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GAINING CUSTOMER INSIGHTS BY ANALYZING AND UNDERSTANDING CROSS-PLATFORM AND MULTICHANNEL CUSTOMER BEHAVIOR

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It is generally recognized that a greater understanding of customers can enhance customer satisfaction and business performance. This article seeks to broaden this understanding by analyzing cross-platform and multichannel customer behavior during various stages of the customer purchase journey. Several ‘shopper archetypes’ are identified and profiled. These ‘shopper archetypes’ exist depending on interaction patterns across channel options available and differ according to their socio-/demographic and lifestyle characteristics as well as to their sociological and psychological dimensions. By understanding this customer purchase journey suppliers are able to use valuable marketing and managerial resources in a better way, improve this journey and deliver unique experiences to different customer segments, therefore ensuring customer satisfaction and loyalty and driving sales.
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INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF BUSINESS RESEARCH, Volume 12, Number 5, 2012 131
GAINING CUSTOMER INSIGHTS BY ANALYZING AND UNDERSTANDING CROSS-PLATFORM AND
MULTICHANNEL CUSTOMER BEHAVIOR
*
Jos M.C. Schijns, Open Universiteit, Heerlen, the Netherlands
ABSTRACT
It is generally recognized that a greater understanding of customers can enhance customer satisfaction
and business performance. This article seeks to broaden this understanding by analyzing cross-platform
and multichannel customer behavior during various stages of the customer purchase journey. Several
‘shopper archetypes’ are identified and profiled. These ‘shopper archetypes exist depending on
interaction patterns across channel options available and differ according to their socio-/demographic and
lifestyle characteristics as well as to their sociological and psychological dimensions. By understanding
this customer purchase journey suppliers are able to use valuable marketing and managerial resources in
a better way, improve this journey and deliver unique experiences to different customer segments,
therefore ensuring customer satisfaction and loyalty and driving sales.
Keywords: customer journey, multichannel, cross-channel, channel patterns, shopper archetypes
1. INTRODUCTION
Today, marketing managers are challenged to optimize marketing effectiveness across channels and
justifying marketing spendings, since the way in which consumers research and buy products has
changed. “It is becoming common for customers to use different channels at different stages of their
decision-and-shopping cycles” (Rangaswamy and Van Bruggen, 2005: 5). Due to this proliferation of
media and channels (including social media) consumers visit and experience a multitude of channels
throughout the purchase journey, making managing the marketing mix critical for companies today. Well-
intentioned customer relationship management efforts that focus on internal processes and objectives
have largely failed to serve the most important stakeholder: the customer (Hagen et al., 2011). In their
study, Booz, Allen and Hamilton (2007: 3) conclude “that up to 40% of customers are not being served
effectively, because companies cannot target specific customer needs with their existing channel set-ups.
This suggests a substantial portion of marketing and sales budgets is being wasted”. Marketers need to
drive an outside-in focus into their customer relationship management efforts and adjust their spending.
They need to view the change in the way consumers research and buy products not as a loss of power
over consumers but as an opportunity to be in the right place at the right time giving consumers the
information and support they need to make the right purchase decisions (Court et al., 2009: 11).
Research is needed to provide insights on how to manage an expanded marketing mix that includes
multiple media and channels, including social media (MSI, 2010). In order to have an impact on a
customer’s purchase journey, marketers need to know how customers behave, so that they can adjust
their marketing strategies accordingly. With a study on cross-channel and multichannel customer
behavior marketing, managers start laying the foundation of best practices for multichannel marketing
efforts, such as cross-channel measurements, segmentation, and targeting, which help them taking their
marketing performance to the next level (Behunin and Parkin, 2010).
2. AIM OF THE STUDY
“By tracking customer behavior across channels, companies can improve their understanding of their
customers’ decision making and develop a basis for creating strong relationships with customers and
improving retention” (Rangaswamy and Van Bruggen, 2005: 6). Therefore, the main goal of our study is
to support marketing managers in driving customer targeting, content relevancy, and personalization to
meet their customers’ needs across their purchase journey. More specifically, this study aims at tracking
customer channel behavior within and across different stages in the buying decision process (pre-
transaction, transaction and post-transaction), deriving valuable insights regarding customer behavior and
the effectiveness of marketing actions. Moreover, the study aims at identifying channel patterns and their
INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF BUSINESS RESEARCH, Volume 12, Number 5, 2012 132
customers’ profiles. Therefore, we do not only measure each channel individually, but also develop a
measure for multichannel operations.
The following four research questions and deliverables are defined for our study.
1. What are the primary and secondary channels used by customers? Tracking customer channel
behavior within each stage in the buying decision process (pre-transaction, transaction and post-
transaction). Customers use, and expect to use, their medium of choice when researching and
purchasing products, as well as when seeking support later;
2. How do customers switch channels? Tracking customer channel behavior across different stages in
the buying decision process (cross-channel behavior). On their purchase journey, customers expect
to move freely and smoothly across channels, seeking a single experience.
3. What is the channel complexity across the customer journey? Identifying channel patterns. Different
consumers will follow different paths and utilize the channels for different reasons.
4. Who are the customers using these channel patterns? Identifying customer profiles for different
shopper archetypes’.
Without giving good answers to these questions, marketers cannot improve the levels of their marketing
efforts and take their marketing performance to the next level.
3. RESEARCH METHOD
3.1 Field of application
The scope of the research includes three studies. Each study focuses on a different product category
(consumer white goods, financial services and holiday bookings). The study reported examines cross-
platform and multichannel shopping behavior for holiday bookings, since multichannel shopping behavior
is suggested to be prevalent for holiday bookings (Sajdeh and Jones, 2009). The shopping behavior of
respondents was studied across eight channels, such as agencies, online, phone and printed materials.
3.2 Procedure
Multichannel shopping behavior is defined here as “using a range of different channels to make a single
purchase” (Van Ameijden et al., 2011: 4). In order to examine how different consumer groups respond to
different communications activities and channels for holiday bookings we use the customer journey
analysis. A customer journey is defined as the customer’s path to purchase. Customer journey analysis is
“a systematic exploration of a customer’s interactions with your organization across all channels and
throughout their lifecycle” (Joshi, 2009). As such it is a method that helps organizations to design and
develop the right customer experiences to drive loyalty and deliver the desired business performance
(EarlyBridge, 2010). As customer journey analysis examines interactions from a customer’s point of view,
it is recommended by Temkin et al. (2010) as a great method for reframing discussions from internal
operations to customer experiences, shifting a company’s perspective from inside-out to outside-in.
By analyzing the customer purchase journey, we make transparent how customers behave in a cross-
platform and multichannel environment. This type of analysis is not new, but for many it remains a theory,
rather than a practical and applied marketing tool (Hart, 2009). Customer journey analysis enables
marketers to gain invaluable insights into how consumers interact with their brands. Insights that can be
gathered using different methods, such as in-depth interviews with customers, gathering insights with
employee focus groups and an analysis of existing channel traffic or external customer research
(EarlyBridge, 2010). In our study we used self-reports of channel usage through a survey and used them
as surrogate indicators of actual interaction.
3.3 Sample
The survey was conducted using an online interview conducted by members of the CendrisMonitor, a
multi-platform survey application. An email was sent to 47,365 individuals who agreed to take part in
surveys. They were selected at random from a database, held by Cendris (a Dutch professional service
supplier and market leader in direct and interactive marketing) and containing data from 1.8 million
households in the Netherlands (25% of all Dutch households), inviting them to take part and providing a
link to the survey.
INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF BUSINESS RESEARCH, Volume 12, Number 5, 2012 133
4. RESULTS
4.1 Response rate
47,365 addresses were mailed and the owners were invited to participate in the survey. 2,797 e-mail
addresses appeared to be wrong or non-existing (any more). So, a total number of 44,568 addresses
received the invitation. 3,180 owners of the addresses reacted to the invitation, resulting in a gross
response rate of 7.1% (of the 44,568 addresses reached). A total number of 2,218 questionnaires were
completed and used in our analysis, resulting in a net response rate of 5.0% (see TABLE 1).
TABLE 1: RESPONSE
E-mail invitations
Response
Sent out
47,365
Bounced
2,797
Delivered
44,568
(100%)
7.1%
3,180
Gross
5.0%
2,218
Net (used for analysis)
4.2 Customer channel behavior
87% of the respondents indicated they used the internet to conduct their holiday research online. A
majority of 56% said they placed their final booking confirmation through the web. See EXHIBIT 1. In the
post-transaction stage, however, the phone (41%) and e-mail (41%) were preferred over the internet
(25%). Therefore, in the post-transaction stage the internet is not as dominant as in the stages of pre-
transaction and transaction.
EXHIBIT 1: CUSTOMER CHANNEL BEHAVIOR IN THE THREE STAGES OF THE CUSTOMER
JOURNEY
8
41
25
16
6
41
0
9
020 40 60 80 100
Print
Phone
Internet
Agency
Friends
E-mail
Chat
Other
1
8
56
16
15
0
4
Print
Phone
Internet
Agency
E-mail
Chat
Other
20
5
87
19
23
12
0
7
0
20
40
60
80
100
Print
Phone
Internet
Agency
Friends
E-mail
Chat
Other
INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF BUSINESS RESEARCH, Volume 12, Number 5, 2012 134
A further analysis showed that 38% only used the internet in the pre-transaction stage. No less than 30%
said they conducted their holiday research AND placed their final booking confirmation only through the
web.
Nevertheless, booking a holiday is a multichannel experience. In the pre-transaction stage, half of the
respondents used two or more channels for gathering information (See TABLE 2). A majority of 68% of
the respondents used two or more channels during the whole customer purchase journey.
TABLE 2: SINGLE CHANNEL VERSUS MULTICHANNEL
Number of different channels
used
% of users in the pre-
transaction stage
% of users in the customer
journey
1
50
32
2
32
41
3
14
19
4
3
6
≥ 5
1
2
4.2.1 Strengths and weaknesses of channels
We asked respondents what type of information was provided by each of the sources used in the pre-
transaction stage when searching for information. The relative strengths and weaknesses of each channel
in providing different types of information were deduced on the basis of the answers to this question. See
TABLE 3.
TABLE 3: RELATIVE STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES OF CHANNELS IN PROVIDING DIFFERENT
TYPES OF INFORMATION
yy = strength; xx = weakness
The results shown in TABLE 3 suggest that the Internet provides several different types of information.
However, the Internet is not outstanding with respect to a specific type of information. Moreover, the
Internet is relatively weak in providing (personal) travel advice.
Providing travel advice, however, is a distinguishing factor for a travel agency. Printed materials mainly
provide general information, whereas specific information is provided by phone.
INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF BUSINESS RESEARCH, Volume 12, Number 5, 2012 135
4.2.2 Use of social media
Although social media entered the marketing field and claim their position within the marketing and
communication mix, they hardly play a role when searching for information. Only 3% of the respondents
who used the Internet as a channel to gather information (87%) used social media such as Twitter,
Facebook and LinkedIn for that purpose.
In the post-transaction stage social media are used relatively more often: 23% of the respondents who
searched for service after their holiday booking (6%) used social media to share their experience.
4.3 Customer switching behavior
Customers browse one channel, but use another channel to buy their product. For example, 95% of the
customers who gathered information through printed materials (e.g., direct mail, catalog), placed their
final booking by using another channel, e.g. the Internet (45%). See TABLE 4. Customers who gathered
information through a travel agency or the Internet, however, were likely to place their final booking using
the same channel (68% and 62% respectively).
TABLE 4: CUSTOMER SWITCHING BEHAVIOR FROM PRE-TRANSATION TOWARDS
TRANSACTION
4.4 Identifying channel patterns
Channel patterns are paths of channels through all three stages of the customer journey. With respect to
the entire customer journey, we identified 256 unique channel patterns. The most frequently used unique
channel pattern is the ‘internet-only’ pattern, representing almost 30% of the research base. Most channel
patterns, however, represent only a fraction of the research base. For analytical, illustrative and practical
reasons (most of) the 256 unique channel patterns were therefore allocated to one of three clusters of
channel patterns:
1. ‘Internet-only’ cluster: the Internet is the only channel used during the customer journey (28%; n=583)
INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF BUSINESS RESEARCH, Volume 12, Number 5, 2012 136
2. ‘Non-Internet’ cluster: the Internet is not used during the customer journey (11%; n=222)
3. ‘Agency’ cluster: the agency is involved in both the pre-transaction and transaction stage (13%;
n=273)
4.5 Shopper archetypes’
Shopper archetypes’ were identified and profiled on the basis of the three clusters of channel patterns
mentioned in paragraph 4.4. These ‘shopper archetypes’ (the Internet-only user, the non-Internet user,
and the agency user) exist depending on interaction patterns across channel options available and differ
according to their socio-/demographic and lifestyle characteristics. See TABLE 5 for an abstract of these
socio-/demographic and lifestyle characteristics.
TABLE 5: ABSTRACT OF SOCIO-/DEMOGRAPHIC AND LIFESTYLE CHARACTERISTICS
Internet-only user
Non-Internet user
Agency user
Income
Often a second income in the household
Often no second income in the household
Slightly more than half of the households has
a second income
Total income relatively often ≥ 2.5 times
the income of the typical wage earner
Total income relatively often below the
income of the typical wage earner
Total income relatively often 2 times the
income of the typical wage earner
Working fulltime
A large group of retired people
Relatively large group of non-working people
(e.g. retired, disabled or for other reasons
unemployed)
Life-stage
Young and single;
Family (4 persons) with children,
youngest child ≥ 13 y.; about 25% is
grandparent
Many singles and (especially) families (2
persons), age ≥ 55 without children; > 50%
is grandparent
Relatively many families with young children;
About 33% is grandparent
Type of holiday (destination)
Camping
Tent or holiday-resort
France
Cultural-historical holiday Germany, Swiss
Holidays in sunny states
Spain, Portugal
Type of consumer
‘Internet junkies’
‘Involved senior persons’
‘The active religious persons’
‘The active camper’
‘Enterprising senior persons’
Preferred channel in case of special offers
E-mail
Buys relatively often through the Internet
E-mail and post
Buys relatively seldom through the Internet
Buys sometimes through the Internet
Additionally, we used a psychographic segmentation model, a framework called Brand Strategy Research
(BSR). The BSR framework provides a map “for understanding customers at the ‘deepest’ level, providing
an insight into people’s fears, beliefs and values, thus providing an understanding of the fundamental
motivations that drive the (future) purchase decisions of customers (Bouwman et al., 2012: 174). Two
axes divide the map (see EXHIBIT 2). The horizontal axis (the ‘sociological’ axis) indicates how people
relate to their social environment: socially oriented (on the right) versus ego-oriented (on the left). The
vertical axis (the ‘psychological’ axis) indicates how a person handles ‘tensions’: extravert versus
introvert. “The idea behind BSR is that the four quadrants in the strategic map represent four main
motivational clusters, each of which demonstrates unique needs, motivations and products or services
and communication requirements.” (Bouwman et al., 2012: 174).
INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF BUSINESS RESEARCH, Volume 12, Number 5, 2012 137
EXHIBIT 2: PSYCHOGRAPHIC SEGMENTATION AND THE CONSUMER ARCHETYPES
Based on the BSR model, the archetypes differ with respect to their sociological and psychological
dimensions, revealing more powerful target market insights and thus providing a springboard to marketers
for tailoring the marketing mix.
5. CONCLUSIONS
The research study presented here uncovers many insights into the multichannel shopper. First, our
results support the finding of Tealeaf (2010). Based on the results of in-depth consumer research on how
travel customers use the web, Tealeaf concludes that “The web dominates holiday bookings” (2010: 5).
Based on the results of our online survey we also find that the web dominates with regard to researching
and purchasing holiday bookings. However, the phone and e-mail were preferred over the internet when
seeking support at a later stage. Therefore, the internet is not as dominant in the post-transaction stage
as in the stages of pre-transaction and transaction. That is to say, different channels may be more
appropriate for different stages of the customer purchase journey, since “Different channels serve
different needs” (Sajdeh and Jones, 2009: 24).
Second, each channel is able to provide different types of information, e.g.: general information, specific
information, price information, travel advice, travel experiences. Each channel, however, has its own
strengths and weaknesses with respect to particular types of information.
Third, there is no consumers’ preference to use social media when searching for information (DDMA,
2011). Travelers using social media within the customer activity cycle mainly do this to share their
complaints through, for example, Twitter and Facebook. Positive experiences are shared mainly through
channels such as blogs and review sites (World Ticket Center, 2011). Therefore, depending on the type
of sentiment, positive or negative, consumers are likely to use different social media to share their holiday
shopping and travel experiences.
Fourth, although the web dominates holiday bookings, multichannel behavior is prevalent. Many
customers browse one channel, but use another channel to buy their product. As a result, different
INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF BUSINESS RESEARCH, Volume 12, Number 5, 2012 138
consumers follow different paths and utilize the channels for different reasons. So, “Planning and buying
trips remains a multichannel process” (Harteveldt, 2008).
Fifth, all these unique paths can be reduced to a limited number of clusters of channel patterns that
challenge marketers to take their marketing performance to the next level.
Last, depending on these channel patterns, shopper archetypes are identified according to their different
socio-/demographic and lifestyle characteristics, as well as to their sociological and psychological
dimensions, revealing more powerful target market insights and thus providing a springboard to marketers
for tailoring the marketing mix.
6. DISCUSSION AND IMPLICATIONS
6.1 Managerial implications
When marketers understand the consumer purchase decision journey and direct their spending and
messaging to the moments, or touch points, of maximum influence, they stand a much greater chance of
reaching consumers in the right place at the right time with the right message (Court et al., 2009: 2).
Customer journey analysis, in that respect, is a helpful methodology to support the management and
optimization of cross-touchpoint customer behavior. It helps them shifting the company’s perspective from
inside-out (managing products and channels) to outside-in (managing customer behavior and
experiences). Based on our customer journey analysis, companies obtain intelligence about customer
habits and preferences and understand how the customer crosses and interacts with each channel. And
customers expect suppliers to remember their interactions and channel preferences and adjusting the
service accordingly (Capgemini, 2010). With this understanding of the customer journey marketers are
able to prioritize channels, make better use of valuable marketing and managerial resources, streamline
the customers journey and deliver unique experiences to different customer segments, since there is no
one-size-fits-all approach to multichannel marketing (Sajdeh and Jones, 2009), thus ensuring customer
satisfaction and loyalty and driving sales.
6.2 Theoretical implications
First, by using the approach as demonstrated in this study, marketers can explain how consumers use
channels to gratify their needs in successive stages of the customer activity cycle. Second, underlying
motives for channel use are discovered by profiling these consumers using socio-/demographic and
lifestyle characteristics as well as psychographic segmentation. Third, consequences of (analyzing)
multichannel use are identified as described in the preceding paragraph: suppliers are able to prioritize
channels, make better use of valuable marketing and managerial resources, streamline the customers
journey and deliver unique experiences to different customer segments, thus ensuring customer
satisfaction and loyalty and driving sales. These three aspects are in line with the objectives of the ‘uses
and gratifications’ approach. This is a theory that originated in the 1970s as a reaction to traditional mass
communication research, which emphasized the sender and the message. The uses and gratifications
theory instead stresses the active audience and user, and attempts to explain the uses and functions of
channels for individuals, groups, and society in general. It seeks an answer to the question Why do
people become involved in one particular type of mediated communication or another, and what
gratifications do they receive from it?” (Ruggiero, 2000: 29). A question that has revived significance due
to the new media ecology.
7. SUGGESTIONS FOR FURTHER RESEARCH
In this study the customer channel behavior during the customer purchase journey was analyzed. In order
to have an impact on the journey, you first need to know how customers behave. Having a profound
insight into the customer’s behavioral interaction, the next step should include addressing the emotional
side of interactions to gain a better understanding of the physical and emotional feelings of the customer
during his journey. This is what we call the Customer Experience analysis. According to Watkins (2007)
“Customer Experiences are composed of a group of defined physical and emotional feelings.” Physical
feelings, or functional customer experiences as referred to by EarlyBridge (2010), tend to be hygiene
factors (for example speed, ease of use and accuracy). Emotional feelings, or emotional customer
experiences (EarlyBridge, 2010), are more likely to be the differentiators (for example confidence,
excitement and belonging). Suppliers should succeed in managing both, the customer journey (the range
INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF BUSINESS RESEARCH, Volume 12, Number 5, 2012 139
of tangible and quantitative interactions, triggers and touchpoints) and the customer experience (the
intangible and qualitative motivations, frustrations and meanings), in order to build a differential
competitive advantage. Therefore, we suggest that, apart from collecting behavioral data, an extensive
survey on needs and attitudes should be carried out. For this purpose a questionnaire should be
developed that is used for collecting qualitative, experiential data from customers (in each segment) about
their experiences with the product/service provider. After having sampled and surveyed the targeted
customer segments with regard to their experiences, the aim is to show the relationship between those
experiences and overall satisfaction and retention. A statistical ‘cause-and-effect’ model is built for each
multi-channel user segment (shopper archetype) on the basis of the segments and the collected data.
These models quantify the customer’s perspective of the multichannel experience and how this
experience can be improved (for example, allowing managers to make better resource allocation
decisions). Therefore, the Customer Experience analysis as an extended edition of customer journey
analysis provides a more holistic picture of a customer’s journey. The Customer Experience analysis
helps companies identify key propellers that move customers from ‘becoming a customer’ to ‘being an
advocate’ (Zhao, 2010) and prevents that the customer journey turns into “an emotional rollercoaster”
(Hogg, 2010).
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AUTHOR PROFILE:
Dr. Jos M.C. Schijns, MBA obtained his doctorate at the Maastricht University, the Netherlands in 1999.
He received his MBA at Webster University (“Academic Honors”). Currently he is an assistant professor at
the Open Universiteit, School of Management, Heerlen, the Netherlands, and program manager at the
Cendris Research Center, The Hague, the Netherlands. Cendris is part of PostNL, the Dutch national
postal services.
*
This research study was made possible through the generous support of (in alphabetical order) CCM
(www.ccmonline.nl), the Cendris Research Center (www.cendris.nl), EarlyBridge (www.earlybridge.nl),
HIGHvalue (www.high-value.com), LiveCom (www.livecom.net), the Open Universiteit (www.ou.nl) and
the Utrecht Business School (www.hu.nl)
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Some mass communications scholars have contended that uses and gratifications is not a rigorous social science theory. In this article, I argue just the opposite, and any attempt to speculate on the future direction of mass communication theory must seriously include the uses and gratifications approach. In this article, I assert that the emergence of computer-mediated communication has revived the significance of use and gratifications. In fact, uses and gratifications has always provided a cutting-edge theoretical approach in the initial stages of each new mass communications medium: newspapers, radio and television, and now the Internet. Although scientists are likely to continue using traditional tools and typologies to answer questions about media use, we must also be prepared to expand our current theoretical models of uses and gratifications. Contemporary and future models must include concepts such as interactivity, demassification, hypertextuality, and asynchroneity. Researchers must also be willing to explore interpersonal and qualitative aspects of mediated communication in a more holistic methodology.
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  • J C Hoekstra
 Schijns, J.M.C. and Hoekstra, J.C., "The multichannel shopper paradox: How loyal are multichannel users anyway? An empirical study in the home shopping industry", Proceedings of the DM/Interactive marketing Research Summit 2007, October 14, Chicago, Il., USA, 2007
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