Customer journey maps are not a new thing, but as new technologies and communication channels have infiltrated the buying journey, they’ve become a lot more—well—complicated. Rather than a linear map moving the customer from Point A (your first touchpoint of marketing) to Point B (the point of purchase), digital customer journey maps today look more like elaborate pinball games. Customers bounce from channel to channel at will, at any time of day or night, often creating their own touchpoints via third-party sources. It’s up to each individual business to make sense of the trails they follow and the final outcomes of each interaction.
Indeed, today, digital customer journey maps are less about static directional paths and more about living, breathing information that companies need to capture and analyze in real time. What’s more, the way you set up your customer journey map needs to be able to scale with your company, meaning you need to develop it with the foresight of future technologies, products, and services in mind.
It sounds overwhelming, I know. But research shows that spending time developing an effective digital customer journey map will pay off in lots of ways—higher return on marketing investment, lower customer service costs, higher rates of cross-selling/upselling, and more positive social media mentions, among other benefits. The following are a few tips for optimizing your digital customer journey map.
Optimizing Your Digital Customer Journey Map: Data and New Technologies
One of the most important things you can to optimize your digital customer journey map is to recognize that it’s actually a way to gather information about your customers—preferably in real time. The more information you’re able to gather, the better. This means you’ll constantly need to be adding new touchpoints, channels, and devices (including those managed by third-parties) as technology and the data gained from it continues to evolve. This also means your organization will need to make critical investments in data collection, management, and software to enable successful utilization of that data. Customer Data Platforms and CRM’s from companies like Microsoft, Salesforce, Oracle and SAS all have extensive capabilities in this domain. Having said that, there are a growing number of companies building comprehensive CDPs so its important to do your homework when selecting a platform.
Ok, so now that you recognize what needs to happen, let’s talk about why execution is so important. In short, it comes down to one thing that CMOs and marketing leaders have long promised, but have only started to deliver on. Personalization.
Research shows that 80% of customers are more likely to purchase a product if the marketing is personalized. Thus, the better we know our customer—not just how they’re shopping but why, how, and where—the better we’ll be able to personalize their experience and convert to not just a sale but a loyal customer. The data you capture through your comprehensive digital customer journey map will help you create solid, complex personas that detail more than demographics. They detail why the customer is buying what you’re selling (or not). When used intelligently, that’s the information that will help differentiate you from your competitors.
Think about your own experiences, would you buy click on the personalized email that has recommendations based on your past purchases or your search history? Or would you click on the clearly generic email that talks about sales storewide? Both are important from a marketing perspective, but the personalized one will likely get more click-throughs.
Keep in mind: customers are doing lots of self-education and will be finding out about your product and company on social media pages and websites you don’t manage. Find ways to use AI to pull in as much third-party data as you can to make your personas as complete as possible.
Making Your Digital Customer Journey Map Actionable with AI
As noted above, your digital customer journey map is worthless unless you have the platform in place to use the data and information you’re gathering, and update the map as new touchpoints and technologies are uncovered. As such, they’re never actually “complete”—they’re constantly evolving to be more complete based on the channels, devices, and touchpoints in use today. The utilization of AI and Machine Learning to optimize data collection and performance are two key capabilities that can enable the true personalization of the digital customer journey. I recommend the following actions to ensure that you’re making the most of your digital customer journey map.
● Invest in the Tools: Data without tools has almost no value for driving customer value. Depending on what your business does, the data it collects and the go to market strategy you employ, the investment and utilization of the right tools can be transformative and empower much greater returns and business agility. Some customer data platforms and tools are SaaS based and those often offer great flexibility but it can depend on the volume of data, the technical capability of your team and the vision for integration of all data sources. This will likely require a mix of SaaS, Cloud and legacy data systems on-prem.
● Close the gaps. Because there are so many channels available today—web, TV, mobile, social, etc.—customers risk learning about your product out of context if you haven’t aligned your messaging across platforms. When you find gaps—close them to ensure that customers are getting a full, clear picture of your brand and services.
● Think from a customer’s perspective. Rather than thinking of where you’d like to meet the customer on their journey, think of where they’d naturally want to meet your company—be it a specific pain point, problem, or issue. Add that issue to your digital customer journey map and proactively address it when possible.
● Test and change as needed. As with anything in digital transformation, your digital customer journey map is meant to change over time. Constantly work with your team to test your digital customer journey map. Determine where new insights could be found or changes need to be made. Think outside the box too.
If maintaining a digital customer journey map seems like a lot of work, that’s because it is. Luckily, AI and machine learning can manage a lot of the heavy lifting in terms of data processing. But beyond data, you’ll want to make sure your CIO and CMO work closely together to ensure that your digital customer journey map is as cohesive as possible. No man is an island. No customer journey map holds a magic treasure. It’s a process of creating as complete of a map as you can to lead your customer where they personally want to go—knowing that destination might even change tomorrow.