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Customer Journey States Part 1: From Anonymous to Known

Scott Howland | 14 May 2020 | Read time: 7 minutes
Topics | Paywalls, subscription economy

For brands, media businesses and publishers to succeed, it’s crucial to move consumers and prospects from an unknown state - totally anonymous - to known users. But what are these different user journey states? And how can we move users between states?

User states are at the front of everyone's minds at the moment. The Google announcement, which effectively killed the 3rd party cookie, means brands must build a 1st party data relationship with their users in much the same way that e-commerce brands have been doing for the past few years.

In this three part blog, we’re going to explore a customer journey through the following states:

  • Anonymous & Unknown Users - Registration & Identity Walls
  • Known & Registered Users - Progressive Profiling and Personalized Experiences
  • Subscribers and Customers - Renewal, Churn, Active & Inactive


Part 1 - Anonymous & Unknown Users

Does Anonymous Really Mean Anonymous?

Anonymous users are people we can’t identify, and therefore unknown to us when they visit our website or app. We have no information about them. No way of personalizing an experience. Or do we?

It often goes unused, but a lot of data can be leveraged when someone lands on our website or app. This can include data like geographic location, IP Address, Operating System, Device Type, Browser and Referrer. All of this information can be utilized to help personalize the experience. You may not know their name, but you know a lot about them already! 

Possible Anonymous Journeys 

  • Do you have a ‘light’ journey for mobile web users? (I.e. a lighter registration form with less required boxes - frictionless!)
  • What does the journey look like for mobile app users? (Different to the website?)
  • What journey does a Safari browser user take? (Should this be different to Chrome?)
  • Do you have a different CTA for iPhone vs. Android?
  • Do you show a different paywall for different geographical locations?


All of these above statements can be used as data driven decisions in customer journeys to look at driving these users from unknown to known. Yes, we still may not know the identity of a user, but we’re able to leverage data points, and take actions to drive a value exchange to pursue a first party relationship with said user. Trying to move them from being ‘unknown to known’.

Ways in which we can move users from unknown to known can differ. It depends on the strategy and approach of the business. What we do know though, is that this is going to be some type of Identity or Registration Wall (sometimes called a Reg-Wall).


From Anonymous to Known: Identity & Registration Walls

The humble registration wall is something we’re seeing more commonly across the web. This is being used earlier in the sales process for lots of brands and businesses. Take Publishers for example. Is it easier to get an email address or payment for their subscription? I’ll leave you to answer that one!

However, what does this mean is that this is going to be a value based exchange. A value exchange is fundamental in modern marketing, trading a piece of information, or data, for a better experience, product or service. With a registration wall in place, typically this will be the setting up of an account, including collection of an email address and password. 

This is the journey of moving your anonymous users from unknown to known. 

Although this sounds like a simple solution - “hey, just throw up a reg-wall” - this also  comes with potential negative views. It means your content or web application is gated, people have to sign in and register to see your business and this typically comes with lots of unanswered questions.
- What if my users don’t see enough value?
- What if they don’t want to sign in?
- What if this reduces my traffic?
- What happens if Google bot can’t crawl my site? 

This is why you need the ability to build, test, deploy and iterate different experiences and experiment with different types of registration walls and gates. There is no single way to ensure that your strategy is going to be successful, it depends on your brand, your users/consumers, your strategy, your monetisation - a very extensive list of factors and elements. 


What we would suggest though, apart from the obvious in using Zephr out of the box, is that you test different types of registration walls - e.g. hard (requires), soft (suggests), metered (gives you certain amount of free access) - and also different types of registration forms - e.g. different amount of attributes for collection to ensure frictionless process (no point creating too much friction they won’t sign up! - we’ll talk more about progressive profiling in the next part!) - but remember, leverage the data we do know already about these anonymous users including device, browser & country to ensure we convert the most amount of users from unknown to known.

In summary, leveraging the data we know, and map this with a smart data/registration wall, we’re going to move more and more users between the states of Unknown to Known. By doing this we’re starting to build a value based first party dataset, and ensure that we’re futureproofing ourselves to the demise of the third-party cookie. 

In part two, we’ll be exploring more about known & registered users, especially techniques like progressive profiling and how this can be used to drive a deeper relationship between the brand and user.


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