service to others (Richardson, 2010). Touch points provide the basis and foundations for information gathering techniques used by customers.
Within modern marketing, business and service providing there is a focus on the experiences of the customer base during the customer-supplier interaction (Voss and Zomerdijk, 2007). The customer journey perspective in marketing highlights the importance of multiple components that interact with each other and the customer, with the visual, audio and social aspects of a marketing strategy being crucial for a successful customer journey (2007: 2). The strong importance placed on the customer experience over pure product has been established due to the increasingly competitive marketplace in which products and services exist (Khanna, Jacob, Yadav, 2014). Touchpoints make up an important and effective means of interacting with a customer base and build a notion and image of a brand within the memory of a customer. Successful businesses utilize touchpoints to build an image of what they can offer to customers, straightforward communication between parties and value that comes with the purchase of products or services (Hogan, Almiquist, Glynn, 2005).
Usage in everyday business communications
Businesses that offer products or services directly to customers use touchpoints in order to improve the relationship with the consumer and create brand recognition within their minds (Roll, 2015). Companies that offer services such as transport, mobile phone packages, flights, and rental cars are creating awareness of themselves through the intensive or minimal, targeted or broad use of touchpoints (Hogan, et al., 2005) which portray certain positive aspects of their company to prospective clients and customers. The choosing of (a) suitable touch point/s send messages to the customers about what values the company holds in high esteem. This is particularly important in the marketing of products in heavily filled marketplaces such as telecommunications, with companies producing tech-information services to retain customers in a competitive marketplace (Ojiako, Chipulu and Graesser, 2012).
Touchpoints are important in the everyday communication of business ideas, creating brand encounters with potential customers, the satisfactory results of purchase and the retention of previous customers. Pre-purchase experiences of a customer are in relation to their behaviors before the business interaction between consumer and company. These experiences before purchase are crucial in the marketing of a brand or product (Gardial, Clemons, Woodruff, Schumann and Burns, 1994) as potential customers base their decisions on direct marketing decisions such as price and incentives, or are coerced by advertising and marketing campaigns. These touch points are created in order to influence customers before they have even decided on a product to purchase, coercive and invisible methods of design assert systematic authority over potential customers and become systems that create value before purchase has happened (Mager and Sung, 2011). The in store purchase experience is the next point of interest in the customer's interaction with a brand. When a customer has decided to purchase a product the sales agents, packaging of the product and in-store marketing are touch points that are in use to bridge the communication gap between brand and customer (Marin, 2014). These touch points are in place to specifically to influence the customer in regards to which purchase they make through effective control of layout and in store marketing (Marin, 2014). Despite online shopping being in a steady growth period, the fundamentally important aspect of customer interaction on a face to face level is still needed and aided through the use of in-store touch points (Drodge, 2015). These specific demographics, such as millennials and are adept at utilizing different means and technologies in order to acquire products and services that fit their needs. A touchpoint such as an in-store tablet computer highlighting the newest promotions, bridges the gap between pre and current shopping experiences and give customers the feeling of being in constant communication with a brand that appeals to them. The stage in the relationship between brand and customer that comes last in the purchase order is the post purchase experience of the customer. The creation of a post purchase marketing strategy continues to rely on touch points to connect brand and retailer with customer. Personalization and review components through the usage of hashtags and loyalty schemes are techniques and instances of touchpoints that continue the shopping experience after the customer has left the store (Beyeler, 2015). Through the use of product advocacy, customers are also in contact with brands after the purchase has been completed, lending their consumer expertise to how the product functions and recommending said product to other potential consumers. The success of post purchase touchpoints relies on the advocacy of customers to resell the treatment they received during their in store purchase experience. The most prized customer is one who recommends the brand to others, feeling that their expectations have been met and they achieved what they wanted in store (Flynn, 2013). The reliance on the quality of the product or service itself is a crucial way for brands to build a loyal customer base and this is an important touch point. With the quality of the product being of high importance so too is the continuation of the brand-customer communication relationship through after purchase touch points (Flynn, 2013)
Brand customer touchpoint types
Within the customer journey from pre- to post-purchase there are different stages at which communication between customer and brand occurs through the use of touchpoints. The categories of touchpoints range from brand originated, intrinsic, highly controllable mediums to customer initiated and unexpected modes of communication (Brand Customer Touch Points, 2007). These methods of communication through touch points include:
A company-created touchpoint is one that is created and controlled by the company or brand (Brand Customer Touch Points, 2007). These touchpoints are pre-planned modes of communicating a message through physical channels, such as banner adverts and in store decorations. These methods are used to publicize certain directives to customers. These types of touch points operate in a traditional manner, visibly advertising a message the brand wants to convey.
These intrinsic touchpoints are in use when a customer is in store or in the act of purchasing a product or service (EClub News, 2012). Touch points such as timely and adept customer service is in constant use during the purchase period. These touch points are often human oriented, messages being communicated between customer service operator or staff and actual customers. This type of touch point is vital for communicating a brand's message and modus operandi, be it a family store that looks after customers on a personal level or a slick global company that can offer the best prices (Brand Customer Touch Points, 2007).
Unexpected touchpoints are out of the control of the brands themselves but can be influenced by good business practices. These touch points are the communication from outside stake-holders, often dissatisfied or satisfied customers. These shareholders communicate between themselves, higher powers within the brand or company and review websites. These communications are touch points which hugely affect the reputation of the brand. The unexpected touch points of a company are out of their hands but also reliant on the decisions made by customers in regards to their pre purchase, in store and post purchase experiences. It's not only customers but employees that also create unexpected touch points, speaking about their treatment within a company, pay rates and other customers with family or friends (EClub News, 2012). This all has unexpected consequences to a brand, either positive or negative, that can affect reputation of their product or service.
Much like the unexpected touchpoints, customer-initiated touchpoints are a communication between customer and brand directly, without purchase. Unlike other touchpoints, these customer-initiated touchpoints are created solely by customers relaying the experiences they received from the brand/company directly back to the brand/company. Again, these are particularly difficult to control directly yet can be managed effectively and can portray a positive message to customers through actions such as a help desk or suggestions line. These touch points, created by customers and transferred directly to companies/brands are effective ways of keeping in communication with customers even after they have finished their purchasing, evolving a brand and growing a customer base.
Brand Touchpoint Wheel
The Brand Touchpoint Wheel displays the various ways in which consumers interact with an organisation's brand, creating higher brand education. Brand touch point segments can be split into pre-purchase, purchase experience and post-purchase experience these all help influence the consumer's purchasing decision .
The pre-purchase experience shows the diverse range of interactions the consumer has with the brand and product before they enter the store. This touchpoint interaction is devised to increase brand awareness and increase a consumer's perception and expectation of the brand. These touchpoints should highlight the brand's features, and benefits over other competing products increasing the brand's value to the consumers. The pre purchase segment in the brand touch point wheel allows the customer to decide if the product or service will fulfil their needs and wants. The benefits of pre purchase touch points are that they engage prospective customers, as well as retaining current customers. During this segment of the buying process people have access to knowledge of the brand, which allows them to see if they will gain from selecting this product or service over another competing brand. An example of a pre-purchase touchpoint is public relations. Public relations creates positivity around the brand, as well as media influence over prospective customers. Websites and advertising are other pre-purchase touchpoints, which allow customers to engage and learn about products or services.
The purchase experience touchpoints help the consumer shift from considering the brand to actually making a purchase. These interactions include presentation of the store, point of sale, displays and assistance from a sales person. These touchpoints and interactions influence the consumer's purchasing decision and help the consumer feel confident about the product they are purchasing, maximizing the value of the product.
The post-purchase touchpoints are those that appear after the sale has taken place to maximize the experience the consumer has received. This can be achieved through after sales services such as loyalty programs, newsletters and emails to ensure ongoing sales. Consumers who have experienced quality customer service in store are more likely to return for further purchases. These touchpoints increase brand loyalty, providing long term value between the consumers and the company. Brand touch point segments can be split into pre purchase, purchase experience and post purchase experience.
The pre-purchase segment in the brand touch point wheel allows the customer to decide if the product or service will fulfill their needs and wants. The benefits of pre purchase touch points are that they engage prospective customers, as well as retaining current customers. During this segment of the buying process people have access to knowledge of the brand, which allows them to see if they will gain from selecting this product or service over another competing brand. An example of a pre-purchase touchpoint is public relations. Public relations creates positivity around the brand, as well as media influence over prospective customers. Websites and advertising are other pre-purchase touchpoints, which allow customers to engage and learn about products or services.
The purchase experience is the point in the buying process, which converts the prospective customer into actually buying the product or service if they see the benefits are great enough. Packaging, in-store sampling and price- value relationship all affect the purchase experience. The customer must feel they have reaped benefits that are greater than the price they have paid for the product or service. The Brand Touch Point Wheel demonstrates that the sales force is a large contributor in this experience, as this will leave the consumer feeling either satisfied or dissatisfied with the purchase process. (Khanna, 2014)
The post purchase experience is the interaction with satisfaction the consumer receives after the sale or service has taken place. This is the stage where the brand and the customer may commence a long-term relationship. And the buyer can choose to become a part of the brand's community by joining a loyalty program or agreeing to receive promotional emails. The use of loyalty programs and emailing systems are techniques that maximize customer experience even after they have left the store. (Beyeler, 2015) If the customer is satisfied with the purchase of their product or service, they will most likely be a recurring buyer and will recommend the product or service to their peers. (Longoria S. D.)
Touchpoints and consumer experience
A consumer's brand experience is based on the interactions they incur with the brand. Their experience can be shaped through both direct and indirect experiences contributing to their overall perception of the brand . Touchpoints create value for consumers and the customer-brand relationship as they come into several contact points with the brand over time .
There are three types of brand touchpoints that influence the consumer's brand experience and consideration to purchase. The first is brand owner touchpoints which is any form of brand advertising directly controlled by the company. The second is retail touchpoints which include retail advertising such as promotions and a range of in-store communications which are also directly controlled by the company. The third is the range of third-party touchpoints which includes word of mouth, peer observation and traditional earned media . Some third-party touchpoints can be detrimental to the consumer's perception of the brand specifically word of mouth. The negative experience of one customer can create negativity towards the product and influence prospective purchasers turning them against the brand .
Touchpoint interactions create benefits for consumers through the two-way communication between the customer and brand. This communication strengthens the customer-brand relationship, increasing experiential value, brand satisfaction and trust, providing a memorable brand experience for the consumer.
Touch points are used in order to persuade as well as engage customers to commit to a specific brand over other competing brands. Brand advertising is advertising by the owner of the brand or the retailer, which will give potential customers information that may persuade them into buying goods and services. In-store communications is a touch point, which includes viewing in store posters, and seeing display goods, it is the communication between seller and buyer in the store environment. Third party touch points are elements such as word of mouth, which can be, defined as any conversation held in person or online discussing a specific brand. Peer observation is another third party touch point as it is the effect of other customers in the consumption or retail environment. Traditional media is another such as news coverage and editorial information.
A study at the University of South Australia conducted by the marketing school, explored the effect of different touch points on brand consideration. The following categories were evaluated; 1. Brand advertisements, 2. In-Store communications 3. Word of mouth, 4. Peer observation and 5.Traditional media
From the study concluded which touchpoints were the most influential on consumers.
The highest ranked touchpoint was in-store communications, an example being the display of products in retail outlets, and the communication of information from seller to buyer delivered by a salesperson. In store communication and display of goods led to unplanned purchases in the retail environment. Multi sensory communication from store to customer where a customer can visually see products, smell them, and taste them such as supermarket in store cooking demonstrations. This creates an opportunity for unplanned purchases.
The second ranked touch point was brand advertising and then peer observation. Whether the advertising is endorsement by celebrities or people regarded highly in peer groups. Visually seeing another peer wearing or using a specific product or service can entice a prospective buyer into choosing that same good. Word of mouth was ranked next; there was more positivity in peer observation as a touch point in comparison however. Ranked last was traditional media, which could be explained by the shift to guerrilla type marketing styles. This is a new way of engaging public customers in a more inexpensive way, while keeping customers encouraged to buy. (Navrátilová, 2015) (Baxendale, 2015)
The way in which the brand reaches out to the individual is what leaves them with a customer experience in the hopes that they will remember the brand. Customer experience is important in the communication process from seller to buyer as if the product or service is not promoted and people cannot see what they will receive for the transaction of purchasing the good their willingness to buy will decline.
Touchpoints allow marketers to deliver brand messages, increase consumer's knowledge of the brand and strengthen the company's customer-brand relationship, while adding value to the brand or product . When planning marketing touchpoints, marketers focus their attention on creating touchpoints that are most critical in forming and maintaining consumer relationships with the brand . Each company has communication objectives they look to achieve through having effective communication with their consumers through persuasion, influencing the brand voice and personality, creating a positive feeling towards the brand and driving sales.
When a consumer enters a store they intend to convert their pre-existing intentions into purchases. These pre-existing intentions are formed through pre-purchase experience touchpoints. These touchpoints include advertising, promotions, social media, word of mouth among others which allow consumers to interact with the brand before entering the store. However, the store itself also contains in-store communications which have the ability to introduce new brands to the consumer and influence spontaneous purchases. Of the aforementioned touchpoints the company only has direct control over the brand's advertising, however still has an influence on other touchpoints. Maintaining a diverse range of touchpoints is vital in evolving the consumer's attitudes and behaviours towards the brand .
Touchpoint interactions create benefits for the company as they are able to access feedback to monitor customer satisfaction, providing them with customer insights and allowing them to understand and meet the needs of their customers. They also allow the company to deliver a greater number of brand messages, emphasise promises between the brand and the customer and increase customer involvement with the brand. Traditional brand touchpoints have been utilised for many years such as, ad campaigns, media advertising, promotions and events. In present day, non-marketing communication touchpoints seem to have a larger influence on consumers and their relationship with the brand, such as word of mouth and social media .
Customer-initiated touchpoints are influenced through consumers and their experience with the company, however are not created by the company. Customer-initiated touchpoints can include product use, products purchased as well as visiting a brand's website. The most influential customer-initiated touchpoint is word of mouth where their experience was shared and may influence other consumer's perceptions towards this brand . Marketing today is more complex than ever as there are so many different ways brands and products can be communicated to consumers .
Paid touchpoints refer to different forms of advertising that marketers use to deliver their planned messages and communicate to consumers through different paid mediums. Paid touchpoints are traditional forms of media such as television, print, and radio. Using multiple different media platforms to communicate the same message is very effective and reaches a larger target audience.
Television advertising is a visual touch point that companies pay for the audience to see almost anywhere, their home, waiting area, malls, and any other place televisions could be available. This touch point has a very strong effect on the audience that for some it could be equivalent of a salesperson (Fill, et al.,2013). Television advertisement can be highly captive and adsorbent. It has the advantages of Multi-sensory appeal; sound, music, dialogue, movement, photos, written scripture, product and so on ("Television advertising pros and cons" n.d.). These high-impact visuals create a perfect brand image in audience's mind (Fill et al.,2013). Television advertisement is excellent paid touch point for mass marketing. It reaches way more audience than newspaper, magazine or radios ("Television advertising pros and cons" n.d.). These days, companies can choose a target market segment not only for the specific audience demographically but also geographically; specific local areas. (Leigh, n.d.). This is a huge advantage of Television advertisement. But when it comes to disadvantages for this paid touch pint there is long list too. First of all, it is the most expensive paid touch point a company can choose. It finishes the advertisement budgets of small businesses really quickly ("Television advertising pros and cons" n.d.). Initial production cast for the commercial is also very high (Fill, et al.,2013). It includes paying writers, actors, film industry, advertisement agency and soon ("Television advertising pros and cons" n.d.). Second biggest problem with this paid touch point is that it is very short lived. Indeed, some seconds. Multiple studies also show that most audience can't recall the commercials they see on T.V (Fill, et al., 2013). This is also because during a commercial break audience are shown heaps of different commercial messages. Regardless of all these disadvantages many big companies, with big budgets, prefer this paid touch point in order to target mass audience ("Television advertising pros and cons" n.d.).
Another form paid touch-point is print which involves newspaper advertising, magazines, brochures, point of sale, printed material at retail outlets and letterbox drops. Print advertisements can provide detailed information on the product however is in steady decline with the increase in social media .
The magazine is the most specialized paid touch points. in print media. It has many advantages compare to other print media, but it could be expensive. Magazines are the paid touch points that offer very high-Quality images, high-gloss, heavy paper, elegant and beautiful photos that really attracts the attention of a reader (Ives, 2011). High- quality magazine advertisement boosts the favor-ability by consumers (Appel, 1987). Furthermore, magazines are really highly selective (Fill, Hughes, & De Francesco, 2013). Each magazine targets a specific demographic (Russel, n.d.) such as sports. By advertising in a sports magazine a company can reach the targeted audience; people who love sports, and can advertise sports related products. In addition to this, magazines are kept for the longest period of time compare to other print media (Fill, et al., 2013). This is because their expiry dates in expanded by their presence in doctor's clinic, beauty salon and other many waiting area (Russel, n.d.). So, it advertises the brand continuously. Additionally, people pay to get magazines (Fill, et al., 2013). This increase the chances for them to go through all the pages increasing the chances for the brand encounter. One more advantage of magazine advertisement is that it easily can become a multi-platform advertising channel (Fill, et al., 2013). Like; consumers reading the magazine (Offline), or consumers reading the magazine online. Online would come under using phones, computers, laptops, tablets and so on to read the magazine on their web page. On the contrary, magazine advertisements do have some disadvantages. For example, magazines are not good for mass advertisement at all (Russel, n.d.), because magazines only target specific demographics. Also, there could be many other advertisements on the magazine. This could cause confusion for consumers to choose between the brands. Additionally, whatever magazine a company chooses for advertisement, it would be expensive (Russel, n.d.). Another problem with magazine advertisement is that there is no flexibility with the deadline ("The advantages and disadvantages of magazine advertising", 2012). Sometimes a company would have to get the campaign ready two to three months before the publications of the magazine (Fill, et al., 2013). Overall, magazine advertisement could be great for target demographics. Some ways to deals with the disadvantages of magazines advertisements would be to prepare the campaign in well advance so that there would be minimum problems. Secondly, the company should try to make a very creative and attractive campaign in order to break through the clutter and appeal to a reader (Fill, et al., 2013).
Radio is another paid touch point. Radio advertisement is known as the "theater of minds" as there are no visuals (Mateo, n.d.), so listeners have to imagine the brand image on their own. Good commercials on radio encourage listeners to have a unique picture of the brand (Fill, et al., 2013). If it is used effectively it makes emotional connection with the listeners (Peacock, 2007). This could work in the favor of brand in long term. Another, big advantage of radio advertisement is that it is very cheap compare to other paid touch points (Ian, n.d.). A company can reach potential consumers frequently at low cost (Fill, etal.,2013). Reaching frequently, is very beneficial for emotional connection and thus brand favor-ability (Peacock, 2007). Just like magazine, Radio advertisement also reaches different demographics for targeting specific audience (Fill, et al., 2013). Different times of a day are for different kind of demographics, depending on what kind of programs are on, at that time. The most effective time for radio advertisement are the peak traffic hours; as people like to listen to radio when they are stuck in traffic (Fill, et al., 2013). Most companies like to have talk-back sessions about their brand. General people discuss on the radio what they think about a brand and where they encountered that brand. This could be a great way for brand awareness as well as brand loyalty. It is particularly excellent for small local businesses (Ian, n.d.). Radio advertising has quite a lot of disadvantages too. Just like magazine, Radio is not good for mass marketing, as it focuses on segment of market (Fill, et al., 2013). Another big problem with this is that; if listeners don't like a particular song and the advertisement was to come in that song; they switch the channel and therefore miss out on advertisement (Neha, 2011). Furthermore, there is a lot of background noise in radio advertisement; like background music, listeners doing their chores.(Ian, n.d.). Regardless, of these disadvantages many small business use radio advertisement as their paid touch point.
There are a number of other aspects of traditional advertising that are also forms of paid touch points. They include brand written promotional clothing, promotional pens, calendars, writing pads and company cars with brand advertising to name a few .
The communication objective for advertising is typically for consumers to learn about the brand and the company and be informed about what can be offered to them. These more traditional forms are slowly declining as everything is online, through the digital platform .
Social media use
Social media and the Internet have produced new technology based communication channels, known as digital platforms. Digital platforms have played a major role in the communication abilities between a company and its consumers.
Social media is a fast evolving marketing channel that continues to have a strong influence in our daily lives. It is an effective touchpoint that targets a wide range of people in a cost-effective way. There is a delicate balance when managing the marketing of a brand through social media to maintain its reputation, i.e., protecting it against negativity, and increasing brand awareness through new touchpoints while encouraging profound connections between the brand and the consumer .
As consumers are continually engaging with technology, the expectations of a company or brand have been altered. Some marketers view social media as a way of providing promotional messages and offers to potential consumers. However, social media such as Facebook, is envisioned to be a platform connecting friends and colleagues worldwide. Social media is a way for companies to communicate their brand to consumers .
Research shows the most frequently used social media digital touchpoints are Twitter at 96 percent, Facebook at 94 percent and LinkedIn at 83 per cent . All touchpoints on social media have a high level of interaction and communication between the company and the consumer, through the ability to post and respond directly to comments. Ninety-two percent of companies have created a Facebook page, and companies that create multiple posts of both information and promotional material maintain a high interaction with their consumers. Through social media touchpoints the opportunity for a two-way conversation with customers can develop allowing the company to gain customer feedback instantly and monitor customer satisfaction. This two-way interaction is becoming a co-creative process where consumers are encouraged to relay feedback of their preferences and experiences of a brand for the company's consideration and comparison to improve their existing advertising of that brand . However, if a company is not consistently active on social media this can lead to a high level of customer created content. This can result in both positive and negative outcomes as social media is great for networking a product but negative comments can turn consumers against a product or brand .
Consumer decision-making process
All touchpoint are tools brands can influence consumers either directly or indirectly throughout the consumer decision making process.
The consumer decision making process can be categorised into three key stages: pre-purchase, purchase and post-purchase.
At each of these stages a brand has a number of opportunities to use various strategies with touch points to expose their brand and influence a consumer's behaviour in the decision making process.
This is where consumers first come into contact with a brand and can be either conscious or sub conscious.
This is where brands use advertising or marketing and can choose from a variety of different channels to connect with consumers. Traditional channels of media used include: websites, direct mail/samples, email campaigns/rewards, coupons, incentives, deals and promotions.
As the market place becomes increasingly complex and overloaded with various advertising, brands must consider carefully about how they can connect with consumers and how it will be most efficient without getting lost in the hustle of the market place
At this stage the consumer has decided to purchase the product or service but the consumer decision making process is not complete.
Touch points here still have a great influence on the sale and reflects on the brand.
Touch points at the purchase stage include: Sales agent or person, store placement, packaging and the point of sale.
- A sales agent has the ability to up sell or provide the consumer with more knowledge of what they are selling.
- Store placement or placement of touch points is key as a brand wants to be seen by consumers before they come into contact with another brand.
The consumer wants to easily locate what they are looking for or they could be exposed to a brand and their product or service that they have not thought about before.
- Packaging: Packaging of a product or the way brand conveys its image should represent a brand and its product or service. Similar to placement, packaging needs to capture consumer attention in a way that will encourage them to purchase that brand over another.
As the market changes and evolves, brands must maintain a balance in the need to maintain familiar with consumers as well as the need to remain relevant due to constant change. When redesigning brands must be clear about who they want to attract and also remain consistent with the image they wish to portray.
- Loyalty programmes give consumers an incentive to return and purchase more of a brands product if they know they will be rewarded. Physical loyalty cards are being replaced with electronic systems which. This enables rewards for the consumer without them having to go out of there way, creating a customer service experience that is hassle free and beneficial.
- Newsletters: Allow a business to keep in touch with their customers’ post purchase and inform them of other products and services they have to offer. This continuation of contact will help create a lifelong relationship between the brand and the consumer.
- Performance of the product/service: The quality of a brands product or service after the purchase reflects the brands image and could determine whether the consumer will return to purchase from that brand again. It is vital as interlinks back to pre-purchase stage, word of mouth, as consumers will share their feedback with others, positive or negative.
Effective use of touchpoints
Four steps to guide businesses to implement touch points effectively to have a successful effect in the market.
- Identify the most important customers
- Concentrate investment on the customer touch points that will do the most to raise profitable demand
- Set realistic goals for implementation
- Constantly revisit their performance.
In a fast-changing and evolving market, marketers face the challenge of choosing what touch points to invest in and in what media channels. Research has examined various touch points such as, brand advertising, retailer touch points, word-of-mouth, and traditional earned touch points separately.
A more direct focus allows the brand to implement touch points in a better way and gives them a clear focus on what they are trying to achieve and allows them to revisit performance on a regular basis to adapt accordingly.
Research into marketing and advertising has found that brands' touchpoints can connect with people consciously or more often sub-consciously. The use of sensory cues are used in advertising to engage consumers on a sub conscious level.
In a complex and over-crowded market place, the consumer decision making process is also becoming more complex. Brands must think in a more innovative way in order to effectively engage and connect with consumers, to remain competitive and stand out from their competitors. A strategy that is becoming more researched and used by marketing teams is the use of sensory cues in advertising and marketing.
There is an increased awareness in the emotional effect of marketing through advertising, branding, product experience and packaging this emotional effect often takes advantage of the non-conscious shopper during the consumer decision making process, manipulating the consumer without them realising.
People use their senses to connect with the world, much like how brands use touch points to connect with consumers. By using sensory characteristics brands are able to connect with consumers in way consumers are unaware of.
Brands have sensory characteristics, e.g., shapes, feels, sounds, colours and smells that they can use to influence consumers’ emotions, therefore purchasing behavior. These characteristics allow brands to cue consumers’ emotions on a sub-conscious level.
Brands can incorporate this into their brands image and their products.
- Yellow evokes thoughts of happiness, light, excitement.
- Brown: Earthy, nature and could be used effectively to promote organic products.
- White: Pure, clean, associated with products such as washing powder and soap.
Used effectively a consumer then will associate these senses with a brand and feel a sense of familiarity when these senses are ignited.
Seven key touchpoints for customer experience
Touch points can simply be broken up into seven different elements: atmospheric, technological, communicative, process, employee to customer interactions, customer to customer interactions and, product interactions (Stein, & Ramaseshan, 2016). Although there are seven elements, the customer can be experiencing more than one at a time, for example: on the phone to the business about the product while browsing the businesses website. This puts the customer experiencing all touch points apart from customer to customer, this shows the importance of ensuring customers experiences with the business are positive throughout every aspect.
Atmospheric covers all aspects of when a consumer comes into contact with the store physically or digitally, and will activate any of the consumer's senses, such as: sight, sound, touch, and smell. Some atmospheric elements that need to be considered for physical stores are: Store layout and design, Store displays, the overall attractiveness of the store, ambiance and amenities (Stein, & Ramaseshan, 2016). For websites or mobile phone apps it is important to have an attractive, easy to use layout that will appeal to the businesses target audience (Xu, Peak, & Prybutok, 2015).
Technological touchpoints cover the ease of use of the technology and also the convenience of it, as well as self-service technology (Stein, & Ramaseshan, 2016). The technological side of businesses are becoming ever increasingly important, to a business are the overall success of it (MacDonald, Wilson, & Konus, 2012). As well as having up to date technology it is important for the business to use the technology to their advantage when sending out surveys or questionnaires to their target markets, by using tools such as social media and mobile phone apps it keeps the business evolving with the consumers (MacDonald et al., 2012). Technological touch points can be when a consumer is using a self-service checkout within the store, using the businesses mobile phone app/ website, or any other interactive displays within the store (Stein, & Ramaseshan, 2016).
Communicative elements focus on a promotional message, informative message and advertisement (Stein, & Ramaseshan, 2016). These messages are often used as a one-way communication channel from the business to the customer, it can include both promotional and informative information (Stein, & Ramaseshan, 2016). It can be received in the forms of: email flyers, messages via texts, advertising on the television or radio, physical flyers and telephone calls (Stein, & Ramaseshan, 2016). You can measure how affective these campaigns are through Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) which measures the brands market performance as well as the businesses financial performance as a result of communicative elements to see how it haw aided the business (Luxton, Reid, & Mavondo, 2015).
Communicating and building customer awareness and knowledge of a product or service is often centred on brand communication. Brand communication and the way customers connect with a brand are now in fundamentally new and changing ways, often through social media channels that are beyond businesses control. The communication of brands can be defined as the interactions and exposures that customers can have with the brand called touch points. Brand touchpoints include deliberate communications generated by the business but also interactions the customer have with the brand throughout their everyday life.
According to Fripp, G. (2013) the brand touchpoints for service-based businesses, who may only distribute their products and services through their staff or a call centre, are their contact staff themselves. For businesses with their own retail/service outlets, the facilities of the store are the brand touchpoint facilitating multiple touchpoints such as, signage, environment, aesthetics, atmosphere and interaction with staff and product. These brand touchpoints able to be generated deliberately by the business. Non-brand communications are brand touch points are often not able to be generated by the business but are created through customer interactions with the brand through social media, blogs, video/TV media and individual customer reviews and communication. Non-brand touch points can also include observations, seeing the brand used by others or prior use of the brand, word-of-mouth, research online and product placement.
Today customers communicate and connect with brands by expanding the pool of options before narrowing it and after purchasing remain engaged with the brand, collaborating in the brands development. (Edelma, D, C. 2010) recognises that what has changed and is constantly changing is when and at what touchpoints they are most open to influence and how they interact with those points. Through research, Edelma, D, C. (2010) discovered that today's customers take a more iterative and less reductive purchase journey of four stages: consider, evaluate, buy, and enjoy, advocate, bond. Communication touchpoints within this journey consistently change as the customer's consideration of brands change. As they evaluate their purchase they often reduce their choices, then they evaluate those choices of brand, often expanding their options as they seek input from peers, reviewers, retailers, and competitors. Their own research is more likely to shape their ensuing choices then the marketers push to persuade them. Customers often put off the purchase decision until in store, thus the points of purchase; product placement, packaging, availability, pricing and sales interaction, are evermore powerful touch points. After purchasing the customer often continues to interact with the product, forming deeper connections through new online touchpoints. Often conducting online research after purchasing the customer, if pleased, will advocate the product or service by word-of–mouth, reviews and so may bond, entering an enjoy-advocate-buy loop that skips the consider and evaluate stages.
Referred to as the customer decision journey, business marketers should now work towards targeting these touchpoint stages and create a plan that will make the customer experience coherent and even extend the boundaries of the brand itself. Spenglar, C (2008) analysed that around a third of brand experience is based on personal recommendations, word-of-mouth, editorials, online communities and social media. Revealing that brand experience communication methods are most important and that flexibility and thus change, providing space for creative lateral thinking while developing touchpoints and planning new solutions, are more important than sustainability in today's brand and market management.
Process elements look at the process for the customer to get a product and the availability of the product, specifically: waiting time, navigation and service process (Stein, & Ramaseshan, 2016). Waiting time can be while the customer is in store, waiting in line to check out or even purchase a coffee/wait for it to be made, but it also includes virtual checkouts, delivery, how long you are on hold with on the phone (Stein, & Ramaseshan, 2016). Navigation and service look at the accessibility and ease for the consumer to get around the store, both virtual and brick and mortar stores. It can also come down to how easy the business has made the process of returning goods, whether they are faulty, wrong size, or if the customer has simply decided they no longer want it (Stein, & Ramaseshan, 2016).
From when a customer first discovers a product to the time of purchasing it, they will encounter a vast ray of experiences with the product or brand. According to Westernberg, E (2010) consumers touch the brand an average of 56 times between inspiration and transaction. While many of these interactive touchpoints still involve walking by the store front, going online to the website, TV ads or radio, more and more social media touchpoints such as networking communities, blogs, Facebook and instagram are an integral part of the purchase journey.
Businesses are now realising they must find ways to differentiate their brands amidst a variety of consumer touchpoints throughout their purchase journey. Westernberg, E (2010) states that market leaders are using touchpoints to listen to their customers and are working to develop new services that help them earn ownership of the customer experience. They use social media to listen, to engage, to offer services and to interact through platforms that enhance the brand and customer experience, to keep them coming back. Traditionally businesses have developed their customer experience touchpoints by communicating their brand and services through channels they control; the shop, the phone, events, their website. Now, however there is a shift towards new touchpoints that are completely independent of the business owner; social net working such as Facebook, blogs, mobile apps, Twitter, instagram, location based services and many more.
The customers derive touchpoint value from the capabilities offered, such as a great website making it easier to find product information, making their life easier or helping to facilitate decision-making. For business owners, value comes from information about customer preferences and the ability to use this knowledge to lock in customers. Today, early adopting consumers will immediately try anything if it looks as though it will improve their lives. The incorporation of Apps with GPS locations that can now display popular restaurants nearby and connect details of products and pricing, also offering consumer opinions and comments, enable consumers to select their destination and products based on brand and customer experience. The development of new touchpoint opportunities is hugely accelerated by new technology such as, augmented reality (AR), near field communications, IPTV and sixth sense technology. The challenge for businesses is to keep up to date, engaged, understand, make choices and respond to the touchpoint opportunities evolving. (Westernberg, E. 2010).
Richardson, A (2010), states that taking the time to look at touchpoints as a collective whole, would help shape a better customer experience and even point to opportunities to invent new types of touchpoints. It may reveal that some touchpoints are overly reliant on third parties who are not upholding their part of the customer experience. When Apple got fed up with retailers not doing a good enough job in communicating the Mac experience, it opened up its own stores, which is now a key reason why Apple is now able to attract a broader customer base. To analyse touch points requires multiple parts of a business to work together to improve the customer experience. Although hard to do and often more reflective of the business organisational chart than they are of an ideal experience, accomplishing a measure of integration will enable a customer experience that has competitive durability and customer enthusiasm and loyalty.
The interaction between employees and customers can be said to be another important touchpoint. This is because, during such an interaction, there is a need for employees to create a sense of trust between themselves and the customers. Regardless of whether or not a customer has made a decision to purchase, and depending on the level of the employees’ customer service, the interaction between themselves and the employees of a brand can create a more gratifying (or terrible) experience for the customer. Employees of all brands can adopt Robert B. Cialdini's principles of persuasion in order to create a bond between themselves and the customers that may result in the customer's decision to purchase. Cialdini states that there are 6 principles of persuasion when it comes to the consumer's decision making process: Reciprocation, commitment and consistency, social proof, liking, authority and scarcity. The use of such principles is at the discretion of the employee when dealing with a customers during the buying process. The interaction between employees and customers as a touchpoint is vital in the sense that employees have the opportunity to get to know their customers and be able to grasp what is important to them as a consumer of their brand. Once such a distinction can be made, the customer will have a sense of belonging to the brand or rather, trust of the brand and as a result, a purchase decision will be made.
Employee customer touchpoints offer employees the opportunity to listen and better understand their customer's needs and wants. Westernberg, E. (2010) suggest that through the pathways of interaction through social media, web searches and mobile apps, consumers are leaving fingerprints on many touch points, such as when they seek information or visit a specific destination. This presents the following opportunities for the employee; firstly they will know what the consumer is going to look for and be the first to offer it to him or her. Secondly is the opportunity to increase the importance of the brand by making life better and easier for the consumer. By enabling the customer to interact with the business experience through social networking, they allow their customer to share their ideas, questions and suggestions. Employees ability to create positive customer interactions, hinges on being able to respond quickly and appropriately to the customers experience.
According to N. Friedman (2016) there are seven touch points of communication; telephone, e-mail, voice mail, mail, fax, face-to-face and instant messaging. The touchpoints of each of these interactions need to convey a consistent business voice. Communications via telephone is known as a “synchronous” method, meaning you are in “sync” with the person, requiring no waiting. The best part about communicating through telephone is the ability to hear the tone of voice, having the ability to have effective and positive interactions. Email is “asynchronous”, meaning you communicative one at a time and do not get an immediate response, this relinquishes the interpretation of tone of voice. Standards around emailing processes need to be established within a business frame-work to avoid miss-communication, they need to be kept up to date, attended to, be well mannered and convey the voice of the business. Voice mail also uses tone of voice and needs to be to the point, ask a question and get an answer. Mail and fax again “asynchronous”, one-way information, are methods that are phasing out, but similar to emails where miss communication needs to be avoided. Face-to-face communication has it all; sight, sound, tone of voice, facial expressions and body language, it is a “asynchronous” touchpoint and yet miss-communications can occur. Instant messaging is a method of communication that is growing in use and appeal but again awareness around its best use, communication delivery and interpretation is vital.
Richardson, A (2010) defines the importance of the touchpoints behind employee and customer interaction, as the ability of businesses to speak to customers with the same tone, the same message and even the same words to communicate consistently and effectively. Businesses need to asks and address the questions; are the touch points addressing customer motivation, answering questions, working for your target market, meeting their needs, differentiating from their competitors and helping to retain the customer.
In the customer realm, when it comes down to deciding whether to use a service or purchase from a brand, it can be said that the consumer evaluates brand alternatives and ranks them from the most preferred to the least preferred and forms ‘purchase intentions’. However, there are two factors that influence the consumer's actual decision to purchase. Such factors are the ‘attitudes of others’ and the ‘unexpected situational factors’. With regard to interaction between customers, the factor that is relevant to such a situation is the ‘attitudes of others’. During the pre-purchase stage of a consumer's decision making process, the consumer searches for information about a certain product from a variety of brands. An effective touchpoint during this search for information is experiences from other consumers of a brand whether it be from family and friends, or even reviews online via internet search or social media. Internet searches, (whether the consumer is conscious of it or not), are indirect interactions between customers that ultimately define and determine a consumer's purchase decision. However, it is when a customer receives information about a product from someone important to them, that they truly take that information on board. For example, if a consumer recognizes a need for a new car, they seek advice or information from a family member or friend. In doing so, the family member or friend may advise them to buy the cheaper car out of all available options because it is just as efficient as the expensive car. This then lowers the chance of the consumer choosing the more expensive car. This emphasizes the point that a lot of the consumer's decision making can be based on experiences other consumers have had with certain brands, creating this crucial touchpoint of customer to customer interaction.
Product interaction is when a consumer comes into contact with a businesses physical product, whether it be directly or indirectly (Stein, & Ramaseshan, 2016). Product interaction involves: quality of the product(s), assortment of products, direct and indirect interactions with the product (Stein, & Ramaseshan, 2016). When customers start interacting with a product, it gives them tangible evidence about the good and whether it meets the perceived value, from the pre-purchase stage. If the product does not meet expectations, the business overall could be viewed in a negative way and vice vera (Cassia, Ugolini, Cobelli, & Gill, 2015). Businesses should also ensure that they have a large assortment of the goods available, in-store or otherwise, this can means have a large range of sizes for clothing, and a large number of each size, or even having an item in differing colours to give the customers options (Cassia et al., 2015).
In developing a product businesses should do more than identify needed features. It should also design for experiences, after observing how customers interact with the product and service, why they use them and analyse how existing products might be frustrating them. Meyer, C., & Schwager, A. (2007) recognise that ideally product development will identify customer behaviours that may run counter to the businesses expectations and discover needs that haven’t been identified yet. Although businesses know a lot about their customers buying habits, they know little about the thoughts, emotions and states of mind that customers interaction with products induce. Kaplan, A. (2006) discovers how marketers are using product packaging to connect with customer emotions. He identifies there are seven different ways product packaging can be used to create positive touchpoint experiences. Human touch; used to create deeper relationships with the customer, by connecting with customer's interests and aspirations. Spiritual touch; used to connect with different areas of customer life style, heritage and culture. Physical touch; meaning the actual physical sensation packaging can provide. Personal touch; where customers are able to interact and contribute to their own personalised designs. Ritual touch; where the packaging lends itself to a customer's unique experience and use. Mental touch; the state of mind people bring, influenced by environment, trends and life style. Finally, grounding touch; where customers want to believe in something that is real, so the product needs to be honest and authentic, where it tells a story in a very honest and well-designed way.
Return on Investment-oriented management aims to augment and optimize the effect and cost-benefit ratio of internal and external processes. As of 2011 a single communication channel seldom provides high-impact reach to all target-persons. This includes customer relationship management, buying and selling channels, distribution, service, internal and external communication, human resource management, and process-optimisation programmes. Transactions take place across multiple divisions and touch points that span the whole value chain of a company. For example, transactions may be made through classic advertising, intranet, or call centres, or through sales staff at the point of sale. Precise measurements taken at all touch points, accompanied by a systematic management of them, leads to an impact-oriented performance improvement of a brand's management.
The benefit of touchpoint analysis is that, while comprehending all relevant media and departments, it filters and measures all the relevant contact points from the target customer's view. Touchpoint management allows companies to optimize all the interactions with the existing and potential customers, the internal communications and process management.
Example: touchpoints of a bank
A customer may have numerous touchpoints with a bank, including client service advisors, statements, promotional events, products, financial expert reports, website, intranet, IT-systems, research reports, sponsoring, word of mouth, e-banking, call centres, etc.
Which touchpoints are relevant for success?
With often over a hundred touchpoints identifiable within larger companies, the key question is: Which of these are relevant for the company's success? Analysis and assessment is undertaken on the nature and impact (for example, on brand management) of specific touchpoints. The touchpoints which are relevant for a company's success will vary by multiple factors including industry, product, service, target segment, etc.
From the overall interface landscape, central touchpoints can be identified, analysed and assessed. Such analysis enables companies to evaluate their processes, measures and engagements more holistically: future assets and budgets may be better aligned and applied to deliver a more sustainable contribution to the success of the company.
Across all industries touchpoints can be divided into paid (classical push media with advertising messages), owned (companies own marketing instruments, sales consultations, website, brochures, etc.) and earned ones (test reports, recommendations by customers,etc.).
Paid, owned and earned touchpoints now flow through multiple channels and the message can be two-way. The proliferation of digital channels has now influenced owned and earned touchpoints to be considered in sync with traditional paid channels (Pessin & Weaver, 2014). The category of paid touchpoints used to be considered the most frequently used channel of media. But people now expect various multichannel, multi-device experiences and have the ability to choose their channels to interact with a brand. This is achieved through using the same funds more effectively across paid channels, taking into account the interactions with owned and earned channels which drive better business outcomes, particularly sales (Pessin & Weaver, 2014). Media no longer remains about just paid or traditional touchpoints; it is about manifolds of experiences across paid, owned and earned channels (Frampton, 2015). In current days society earned media is preferred over paid and owned media. That is not to lessen the importance of the other two; paid and owned media channels should be distinguished to create engaging customer experiences. In a recent study, ‘84 percent of millennials reported that they "didn't like" advertising and trusted their closest friends nearly twice as much as sales messages’ (Instead Articles, 2015). Sponsored content is a form of advertising brands use to strengthen credibility, but the tactic has not been very successful. The introduction of social media advertising has blurred the line between earned and paid approaches of media (Instead Articles, 2015). A campaign, which used owned assets within its strategy, was Coca-Cola. Featuring smaller 250 ml Coke cans, which came in limited edition range of colours, which could be collected and shared. The campaign had a connected system of touchpoints, which supplied the opportunity to unlock the can to gain a vast world of content, experiences and prizes; leading to twenty seven percent sales increase above forecast (PR Newswire, 2015).
By using touchpoints, a company can discover the many different opportunities for its brand to be positively maintained or negatively expressed. Each activity goes with the three touchpoint experience categories: pre-purchase, purchase, and post-purchase.
Pre-purchase experience touchpoints defines the many ways potential consumers can connect with a brand before deciding whether or not to do business with a company. Some pre-purchase touchpoints normally used by companies include web sites, word-of-mouth, direct mail, research, sponsorships, public relations and advertising. The design of each of these pre-purchase touchpoint interactions should not only be to mould the perceptions and expectations of the brand but to increase brand awareness and influence its relevance. And at the same time, helping potential consumers understand why this brand is better than competing brands and the value the brand delivers in satisfying their needs and wants. As the pre-purchase experience for potential consumers is examined, the brand should focus on improving the touchpoints that will encourage consumers, in the most effective and efficient way, to put the brand into consideration.
Purchase (or usage) experience touchpoints refers to those that moves a customer from only thinking about a company's brand to buying a product or service and commencing a consumer-brand relationship. Purchase touchpoints that companies use include but is not limited to direct field sales, stores and face to face contact with customer representatives. The purpose of these touchpoints of interaction is to increase the value that consumers see in what the brand is offering and to ensure them that have chosen the right brand. During these interactions, it is essential to engender trust into the consumers’ minds by proving without a doubt that what a company is offering is far better than those of the opposition.
Post-purchase experience touchpoints are used after the sale of the brand, the product, and or service, and to enhance customer experience with the brand. Post-purchase touchpoints can include loyalty programs, customer satisfaction surveys, warranty and rebate activities, regular maintenance, and reminders about the brand's innovations on its products or services. Even though these touchpoints offer brand-development opportunities, and the chance for businesses to enhance sustainable and profitable growth, they are ignored at most times. Post-purchase experience touchpoints aim to deliver the brand promise, to satisfy or exceed customer performance and usage expectations, and to build brand loyalty and advocacy towards the brand.
There are significant long-term benefits in evaluating a brand's touchpoints. It can help keep the brand's relevance in the minds of its users, while also building a strong and powerful brand. Utilising touchpoints is very important as George (2003) explains, in which it fully allows an organization to extensively monitor the crucial consumer to brand interactions.
A brand encounter is where the brand and the consumer meet, and the consumer forms an opinion of the business or organisation that has been encountered. Where brand encounters are beneficial is when the business or organisation wants consumers to form a good opinion of them, to create repeat business (Dahlen, Lange & Smith, 2010).
- Explicit brand encounters: an explicit brand encounter is where the company or organisation has planned the encounter and it has a specific purpose, this can be an encounter such as a poster or a billboard (Dahlen et al., 2013). It is where they are trying to send a clear direct message to the potential consumer. With an explicit brand encounter there doesn’t tend to be any room for an emotional underlying message to be made about the brand.
- Implicit brand encounters: implicit brand encounters are indirect ways a company sends a message to the consumer about the brand. These can be ways such as packaging and pricing. Packaging is a way that brands can communicate to their consumers about who they are and what they stand for (Dahlen et al., 2013). The average human takes around seven seconds to create a first impression of something so packaging of products is an effective way to communicate to your consumer (Law, 2013). By having sleek, and clean lines and consistent packaging throughout their product range Apple have conveyed the message of classiness to the consumer, and that is before they have even opened the box. The brands that make the most sales have tended to be the brands that have taken the biggest risks with new and edgy ways of packaging their products (Law, 2013). The price of a product is also a way the company sends messages to the consumer. Where you set your price relays where in the market you want to be and who you want your consumers to be. Once again with Apple, they have also set their prices high and this implicitly communicates it is for the more discerning shopper, or someone who wants a higher quality good. Store ambience and layout is also a way messages are sent to the consumer. Clean, uncluttered stores with bright white lighting or illumination can show classiness, even if the pricing differs from the initial opinion formed.
- Solicited brand encounters: a solicited brand encounter is specific and you went out and looked for the brand. It can also be described as a planned brand encounter (Dahlen et al., 2013). This can be going online and looking at the companies website, or through a third party such as at a shopping centre. Solicited brand encounters allow for some control from the company but if it is somewhere such as a supermarket companies have to allow for a degree of uncontrollability. A company that has controlled how their brand is seen through third parties is Coca-Cola. By creating and supplying their own fridges they have control of how the consumer interacts with the brand. By doing this it gives little room for error on how their products are stocked and who stocks them (Dahlen et al.,. 2013). This is also effective for introducing new products because it means third parties cannot move it around, or even not stock it. It allows for the company to have control over how the third party controls the stocking and promotion of new products. Companies advertising and promoting their products at the tills in supermarkets is also a way of soliciting a brand encounter, as they place their products in a position you cannot miss, and usually accompanied by bright colours or other enticing cues to attract the consumer to the product.
- Unsolicited brand encounters: an unsolicited brand encounter is where brands are seen and discussed but without the brands message being conveyed (Dahlen et al., 2013). These can be on platforms such as blogs or social media. These are encounters you didn’t go and seek out, but more stumbled across and are unplanned. This type of brand encounter is one companies can struggle with as there is potential for mass media to get the wrong message about a product or service, especially if a key opinion former has a bad experience with a product or service, the bad encounter can reach a large number of people without them directly looking for the opinion. There is very little control available for unsolicited brand encounters, and with platforms such as Facebook and Twitter it means even small people who have little influence on others can say things about a brand, or a campaign and it can go much further than initially anticipated. Viral videos are an example of an unsolicited brand encounter because more often than not these just appear on things such as a Facebook newsfeed. Unlike a solicited brand encounter, these types of encounter are not specific and not direct. Ways that companies can try combat this is by releasing their own material, or replicating original advertisements (Dahlen et al., 2013) to once again try get their original message for the brand out to consumers.
A large number of good tools are available to analyze specific touchpoints. Yet it is still a challenge to compare all the different contact points. New tools – like the Live Experience Tracking (LET) – capture key online and offline touchpoints. In addition to frequently examined contact points such as advertising and sponsoring, it also details store visits, sales force and PR contacts. Moreover, it collects recommendations received and given (word-of-mouth). The result: all touchpoints are in one "currency".
The increased use of touch points across a variety of communication channels has resulted in development of neuroscience and behavioural economics, to advance emotional and experiential consumer connections (Noble, 2016). Emotional customer connections are prompted by sensory characteristics, with the alignment of touch points in order for brands to develop beyond mediocrity. An example is herbal essences (a hair product brand), which focuses on the sensorial experience of smell, associating emotionally with indulgence and sensuality (Bailey, 2015). Experiential consumer connections aim to create a bond or strong brand association with a consumer through a particular experience. Traditionally consumption relates to a goal-orientated activity in which someone purchases a product because it benefits him or her. This shopping orientation has been replaced with a strong desire for experiential benefits, affecting consumption emotionally and cognitively. This then leads to higher satisfaction and shows more positive loyalty intentions (Shoberiri, Rajaobelina, Duff, & Boivin, 2016). Neuro-tools are used to help distinguish which touchpoint were used and why. The holistic approach creates a model shift, not only using neuro-tools but also through creating an integrated testing mechanism, which maps out the contribution each touchpoint makes within a campaign and the nature of the touchpoint. Implementation of the approach can be modified to fit into typically difficult areas to evaluate. These include telecoms and financial services, FMCG brands, fragrance, health and beauty as well as leisure and entertainment. This approach is a three step sequence, all relating to the implicit tool. The first step is defining the overarching experience, which aims to pinpoint specific goals, helping to differentiate the brand from its competitors at a non-conscious level. Secondly it benchmarks specific touchpoints through evaluating them against the experiential template, emphasising the contribution of each touchpoint over the entire experience. Lastly it maps and tracks relative contributions through touchpoints on the experiential template.
Touchpoint interaction benefits
Both parties of the communication partnership can gain through touchpoint interactions. The brand is able to understand the consumer better, be able to deliver more brand messages, and can improve the involvement with consumers. While the consumers can get experiential value, brand satisfaction, and their needs satisfied.
A company is able to better meet the desires and wants of consumers through the feedback they receive. The feedback is used to guide customer satisfaction and administer consumer insight. This in turn gives consumers an overall better and improved brand experience. Second, the company can benefit from touchpoints as it aids in the investment of marketing communications by increasing message delivery and decreasing negative messages that can invalidate the marketing communications messages. And the customer benefits by assisting in the progress of two-way communication, which helps when something goes wrong, as it can be easily remedied through communication between the entities. Lastly, the company gains leverage in interactive experiences to boost brand awareness, brand associations, anticipated quality of the brand, and brand loyalty. In turn, the consumers benefit from gaining brand insurance. The risk in purchasing a product and using it is reduced or eliminated because of the increase of brand trust.
Touchpoint management can be seen as a multi-disciplinary strategic approach, which focuses on the optimisation of the performance in all internal and market oriented management divisions. Normally companies manage their touchpoints in different areas such as marketing, distribution, communication, service, public relations, investor relations or human resources. Due to specialisation, it involves the challenge of developing the contact points in a 360 degree view, which would enable a consistent brand experience over all interfaces and would simultaneously keep all the brand's promises. For an efficient and consistent brand management and the buildup of a distinctive brand experience, it is important to integrate the formal, content and time aspects of the communication activities.
Touchpoint management is becoming a key issue for successful marketing and sales management. Digital media are omnipresent and readily available. Confidence in classical advertising is declining, while customers’ real-life experiences and their associated word-of-mouth recommendations are becoming more important. Companies nowadays need to know how to most effectively reach their clients.
Touch point management allows for successful marketing and sales management in businesses as they can seek the strengths and weaknesses within the operations. Examples of this are lost and past customers, as contacting of these people allows information on why they moved to another brand or what did not satisfy them in their purchase experience. Contacting prospect and future customers is another way to seek strengths and weaknesses as they can provide information through surveys and word of mouth on their thinking towards the brand and their thoughts on the competition in the neighboring fields. Current customers can give straightforward information and insight into what they find satisfactory about the product or service and what needs improvement. Businesses can find out why these current customers have remained loyal to the brand and how they can continue to enhance customer satisfaction. (Longoria S. D., 2003 )
“It is important touch points are not over used and become intrusive on customers as this can show lack in sensitivity and can lead negative customer recall. “In managing touch points and marketing programs the focus should be on ‘creating and retaining’ relationships as well as using a diverse range of touch points in different segments of the buying process. Managing and using touch points for communication in an effective way allows brands to gather feedback and make improvements which will increase their customer base, as well as customers who gain from the added benefit. (Robert F. Lusch)
Managing a consumers experience with a company has a greater effect on a company's market value than the company's ability to produce and trade (Baxendale, Macdonald, Wilson, 2015). Planning and managing consumer feedback that firms gain from a range of touchpoints can be critical to the success of a brand. This is a very strategic method that businesses use to develop and maintain a relationship with their particular consumers. With features such as in-store touchpoints, a business is able to promote its new brand or product allowing the consumer to engage with the item physically encouraging them to purchase the item or brand (Baxendale, Macdonald, Wilson, 2015).
Brand Touchpoint Management (BTM) is a modern management tool which begins with identifying and evaluating brand touchpoints (Gabriel, 2010). This method allows brand managers to set up a system in which they can enhance customer experience which gives a competitive edge within their target market. With the increase in innovative technology, brands now have the ability to communicate through many channels and have to consider which methods to use as effective touchpoints. Brands are constantly building a reputation that separates them from others that produce similar products. By using the touchpoints in the most effective channels they are able to create a relationship with consumers appealing to the entire target market and enhancing the brands reputation.
Touchpoints can be seen in, Marketing, Advertising, Retailing and Sales (MARS), which shows all the variety of channels in which they can be used. All areas are taken into account when managers set up their touchpoint channels with such an integrated approach to create and manage customer experience (Jenkinson 2007).
Advertising: media coverage through television or websites are major touchpoints in this modern era of technology with the innovative social media apps and constant growth of online shopping. Advertising can be seen almost everywhere which gives brand managers the channel to create touchpoints for majority of the demographics in each household.
Retailing: retail stores have strategically placed products or advertisements in key positions with the stores layout being a very vital touchpoint. Managing the layout of the store can be a vital point in whether or not items are sold or a service is purchased (Jain, Bagdare, 2009).
Sales: Within business to consumer companies sales are the transaction touchpoint where a business and consumer both agree on a terms of trade. Consumers can be retained if this touchpoint is managed well and the experience of the customers’ transaction was pleasant (Bhattacherjee, 2001). For example, if a customer is satisfied with a service from a Coke-a-cola outlet they may return rather than switch to a Pepsi outlet. This brand rivalry can be beneficial for consumers as it encourages brands to provide the best service or product available.
Data is collected from various touchpoints designed to find customer behaviour and trends within the specific area. This data is examined and researched giving certain advantages to brands when selecting a target market or producing new products (Romano, 2008). This has become a dominant method for marketing when looking at where and when to advertise for example what time to put certain advertisements on television or where to put various billboard signage. This approach enhances customer experience and gives both feedforward and feedback when looking at a business to consumer relationship.
Due to the fact that there are so many touchpoints in which a business can use, it is very important that they are careful and make ethical decisions when marketing and advertising. Unethical practise can have a negative impact on certain ethnic groups or cultures. Certain touchpoints can have major effects on children as the power of visual learning is very strong at a young age (Murphy, 2013). Children do not have the intellectual ability to receive many adverts in a mature manner, while being conscious to what it really is they are viewing (Nefat, Dujmović, 2012). Therefore, companies are urged not to advertise unethically and in some countries there a certain laws to prevent such advertising.
Managed in an ethical manner, touchpoints can be very user friendly which is positive for civilization and the overall goal of anyone applying touchpoints. The management of touchpoints can be crucial to the success of any business, if all areas are not looked at when designing a plan then errors may occur and problems will arise. The feedback received from touchpoint data collection such as loyalty cards is a perfect example of the effectiveness of a well-planned touchpoint.
These touchpoint methods allow companies, firms, brands and others to maximise output effectively, improving the quality of their performance. Controlling the use of touchpoints can lead to successful business adding to the overall experience of consumers. Alongside social media, touchpoints can persuade many consumer into becoming a fan or customer of a product or service.
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