It’s no great surprise that many retailers are reporting an increase in multi-touchpoint engagement from their shoppers this year in the run-up to Christmas. Our own Technographics® data has been showing an increase in the use of things like mobile, tablets, and click-and-collect services for some time. But as the number of touchpoints shoppers are using increases, so does the complexity faced by brands trying to manage coherent, consistent, and compelling experiences across these multiple touchpoints.

The reality we now face is that customer journeys cross touchpoints.

Forrester’s Marketing Leadership team has been championing an approach to thinking about the customer journey not as a marketing funnel but as a life cycle — a dynamic, circular ecosystem of touchpoints that morphs over time, possibly with each customer and each journey. But even making the leap from a funel based paradigm to this approach is just the first step in working out how best to optimize each touchpoint.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to just assume that every touchpoint needs to replicate every other touchpoint. Customers don’t use each touchpoint in the same way. Their expectations about what they can achieve on mobile and how a mobile app might help them interact with their physical environment with, for example, a mobile store locator or a bar-code scanner is very different from what they expect to be able to achieve when they call your call centre.

Touchpoints need to be designed within the context of an overall customer journey. Not in isolation.

But to further complicate things, customers are increasingly using more than one touchpoint in a single shopping journey. Some experiences, like click and collect, are even designed to encourage this behaviour. Most successful multichannel retailers report that multichannel customers are worth more than single channel ones, so it would seem to be in everyone’s interests to encourage this behaviour. It’s convenient for shoppers and it adds value for the retailers. It’s a win/win.

The key here is to work out which cross-touchpoint experiences add the most value to both your brand and your customers, then do a great job of delivering those experiences. Trying to enable the any-time, any-place, anywhere customer to transact whenever, where-ever and however they want is futile. It’s too complex, too costly, and many of the outlying possibilities happen so infrequently that there is no point in burning energy optimizing them.

In Managing The Cross-Touchpoint Customer Journey, we take a look at how to do exactly this — how to cut through the confusion and chaos to identify, design, and implement compelling, value-adding, cross-touchpoint customer journeys.

As more and more touchpoints continue to emerge, understanding which ones are vital to your business will become increasingly critical.