To be successful in today’s marketplace, marketers need to understand and adapt to their customer’s journey. Customers are likely just one device away, and yet their path down the sales funnel is neither linear nor direct. They experience cues and communications on multiple devices and channels and respond in an equally diverse manner.

Despite this hurdle, marketers have a wealth of data and tools available to inform their strategy, and email marketing is one of the most powerful. Here are four ways marketers can leverage email to inform and drive their customer’s journey.

Hello and Goodbye.

A primary way email fits into the customer journey is via routine and automated emails. The content, structure, and timing of these emails serve as guardrails and road signs for the customer. They are the explicit and implicit cues guiding their experience with the business and hopefully helping them form a positive opinion about the company.

These emails accomplish important tasks such as onboarding. They cover account maintenance topics such as login information, available apps, contact information, and billing methods. Customers may be introduced to social media accounts or online resources and communities. They also receive reminders and alerts for important dates or events.

These emails inspire the customer’s curiosity, introducing them to relevant services or products. They start a conversation about complementary services or products and continue steering the customer down the sales funnel.

Rate, Share, Recommend.

In today’s economy, reputation is currency and recommendations and ratings are a must if you want to catch and keep new customers. Reading reviews has become a routine part of the customer journey with businesses scrambling to adapt.

In a study conducted by Trustpilot, a consumer review website, 80.7% of consumers said reviews were somewhat or very important to their purchase decision. More than half read reviews while shopping on the company’s website or store – and a quarter said they conducted online research prior to actively shopping.

In another study from Collective Bias, an influencer marketing firm, 20.1% of buyers made a purchase in-store after reading an online review, and 53% sought out reviews on social media. Bright Local, a search engine optimization company, found that 84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation, while 74% said positive reviews inspire trust.

Clearly, ratings, shares, and recommendations are an important piece of the customer journey. Email marketers can leverage this fact by soliciting, incentivizing, or encouraging reviews. They can also encourage satisfied customers to share their experiences online or on social media.

Collaborate and Connect.

A recent survey released by eMarketer found that retailers’ biggest concern and priority for 2017 was connecting customer’s in-store experiences with their digital preferences and tools. The way people shop and interact with brands has changed drastically in the last few years. Customers routinely mix and match digital and physical tools when making decisions. They may hear about a product from an influencer or advertisement, then research the product online, or on their desktop or phone. Next, they visit a store to get a closer look at the product and make their purchase.

Or consider this swap. Walmart has recently ramped up its online shopping experience to compete with Amazon and Amazon Prime’s free shipping incentive. Through promotions and deep discounts, Walmart is encouraging customers to shop online and pick their order up at a local store. This strategy requires an omnichannel approach, with real-time, personalized email playing a key part in the business’ success.

Data, Feedback, Analytics.

Email marketing is helping businesses improve customer journeys is through the analytics and data they provide. Marketers gather an immense amount of customer information by tracking the emails they send. The data collected can be analyzed in real-time and custom dashboards that help marketers chart customer behaviors and preferences. This information is invaluable for optimizing email marketing efforts based on the customer journey.   

Whether it’s open, clicks, conversions, newsletter sign-ups or shares, all this data feeds back into the system and helps marketers identify moments that matter. Understanding the significance of these moments is a key distinction between the old and new customer journey. As detailed in a recent article from Gartner, the end goal is no longer simply conversions, but identifying and understanding micro-conversions that accomplish key goals such as moving customers along the path to purchase, enhancing the ownership experience, and driving loyalty and advocacy. (“How Modern Performance Media Drives Advertising Effectiveness”, March 2017, Gartner)