It is quite typical of any market that supply and demand sides meet one another for specific needs. Phone calls, e-mails, text messages, social nets, websites and different applications are used on daily basis in order to provide this interaction. In marketing communications, any sort of interaction between a consumer and a business can be defined as a touchpoint.
On demand side, when consumers are exposed to touchpoints it gives them the opportunity to compare their prior perceptions of the business and form an opinion and make further decision.
As for the supply side, a touchpoint is a way to reach out the target market and to be seen by the potential customer. So business uses touchpoint in order to improve customer relationship and brand recognition.
The word ‘touchpoint’ itself came from astronomy. As it’s used today, touchpoint seems to be a term that can refer to any of several different facets of customer experience as listed below.
- Service Evidence standing for the physical elements of a service explored in 1988.
- Service Encounter that means human interactions occuring between a customer and a service provider introduced in 1990.
- Servicescape standing for the environmental aspects of a service that dates with 1992.
This term usage was enhanced after the increase in customer relationship management popularity in 1990s (e.g. Advertising Age’s Business Marketing, Managing Office Technology etc.)
Regardless industry, touchpoints can be divided into paid (classical push media with advertising messages), owned (brochures, marketing instruments, sales consultations, websites, etc.) and earned ones (recommendations, test reports, feedback).
Due to touchpoints, a brand may influence consumers’ will to purchase. The customer takes part in such interactions during customer experience lifecycle throughout the five stages of the buyer purchasing decision-making process: problem recognition, information search, the evaluation of alternatives, purchase decision, and post-purchase behavior.
By consumer experience, there are three experience touchpoint categories:
- pre-purchase experience touchpoints that defines the ways how potential consumers interact with a brand before deciding whether to do business with a firm or not (advertising, research, word-of-mouth, websites, direct mail, sponsorships, public relations);
- purchase experience touchpoints that related to those that drives a customer from the idea of buying a company’s item to the buying a product or service itself and starting a relationship (face-to-face contact, direct sales, stores);
- post-purchase experience touchpoints that are used after the brand, the product, and or service has been already sold and intended to enlarge customer experience with the brand (regular maintenance, loyalty programs, warranty, rebate activities, customer satisfaction surveys).
Within the customer path from pre- to post-purchase phase there are different stages of communication between customer and brand. The categories of touchpoints range from brand originated, intrinsic, highly controllable to customer initiated and unexpected. The last is often taken from outside stakeholders, dissatisfied or satisfied customers via feedback collection.
By consumer reaction, touchpoint categories can be positive, neutral and negative. The goal of business is to use touchpoints that provoke predominantly positive or at least neutral thoughts and maintain a strong and attentive dialog with customers.