Channel Amnesia and Buyer Journeys

There’s a powerful phenomenon developing that I’ve been observing in recent years. As our internet-connected devices become ever more intimate, the content they provide has to also become more personalised and tailored to our desires. We’ve grown used to getting near-instant answers to every question, often with little more than a few keystrokes or a brief chat with a voice-assistant device.

As instant access to near-perfect (or, at least, good enough) answers becomes the norm, we’ve stopped having to think about the best place to find those answers. They’re just there, always, at the other end of our question.

All of which means that very often we don’t know or care where the answers have come from. What we do know is how easy it will be to find them again, so what value is there in remembering the source of today’s answers?

The consequences of this change are of supreme importance to marketers. As prospects and customers have stopped caring to remember where they found out about the products and services we offer, it has become exceptionally difficult to say with certainty which of our marketing efforts or channels most influenced their decisions. With 84% of sharing being dark (i.e. taking place beyond the abilities of digital measurement systems), attempting to establish facts about which touchpoints work best has become almost impossible.

As Adele Revella, CEO at the Buyer Persona Institute puts it,

“Almost no one can recall any marketing engagement that influenced their decision.”

I call this phenomenon ‘Channel Amnesia’ and it’s not new. Buyers have long struggled to accurately recall what influenced their decision the most. But its effect is more acute today and the value of recall has diminished almost to zero. Mapping out buyer journeys and seeking to optimise your brand’s role within them remains a useful discipline. Just don’t expect any of your customers to accurately recall the stages they went through and the relative value of each touchpoint they encountered. And most attempts to quantify the ROI of each piece of content is almost certainly doomed to fail.

Channel Amnesia is also one of the primary reasons why B2B (business-to-business) communications can be so well received on traditionally consumer-focussed platforms like Facebook and Instagram. We don’t stop being a business professional when we go home at the end of the working, nor would we actively reject useful, timely business content we encounter through personal communication channels. We’ll happily consume and save the information we find useful to our lives. Just don’t expect anyone to remember that they first encountered that whitepaper while scrolling through their Facebook newsfeed on the train home.

Most measurement and tracking systems I see in use today have been built on foundations of hope and dreams, not the solid, enduring basis of true understanding of human behaviour. Channel Amnesia is here to stay. Smart marketers will adapt their thinking and planning approaches to reflect these tough, new realities.