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Each customer travels along their own, unique, complicated path to purchase. In the media and publishing industry specifically, readers have limited time and attention to split between a plethora of content producers, and so a seamless, meaningful journey with relevant touchpoints pays dividends. In fact, according to Salesforce, 80% of customers now consider their experience with a company to be as important as its products. 

But building an effective user journey is far from easy. 

A buyer’s interests, demands, expectations, intentions, actions and reactions are incredibly complex and hard to predict. For those looking to put in the effort, build out powerful customer journeys and reap the rewards, I give you our 5 simple tips for success.

Start with a plan

The first step in creating successful customer journeys is to define exactly what success looks like for you and your organization. Often your intended outcomes will be linked to KPIs in your particular field, but common ones include improving on engagement, purchase value, retention and cost. 

Whatever your objectives are, make them specific“We want to increase revenue” will not be as useful as “we want to increase average revenue per user (APRU) for our premium subscribers by 15%” when building the user journeys and evaluating their effectiveness later on. Whether or not you reach the exact goal set is of secondary importance, it’s much harder to build out a customer journey without a finishing line to aim for.

Understand your audience

Now that you have a clear picture of what you are trying to achieve, start to think about your audience, specifically asking 3 key questions:

Who are they?

Hopefully you already have some data about your readers and their behavior, but at the very least you need to split them up into ‘user states’: anonymous, known, customer (split into engaged, churn risk, upsell opportunity). There are of course many more subgroups that you can flag up – in theory as many as there are customers – but start with a handful and focus on those key transitions between unknown users, registered readers and paying customers.

What do they want?

Arguably the most important factor in effective customer journeys is the value proposition. What levers can you pull on to drive home the conversion from anonymous to known (registration) and known to customer (subscription/paywall). This will vary along the buyer journey, but ultimately the extent to which you give the customer what they want determines how much they are willing to pay you in return.

What do they not want?

Equally important, although too often overlooked, is what the customer really doesn’t want. For publishers, hitting a reader prematurely with a data- or paywall will not only fail to convert, but will also leave a lasting negative impression. Similarly, shouting about a product feature that most could do without won’t help you sell any more, but it will remind your customers they are paying for something they don’t really want.

Retention is key to growth, and keeping an existing client can cost 5x less than acquiring a new one, so make sure you align customer desires with your product offering.

All together, answering these three questions will help you get into the mindset of your different customers, enabling you to maximize opportunities whilst avoiding costly pitfalls.

Sort your tech out

We’ve never said that you have to do all this on your own! 

Blueprinting, building and executing multiple customer journeys requires a lot of effort but thankfully the technology is out there to help. A Data Management Platform (DMP) or Customer Data Platform (CDP) will help you store and manage the data you collect and provide insights into how to answer some of the questions above. 

Add to this a Customer Journey Orchestrator and you will be able to build out, test and implement your paywall or access management strategies within minutes, without writing a single line of code.

Iterate, experiment, innovate

It can be daunting when first attempting to map out relevant customer journeys with no easy way to validate your efforts. Don’t expect to get it completely right the first time – fail fast and move on.

Modern tech enables you to A/B test different strategies, with regards to messaging, timing and product offering, and then double down on successful methods. When it comes to user journeys, there isn’t really a perfect answer, but a test-and-learn attitude will take you far down the right path. 

Keep it simple, then let it grow

Simplicity, clarity and conviction are important when starting to map out customer journeys, but we all know that each reader of your content is unique and will require a deeply personalized user experience. Once you’ve got a handful of tried and tested journeys it’s easy to scale by pulling apart the customer cohorts into more specific groups, and bringing more product features into the offering. 

At the end of the day, the sky’s the limit when it comes to customer journeys; they can always be more accurate, effective or streamlined. That’s why The Wall Street Journal’s intelligent paywall caters for 60 different variables including frequency, depth of read, favoured devices, preferred content types and a whole lot more. These metrics allow you to turbocharge conversion rates, more accurately calculate CLV and build customers for life. 

You can’t really afford not to do it!


Lineup Systems is the world's leading provider of media sales technology, representing over 6,800 media brands globally, including Gannett/USA Today, New York Times and News Corp. Amplio is Lineup's multi- channel audience monetization solution that helps media companies realize their full reader revenue potential, using data-driven intelligence to engage, nurture and monetize readers with personalized offers that increase reader revenue and reduce churn. Adpoint is Lineup's end-to-end multi-channel media advertising sales solution that helps media companies streamline operations, make better use of data, increase efficiency and boost revenue.