I Am The Second of Seven Children 

Seven high-strung, over-achieving, raging harpies that still, even today in middle-age, demand a disproportionate share of any conversation or attention in any group setting. It was no surprise that my parents would haggardly drag themselves across the week’s finish line desperate for a night out and would, for a few hours, go to a restaurant and gaze into the middle distance as they contemplated their life’s choices. Trouble was, no one would babysit us (shocker). The responsibility to keep the house from burning to the ground when my parents were out (happened in 1987, not on my watch) rotated between my older sister, Jill, and me. My parents looking for ways to occupy our minds on a limited budget would trade babysitting services for books. Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, The Boxcar Children—it didn’t matter what. I was easily seduced into taking responsibility for five hours of uncontrolled chaos with the promise of a new story.

One of the series that became popular in the early ’80s was the Choose Your Own Adventure books. The series was written from a second-person point of view, with the reader assuming the role of the protagonist and making choices that determine the main character’s actions and the plot’s outcome. As the book progresses the reader arrives at a page with a choice—for this plotline, turn to page 34—to choose an alternate plotline, turn to page 55. As a pre-teen, I would invariably choose the most dangerous possibilities and end up dead within a couple of storyline forks in the road. Sigh. Not much has changed.

Marketing has become one giant Choose Your Own Adventure exercise. Consumers demand the ability to choose what content to watch, where to read, how to communicate, and when to buy. We hop from our phones to a TV top box, to a tablet, to a conversation with a friend, to online reviews, to a website, and maybe, finally, to a brick and mortar store. 

Consider the following:

  • 72% of the conversion process takes place without active company intervention 
  • Consumer-driven engagements require at least four channels to validate company trust and product quality sufficient enough to make a decision
  • Consumers will leave and never come back if there is a break in the seamless experience they subconsciously expect across those four channels
  • The average number of touchpoints to convert-to-decision for a generic product is 11
  • The average number of touchpoints to convert-to-decision for a B2B product/service is 19

What does it mean?

People want control of their own conversion experiences.  It’s the job of the brand to provide a dynamic, progressive, omnichannel experience for customers to discover, learn, engage, and convert themselves.  

As a whole, brands grossly underestimate how important this type of control is to consumers, ranking it as “low importance.” Brands are missing a significant opportunity to empower their customers and they’re compromising the customer experience along the way. As a result, customers get ticked off and the relationship becomes one-sided. 

Sometimes I hate when people give me encouragement. I feel like saying, “Shut up! I know I can do it, I just don’t want to.”

Give Your Customers More Control of Their Own Journey

Customers aren’t looking for brands to define their journeys, but to design experiences that help them create their own journeys.

The modern consumer has choices and the resources to identify which brand provides the most value. Brand loyalty may not be dead, but brands that take customers for granted will quickly find themselves without any. Instead, brands must recognize the psychological importance of choice. 

This means capitalizing on the tendency of consumers to prefer multiple options over a single path because options give them more control. The more brands can make customers feel empowered, the more likely they are to win new customers and maintain the loyalty of returning ones.