How to Make the Customer Journey More Data Driven

By Rich Hein, Contributor to CMS Wire

Brands must ensure customer journeys are as accurate and relevant as possible so customers and prospects can be guided into the appropriate parts of the funnel.

Consumers have more options than ever to engage with a brand, and those customers are more sophisticated and digitally savvy than ever before, so it is incumbent on brands to both retain loyal customers and acquire new customers as cheaply as possible.

These digital-first customers are not afraid of switching brands if their experience during their customer journey is not a positive or valuable one. In fact, 86% of consumers will leave a brand they were once loyal to after only two to three bad customer experiences.

Brands must ensure their customer journeys are as accurate and relevant as possible so they can guide customers and prospects into the appropriate parts of the funnel. And as customers move through that funnel, brands must provide the most relevant, personalized customer experience along the way.

For marketers to manage and modify the full customer journey effectively, they must have an in-depth understanding of their customers’ and prospects’ behaviors across all channels. To get that level of customer insight, marketers need good clean customer data to inform their activities. 

And they will need the right technology solutions to both gather and integrate that data, and display it in a way that provides actionable, data-driven guidance to their marketing teams for constructing and tailoring the customer journey and its accompanying customer experience. 

The customer experience is critical to the future of every brand, regardless of industry. US companies are estimated to lose $75 billion to $1.6 trillion per year due to poor customer service experience. 

What Is the Customer Journey?

The customer journey represents the full life cycle of the relationship between a brand and customer, focusing on their business relationship across multiple interactions over time.

A standard customer journey has the following stages:

  • Awareness: When someone discovers your company for the first time.
  • Acquisition: When a visitor becomes a customer by purchasing your product or service and signing up for email.
  • Onboarding: This is when you send welcome, update and offer emails to new customers.
  • Engagement: When an existing customer repeatedly buys from you, reads or watches your content, or interacts with your business on social media.
  • Advocacy: When a loyal customer becomes an evangelist for your product or service, telling others about how great you are.

A More Data-Driven Customer Journey

Being able to incorporate more data-driven practices into the customer journey means first understanding customers wherever they may be interacting with your brand. According to a Salesforce survey, 66% of customers expect companies to understand their needs. 

Organizations deploy a variety of data-management software tools and platforms to glean insights into their customer base. These platforms, which include customer relationship management, customer data platform and digital monitoring products systems, gather disparate customer data and integrate it so it can be used to affect the customer experience with personalization. 

Using the appropriate data management tools for industry and customer needs, brands can collect customer information such as behavioral, transactional and identity data, persistently over time. Depending on the tools deployed, some data management platforms can interconnect with the rest of your technology stack to deliver data out to affect personalization on the web or in other channels.

Orchestrating the Customer Journey

By using technology like data management platforms to become more data-driven, customer journey orchestration allows marketers to analyze customer interactions throughout the full customer journey, while delivering relevant content and messaging wherever those customers may be. When marketers leverage a data-driven customer journey map, it gives them actionable insights from the awareness stage, through acquisition, onboarding, engagement and advocacy.

Through the creation of these customer journey stages, marketers can visually see how customers engage with the brand, giving them insights into the channels they use, and the messages that work best to engage and convert at every stage.

The customer journey must be mapped and documented to be truly useful. This way all internal stakeholders can rally around a common understanding around the ideal buying journey. Being data driven is really the only way an organization can fully orchestrate a customer journey; it would simply require too much effort to do this manually.

Different Types of Customer Journey Maps

There are a lot of different types of customer journey maps out there, but building them based on quality and relevant data is the most important step to making them truly effective.

  • Current-State Journey Map: They outline everything your customer currently does, thinks and feels when interacting with your company.
  • Day-in-the-Life Journey Map: They paint a more detailed image of the customer by including activities unrelated to your company.
  • Future-State Journey Map: They seek to improve customer interactions by imagining what the most ideal interaction might be, and then identifying the steps that it takes to get there.
  • Service Blueprint Customer Journey Map: They start with any of the above three maps, then layer on the systems needed to deliver high-quality customer experiences.

The Technology to Make It Happen

More modern and intelligent data management platforms, when equipped with AI to perform customer segmentation and customer journey orchestration, can be leveraged by marketing to automate the management of the customer journey. With the right tools and capabilities, marketers can get the technical foundation they need to manage the full customer journey across both physical and digital channels.

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technologies, whether embedded into a broader all-in-one software platform or a stand-alone solution, allow marketers to process large amounts of data, identify trends, spot patterns and recommend best next steps. All of this results in a more accurate view of the customer journey than you could achieve by manually processing all the data.

AI can give businesses a more accurate customer profile, while providing actionable suggestions that result in improved performance. AI allows you to discover what traits are common to your most loyal customers, which customers are likely to churn, as well as recommendations for cross-selling and upselling.

Conclusion: CMOs and CIOs Should Invest in Data Solutions

Tracking, tailoring and orchestrating the full customer journey requires data-driven centric methodology and processes, along with the appropriate investment in the technology and infrastructure needed to execute successfully. Deploying the appropriate technology platforms and tools are critical for success since marketers cannot manually program campaigns and messaging to affect each phase of the modern buyer journey.

Chief marketing officers (CMOs) or chief information officers (CIOs) should be looking to invest in a centralized data management solution as part of their digital transformation, and CEOs need to ensure CMOs and CIOs get the investment they need to execute successfully.

Only with a unified data management strategy and the technology to power it can businesses truly turn their soft customer journeys into hard, data-driven journeys and experiences informed by real-world customer data.

Article originally appeared on CMS Wire.

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