The new differentiator: successful customer journeys at scale
To deliver effective customer journeys at scale, successful brands are reconfiguring their entire infrastructure to place the customer at the heart of everything they do.
Marketers have always had the same goal, but they’ve used different tools to achieve it. At the start of the 20th century, brands were structured around products. So in the era of manufacturing, advertising focused on the quality and the usability of the product itself: the craftsmanship of the shoes or the taste of the drink.
Midway through the century, we see creative advertising change this focus. There was a shift away from the product itself and companies began to sell a lifestyle. Regardless of who their audiences were, or what they wanted or needed, companies sold products based on their associated lifestyle. For instance, a new car could allow your family to travel, or a new suit unlocked new career opportunities. The problem was that not all customers had a family, or were looking for a promotion, so these ads simply weren’t relevant for everyone.
Today’s successful brands aren’t solely focused on specific products or selling a particular lifestyle, they’re focused on their customers. In fact, over 80% of organizations expect to compete first and foremost on customer experience and 90% of CEOs say customers are now the main driver of their cross-departmental strategies. Success in today’s digital marketplace hinges on how well brands know their customers.
Market leaders are building the capability to understand what every user wants and needs. They’re using advanced solutions to meet those needs in each and every interaction, across several different touchpoints, sometimes all over the world. The orchestration of the customer journey, from when a user discovers a brand to their subscription and every stage in between, has become the litmus test for brand relevance and dominance - customer lifetime value is one of the KPIs to focus on and optimize.
Successful customer journeys rely on three elements:
- Fully optimized customer journey orchestration
- Advanced customer data management and governance
- Personalized offers - the next best experience.
By addressing these three pillars, brands can master the customer journey and lock in relevance for years to come.
The new customer journey
77% of today’s brands invest in orchestrating customer journeys, but just 17% say they’re content that their experiences are consistent across that journey.
Customer journeys are no longer straightforward. Customers don’t just go to a shop and buy a product anymore at a single place or touchpoint. On average, a consumer uses nine touchpoints before making a purchase and 80% prefer a hybrid buying journey that encompasses offline and online channels.
Many will browse product selections in-store, then consult marketplaces on their device for user reviews, seek offers in-app, check competitors on social media and speak to a customer service representative before finally making their purchase. What’s more, they expect each of these experiences to be personalized, connected, informed by one another, and instantly relevant to their context.
If they move between an application and an e-commerce site and have to re-enter their customer data to log in, the relationship can be damaged. If they’re presented with an offer in-store that undercuts pricing on a brand’s TikTok Shop, the inconsistency can destroy trust. And if they set their preferences in-app for the type of product they are interested in, and get sold an irrelevant product via social media advertising, they may not return to that brand for future purchases.
However, only 22% of mainstream businesses say they can act rapidly on customer insight and only 31% of marketers believe their organization is agile enough to pivot to meet evolving customer needs. As Adobe put it, “customers are digital, predictable, and easy to lose”. It only takes one band experience with a brand for customers to take their business elsewhere. This isn’t about building up an understanding of user preference over time and gradually acting on it through touchpoints. It’s about acting on insights instantly to make each customer journey seamless and ensure every interaction flows naturally.
Customer journey orchestration
That’s where customer journey orchestration comes in: the process by which brands determine what information customers need at each phase and step of their journey, to help them progress to the next step without friction and to build a life-long journey with a brand.
A customer journey starts with a collection of data signals, which include within them an indication of customer interests and intent. These are the building blocks that enable brands to interact in real-time with customers, by leveraging an orchestration engine that can unite channels and destinations.
Understanding that journey requires brands to see interactions not as a series of isolated events, but as a single unified journey. 58% of marketers say their approach to customer journey management is focused on just the campaign level, and just 17% focus on holistic journeys. It might take place across more touchpoints, channels, and devices than ever before, but customers expect their journey to be continuous and connected, so brands must envision it that way too.
To meet customer expectations at every stage of the journey, brands need to first stitch together a constant stream of data to build a complete picture of their customers. They must then leverage advanced analytics to extract insights. Based on these insights, they can action real-time personalization, supported by automated decision-making, to create highly relevant interactions designed to generate long-term brand loyalty.
The ‘next best action’ approach
Successful customer journey management should kickstart a cycle where each interaction informs and deepens the next, to meet customer needs as opposed to forcing any particular outcome.
However, businesses are struggling to maintain that cycle at scale. 90% of business leaders today say they’re concerned about their data governance, 40% aren’t able to gain insight from their data quickly enough, and 38% struggle with unusable data. As a result, just 20% of mainstream marketers feel they have ‘significant insight’ into the journeys of new customers.
Brands must develop the capability to go one step further and trigger event-driven communications. This could look like a tailored time-sensitive offer delivered in-app when location data shows a customer is near a store, or the popular reminder about an abandoned shopping cart at a time that transactional data shows is convenient for that user to buy, whilst they are on their commute for instance.
To do that, they need the tools to connect specific data signals or behavioral events to offer initiation processes. This means being able to identify, understand and configure these events as triggers for instant personalization activation.
Many organizations have enough rich customer information to achieve this ‘next best action’ approach but lack an intelligent data layer such as Customer Journey Analytics to make that data lake instantly actionable.
Furthermore, brands need a tool stack that can push personalized messaging and offers to the right customers at the right time, via the right channel, tailored on-the-fly based on specific trigger events. Leading brands are using tools like Adobe Journey Optimizer to take their personalization to the next level with real-time push notifications delivered to the most relevant audiences, via the most relevant channel at the most convenient moment for those specific customers.
The ‘next best action’ approach means every touchpoint on a customer journey becomes a valuable opportunity to improve the next, through a constant feedback loop of data triggers, insight, and personalization.
Successful customer journey management relies on brands having the resources to learn from past interactions, and use them not just to inform present ones, but predict future ones too.
Carrying out this level of analysis manually on rich customer data on a global scale simply isn’t feasible. Still, over a third of marketers still use manual processes to manage customer journeys, and half still use several different solutions to manage customer data and action it. This means wasted time, resources, and a lack of scalability when it comes to global customer journey management.
By investing in a single source of truth in the form of a journey analytics platform, brands can apply predictive analytics to identify patterns and help teams to develop rules for content that is deployed when the relevant data trigger occurs. It can then automate journey analytics to feedback on those deployments and improve performance for next time.
For instance, next-generation solutions such as Adobe Journey Optimizer have the power to automatically resegment audiences based on a 360-degree view of their behavior, and automatically trigger communications in Adobe Experience Platform that are constantly context-relevant. Applying machine learning too can enable brands to pinpoint the most successful next interaction at scale, speed, and with flexibility across the whole customer journey.
It is clear that customer centricity is a key brand differentiator that places leading experience brands above the rest. It combines product, price, and branding to create an unforgettable brand offering for the modern customer that inspires long-term loyalty and return purchases. To achieve market capitalization, a customer-centric mentality is no longer a choice, it’s a necessity.
Customer expectations and competition for attention are at an all-time high. As is the amount of customer data being generated, the number of touchpoints, and the number of channels audiences are using to interact with brands. That means investing in the building blocks to architect customer journeys at scale, which flow intuitively for users is more important than ever.
To master these challenges, brands need to cultivate a state of informed agility based on the three pillars of optimized customer journeys: advanced journey orchestration, a customer experience personalized in real-time, and robust customer data management. They also must conduct deep transformational work within their organization to ensure new technology can be successfully adopted within an agile innovation environment.
The outcome? A more self-sufficient marketing team, long-term user loyalty to drive both macro and micro conversion, shorter time-to-market, and streamlined delivery of more relevant messages every time.
Daunted by the challenge of understanding user wants and needs on a large scale?
With state-of-the-art experience technology at their fingertips and an experienced digital partner by their side, brands can master the customer journey to lock in customer-centricity for years to come. An essential first step is simply an awareness of your brand’s maturity when it comes to customer-centric journey orchestration and a clear vision of how to optimize them to drive core business benefits. In this sense, many CMOs have already done the hard work.
The next step is to plot your path to experience excellence with a knowledgeable digital partner. Let’s talk about how we could optimize customer journeys together.