Customer Touchpoints Guide: Definition and Business Examples

Customer Touchpoints

Customers have less face-to-face time these days than they did even five years ago. The COVID-19 pandemic forced a lot of businesses and customers into their homes, meaning that there was a rapid shift in how customer relationships needed to be handled.

While virtual customer touchpoints have been around for a couple of decades now, they were forced into center-stage during 2020, meaning that businesses all but need some way of keeping in touch with their customers outside of solid in-person customer service.

Now that businesses operate online as much they did in person, they need to be certain of the best avenues to invest their time and money when it comes to customer touchpoints. Here are the best touchpoints for various industries and business types.

What Is a Customer Touchpoint, and How Do They Help Businesses?

When we use the phrase “customer touchpoint,” what are we referring to? In a sentence, a customer touchpoint is a method or medium through which your business can keep in contact with its customers. Selling a product or service is great, but if your customer is satisfied, you'll want to stay in their mind as long as possible to ensure future sales.

Customer loyalty is crucial in any industry. Repeat customers are typically far more profitable than first-time buyers – a 5% increase in retention can bolster profit margins by 95%. Even if your customer isn't satisfied, you'll still want to be in touch with them, just in case you're able to fix whatever problem they had, or learn where you went wrong in order to fix it next time.

Competing for customer attention has always been a difficult prospect, but it's become even harder now that the pandemic has pushed a lot of businesses online. Experiences that could have heavily relied on presenting a physical store or delivering charming customer service had to quickly adapt to virtual touchpoints.

Customer Touchpoint Examples

After asking business owners and marketing executives from various industries what they consider to be the most useful customer touchpoints, we noticed some consistent answers. Of the approximate 200 answers we got, here were some of the most common responses, in order of their frequency:

  • Email marketing and newsletters
  • Social media/websites/paid ads
  • Customer feedback surveys
  • Phone calls/texts/apps
  • Face-to-face meetings

These will all work best at different stages in the customer journey. For example, ads and a social media presence may work best to pull an initial customer in, whereas a feedback survey or newsletter may remind the customer that your business appreciated their custom, and hopefully reel them back in.

Email Marketing/Newsletters – Suitable for All Businesses

In our research, email was the most popular customer touchpoint by an absolute mile. And it's easy to see why! Almost everyone has an email account, and any email can be sent to any email address – unlike social media, where Twitter users can't see Facebook posts, for example.

Another positive element of email marketing is the aspect of consent. Customers will usually need to sign up for your emailing list, and every marketing email is required to come with an “opt out” function, so customers will never be too annoyed by your contact.

“In my industry, it’s essential to develop long-term relationships with clients. The consultancy industry is not like the retail industry, where customers come flocking in the thousands. So it’s important to really hold on to the customers you get. In this regard, email marketing works wonders because we send personalized messages to those who have already signed up for our services.

“In this regard, retention is the name of the game. By delivering targeted messages, we successfully interact with our customers and strengthen relationships with them.”

Kamyar Shah, Fractional COO at Kamyar Shah

While emails can be sent in specific instances to notify customers about sales or events, they can also be used more regularly as general newsletters. While these used to be printed and sent out to individuals at their homes, with email marketing they can be sent out en masse (without wasting paper!)

These can keep customers (and other interested parties) in the loop with your business. Even if your customers don't read every word, seeing your business's name in their inbox will definitely help them remember you.

“I am an immigration attorney, and have found that newsletters, whether online or in print, provide us with the best return – dollar for dollar. They do not work by themselves, as there must have been some initial awareness of our services before we mail them to random individuals. But newsletters are, without question, a great resource for our firm.”

Renata Castro, Esq., Castro Legal Group

And on the topic of emails, one of the best ways to manage any kind of customer touchpoint is a customer relationship management (CRM) platform. CRM platforms offer a central dashboard through which businesses can manage their various touchpoints, like their emails and social media campaigns.

“We work with many individuals and nonprofits, and it's always essential for us to have consistent communication as well as a way to keep a record of our communications, so there is no confusion. This is why we prefer to keep up with our customers via email or CRM. The CRM system we use connects to our website, and all messages come straight to the system. This allows us to keep accurate records and always keep up with each customer or business so we can give them a personalized experience with us. We also use social media to keep potential clients up to speed on what's happening with the business and answer any commonly asked questions. However, we still primarily talk to customers via email and CRM.”

Max Turner, CEO of Car Donation Centers

Statistics on Email Marketing

Social Media/Web Presence – Best for Businesses with Visual Elements (Food, Grooming, Photography)

Social media has grown from a simple way of keeping in touch with friends and sharing funny pictures into a highly valued highway between businesses and customers. It's also a very unique method of connecting, as it can be used at any stage, between your customer learning that your business exists and them coming back for their tenth purchase.

For example, using paid ads on Facebook or Instagram is a very effective way to get noticed initially. Your business can target certain demographics and ensure you're being seen by the most valuable eyes.

“For my industries (marketing and cooking), I have found that the best way to keep in touch with customers is through digital advertising. I've noticed that digital ads, particularly for cooking, are a much more palatable way for a customer to engage with your brand. Cooking is a bit different because consumers only really want to search your business when they need a recipe – they don’t respond in the same way that other B2C audiences do. This is why digital ads are so useful for catching a customer’s attention – at the exact point that they need it!”

Anna Silver, Founder, CEO, and Creative Director of CookForFolks

One of the main appeals of social media is the ease of including images. Obviously emails can send pictures, but they can be slow to load, or even not show up at all on mobile devices. For businesses that live and die by their aesthetic or the visual draw of their service, this can be a game changer. Businesses that rely on food, cute animals, or landscapes would all benefit hugely from the ability to add images to their posts.

“Leveraging social media as a touchpoint works well for us specifically because we are in the pet wellness industry. Each dog we feature is automatically a brand ambassador due to how undeniably cute and likable users find them.

“As a business run by dog-lovers, I can’t deny that we seek communities of dog-lovers to buy our products. Right now, many of them use social media with their pets regularly, so that’s where we have to advertise our business to garner the best results.”

James Shalhoub, Co-founder of Finn

And while having an active presence on social media is definitely effective, it can be equally as effective to run your own website. Businesses basically need to have their own websites these days. It's one place on the internet where you can control everything, from the colors to the font – something you can't fully do through social media.

“We get the best engagement with our customers through our in-depth resources library on our webpage. We have a very specific target market and by focusing on valuable content for that market, we maintain and improve engagement with our clients. While we do have various social media channels and we do use them to engage with customers, by far the best feedback or interaction we get is by publishing useful content on our website.”

Eran Galperin, Founder and CEO of Gymdesk

Statistics on Social Media and Websites

Feedback Surveys – Best for Businesses Looking for Strong Customer Relations (Hotels, Hospitality, Retail)

All businesses benefit from return customers, so it can be worth making sure those customers are as happy as possible. Or, in the worst case, it's worth learning what they didn't like in order to improve on the experiences of future customers.

There are few better signs that a business cares than a sincere request for feedback. Especially since, in the customer's mind, their purchase is finished, and you're not trying to butter them up. These feedback requests can be done through your own proprietary system, or even on Google Reviews or Yelp, which can give customers a good assessment of how your business operates.

“The customer journey is an important part of understanding how your brand can provide the best customer experience. Legiit has found that the most important touchpoint for ecommerce businesses is product/service feedback surveys. The feedback survey is sent to the customer after they have purchased a product/service so that the customer can evaluate their experience with the brand…

“The survey helps create loyal customers because it indicates to the customer that your brand cares about them even after they have purchased products, therefore they are likely to purchase from the brand again.”

Chris Walker, Founder of Legiit

While negative feedback is useful if you're looking to improve, it can be equally nice to get positive feedback. This feedback can be used as customer testimonials, which you can put on your website or commercial materials in order to entice other customers.

“The Dolder Grand uses different kinds of tools to stay in touch with its guests after their stay. After each stay, we send out a questionnaire provided by LHW's Qualtrics to rate the stay. This helps us to improve our services and standards continuously.

“In addition, Google or TripAdvisor are important platforms to receive feedback from our guests along with our monthly newsletter, social channels, and our website to keep our guests up to date on new happenings at our hotel.”

The Dolder Grand, luxury hotel

Statistics on Feedback Surveys

Phone Calls/Texts/App Notifications – Best for Businesses with Younger Customers (Retail, Events)

Much like how everyone has an email address, you'd be hard pressed to find someone in the modern day who doesn't have a cell phone. We all have phones, and they're rarely out of arm's reach, so they're a prime way of communicating with your customers.

While emails and social media posts are effective, text messages and push notifications have the best of both worlds. Social media posts may only be seen by a certain percentage of your audience, and opening an email can be more of a commitment than opening a text. Texts are fast, guaranteed to reach your customer, and easy to deal with.

“We found that the most important ways of keeping in touch with customers are SMS and mobile app push notifications, because they provide you with a direct channel to your customers. SMS have open rates around 90%, and app push notifications have click rates around 8-10%.

“Emails, on the other hand, get filtered by inboxes and have open rates around 18% and click rates around 1%. Social media posts can be great, but they are not always reliable since you end up reaching only about 1% of your audience due to limits on organic traffic. So SMS and app push notifications really work great for every industry due to the high engagement.”

Jack Lee, Co-Founder of TripBison

As texts and apps are a bit newer than emails, this touchpoint method is especially suited to businesses with a younger audience. Retail businesses that focus on a younger demographic, or event-planning businesses focused on gigs or large social events, would be the perfect candidates for text-based touchpoints.

“I find that in my industry, SMS marketing campaigns are the most effective. Almost 100% of customers are likely to open their SMS messages, and most respond within three minutes, especially when I use a strong call to action in the message. Folks are also far more likely to respond to SMS messages than emails or Facebook or Instagram messages. This is especially true with younger generations.”

Geoff Cudd, Consumer Advocate and Owner of DDIY.co

Another great reason to use texts is if your business relies on rapid updates. For example, a business that relies on deliveries or in-person services (like plumbing or building) is going to want to make sure its customers are in the loop with how the timeframe is going. For example, if there's traffic or a delay, a customer won't see this in time if it's sent over email. A text, however, will likely be seen immediately, keeping communication smooth.

“Our customers like convenience, and they don't necessarily want to be bothered with additional notifications or having to download any new apps. Because our business is service-based and we deliver products to our customers, it's easier to keep in contact with them the same way we communicate with them when we make deliveries. When you think about it, consider pizza delivery companies, Amazon, and other product delivery services – they manage and keep in contact with their customers with a similar method.”

Ashley Chubin, COO of FlyHi

Statistics on Phone Communication

Face-to-Face Meetings – Best for Businesses with High-Quality Clients

Despite COVID's recent death grip on the in-person customer experience, sometimes it really just can't be beat. Obviously in-person meetings aren't for every business type – your standard retail business won't have the time or necessity to forge a personal connection with every customer.

However, if you're a business that deals with a handful of heavy-hitting high-cost clients (typically B2B businesses), it pays to personalize their experience as much as possible. If you're able to arrange a meeting in person, that's great, but the benefits from even just a virtual meeting are huge when you're trying to woo someone.

“In the marketing automation industry, clients can smell nonsense a mile away. This means that many standard forms of marketing and engagement can actually be counterproductive. Product demos are where the meat of engagement has to come from, actually giving away something useful rather than hoping to reel someone in with curiosity based on a Facebook or LinkedIn post. Being able to do more up front, more than your competition at any rate, is its own form of advertising.”

Kate Kandefer, Co-founder and CEO at SEOWind

Web conferencing software has been around since the early days of Skype, but it majorly stepped up during the pandemic, allowing coworkers to meet coworkers and businesses to meet clients. While it's obviously a distant second to real human connection, it still allows people to hear tone and intention in the spoken word.

“Interacting with your customers daily is one of the cornerstones to a successful customer communications strategy… Technology may frequently lead to irritation or misinterpretation. Face-to-face contacts lessen the possibility of miscommunication with a corporation while increasing the possibility of real connection.”

Emma Gordon, Founder at USSalvageYards

It doesn't have to be a one-on-one meeting either. Some companies will hold or attend industry-specific events that allow them to both touch base with existing customers, and establish connections with new customers.

“One of our other major customer touchpoints is at industry-specific events. This is our most successful method for reaching new customers and also a great way to re-engage with customers who have used us previously. We target recruitment events and offer help and advice to businesses about how they should be using criminal record checks in their recruitment processes. We always generate a lot of interest from this type of event, and as in-person events open up again, it will return to being a priority focus for us.”

James Parkinson, Head of Marketing at Personnel Checks

Statistics on In-Person Meetings

Combining Multiple Customer Touchpoint Methods

One of the most common sentiments among all of our research respondents was that it's rare for a business to rely solely on a single method of contacting its customers. Most businesses that rely on email marketing to spread their messages will also dabble in social media and run their own website.

“One of the most important things to remember about marketing is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach! If I rely solely on a couple of strategies to stay in front of my customers, I will end up a victim of change blindness. Our brains are designed to adapt and hide the recurring stimulus that is not proving to be harmful to us. So if I only email, or only call, I will end up getting ignored, even if it's not intentional!”

Stephanie Scheller, CEO and Founder of Grow Disrupt

The Future of Customer Communication

Business won't go back to the way it was before the pandemic. Even before COVID struck, businesses were veering away from being in-person – the pandemic just accelerated it. However, with all the various touchpoint options at their disposal nowadays, businesses are at a massive advantage.

Back before the internet, businesses had very few lanes through which they could communicate with their customers. They had television commercials, ads in print media, and physical mail, but these were (and still are) expensive, and weren't as much of a conversation as these newer touchpoints are.

Modern-day touchpoints are more affordable, more focusable, and more conducive to personalization. As your business's online presence grows, you'll begin to master customer touchpoints, and use them to optimize their growth.

Duncan Lambden
Duncan Lambden Senior Writer

Duncan (BA in English Textual Studies and Game Design) is an Australian-born writer for Expert Market. His articles focus on ecommerce platforms and business software that allows small businesses to improve their efficiency or reach, with an emphasis on invoice financing and customer relations. He has written for Website Builder Expert and Tech.co, and has been featured in Forbes. In his free time, Duncan loves to deconstruct video games, which means that his loved ones are keenly concerned about the amount of time he spends looking at screens.