Surprise & Delight With a World-Class Customer Buying Journey 

By: Sarah Borchers
customer opening a breakthrough touchpoint gift

With so many outlets for customers to share their honest opinions and endless brands to choose from, it’s more important than ever to create a world-class buyer’s journey that builds a two-way relationship.  

When done well, you’ll positively influence customers throughout the buying process during moments that matter most to them—not just at times they expect.  

Proactive Customer Engagement  

Brands that proactively work to improve and influence a customer’s feelings toward the brand are more likely to create a deeper emotional connection (or establish a relationship that wasn’t there before), and avoid potential customer frustration. Being proactive starts with developing a strategic engagement plan that reaches out to customers throughout the buying journey.  

It also demands you reevaluate how you’re currently interacting with customers, like retargeting emails. Going beyond digital provides more opportunities for brands to engage with their customers in fun and unexpected ways, increasing their likelihood of brand loyalty.  

If you’re looking to try a beyond digital tactic, consider custom awards or memorable experiences. Filling your customer engagement plan with these ‘surprise and delight’ tactics during key impressionable moments makes buying from your brand an experience of its own. That equals happier, more loyal customers in the long run! 

Business Wire found that 86 percent of consumers will leave a brand they trusted after only two poor customer experiences.

Keeping Customers Engaged When It Matters Most 

Every organization’s customer buying journey is different, but each one presents key opportunities to make a good impression and deeper emotional connection. These ‘surprise and delight’ customer engagement techniques we call “breakthrough touchpoints” reach out to customers in positive ways they don’t expect.   

Making Breakthrough Touchpoints Count  

Effective breakthrough touchpoints are gifts or memorable experiences that are most relevant to the customer. To understand what will make an impression on your customer and motivate them to engage with your brand, gather first- and zero-party data

Here’s a quick overview. First-party data is gathered by a brand based on a customer’s profile and past interactions with them, while zero-party data is voluntarily given by the customer to a brand in exchange for something valuable.

Using first- and zero-party customer data as part of your customer engagement plan will help you personalize the customer experience, improving the odds that your gift or experience will be well-received. This thoughtful approach goes beyond traditional email and text interactions, increasing customers’ emotional connection to your brand. Here’s an example. 

An ITA Group client wanted our help addressing a major customer service issue that caused customer dissatisfaction. After identifying the problem, we created a customer-focused solution that not only acknowledged customers’ frustration but improved relationships.  

We began by developing a comprehensive communications strategy that looked to ‘surprise and delight.’ Customers were ‘wowed’ when they unexpectedly received a “dinner on us” Omaha Steaks gift package, complete with a bottle of steak seasoning—all mailed to their door. This included a handwritten letter that took ownership of the situation and promised a return to great customer service. 

The solution was so well-received by customers it was written up in the Financial Times as “how banks should conduct business.” The client saw a seven-figure financial impact from AVE (Advertising Value Equivalency) due to the media coverage. 

Related: A Breakthrough Touchpoint Restores Customer Relationships 

Gifting tactics like this case study example are an excellent marketing and engagement tactic to use for customer retention, according to the Harvard Business Review. And it’s an extremely effective way to renew interest, boost purchases, restore loyalty or educate consumers on new products. With a little creativity, you can create a memorable experience that makes a lasting impression.  

Customer trust is earned or broken with every experience. More than 58 percent of customers will stop purchasing from a brand that does not provide personal experiences they value. 

Amplifying Your Customer Engagement Program  

Creating a long-term customer engagement program takes strategic thought and consistency. It’s a process we’ve spent years perfecting. Here’s a look at what we think should go into every breakthrough touchpoint plan to ensure results. 

  1. Identification of impressionable moments in your customer’s journey, along with a deep understanding of organizational needs and goals, serves as the foundation of a breakthrough touchpoint program. Collaborate with your marketing team or strategic partner to build a creative solution that fits your specific scenario, whether you have an existing engagement program that needs amplified or a brand-new program.   
  2. Attention-grabbing copy and design that elevate customer communications. That includes direct mail, gifts and signage. Authentic messaging greatly aids in building long-term relationships, where customers know they can trust you.
  3. Customized touchpoint fulfillment that resonates with customers and outperforms traditional marketing. Customized (and personalized) touchpoints help create an emotional connection between customers and your brand. 
  4. Integrated technology is a must. That starts with a solid understanding of your current data capabilities and customer engagement goals. The next vital step is collecting and acting on first- and zero-party data to create a customizable gifting program that amplifies existing customer engagement strategies. 
  5. Daily program management that’s easy to oversee, whether you have a dedicated in-house team that can self-manage the program or a strategic partner that works in alignment with you. A single point of contact will help streamline and manage all the details. 
  6. Reporting, or having a centralized platform for all your data, will take the guesswork out of your engagement program’s effectiveness and show where improvements are needed. This ‘single source of truth’ will also help you truly understand the health of your customers. 

Related: 3 Steps Marketers Must Take to Improve Customer Engagement 

Tips to Help You Get Started  

There’s a lot to gain from spending time understanding what needs to go into your breakthrough touchpoint program, so that it will resonate with customers. A good first step is creating a custom gifting program, which is a relatively easy and quick way to engage your customers and encourage long-term brand loyalty.  

Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. What have you done recently to “wow” them during the moments that matter most? Get creative while building a world-class buying journey. If it offers opportunities to ‘surprise and delight,’ you’re on the right track! 

Another tip is to find a strategic partner with a turnkey program that can work in tandem with your marketing team. That partner should be detail-oriented with proven results in all areas of engagement, including data, platforms, gifting, events and travel. A strategic partner with this kind of breadth can save you valuable time, allowing your team to do essential tasks and help your entire organization reach business goals.  

Assess your next steps in either establishing or enhancing a customer engagement program that works best for you. Our customer solutions experts can help—acting as an extension of your team to make sure you’re taking advantage of every opportunity to meaningfully engage with your customers. Talk to an expert today.  

Sarah Borchers
Sarah Borchers

With over 15 years of experiential marketing and branding experience, Sarah is passionate about bringing ideas to life while connecting people with brands. Sarah tries to live her life by her favorite quote, “Live fearlessly in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.” Sarah loves all things art and traveling and sees the world as an empty canvas waiting for a splash of color. When Sarah is not working, you will find her volunteering, attending concerts, refinishing furniture or camping with her family.