Marketers are obsessed with the customer journey for good reason. The best way to deliver a next-best action requires not only understanding how an individual has interacted with your brand, but also to predict what they will do next. For years, we’ve seen marketers perform journey mapping exercises, drawing lines on a whiteboard intended to represent the best sequence of messages and channels to drive a customer toward a conversion or purchase. This was challenging enough when we were working with web, email, offline, and social channels. Today, the world of digital experiences has exploded in multiple directions across different channels, devices and modalities — a once prescribed linear path has veered off in a thousand different directions. With more content and experiences open to consumers than ever, no two customer journeys will look the same. That’s why it’s time for marketers to evolve from the rigid journeys we were building before and let our customers lead the way.
Defining a Self-Directed Customer Journey
A self-directed journey is a connected experience where the customer tells the brand what they want and the brand then delivers a relevant, timely and personalized experience. It means that no matter what device, channel or touchpoint a customer engages with, they will receive an experience both relevant to their past and predictive of their future. It’s an experience so seamless and personal that the end user may not even be aware that they are on a “journey” at all. Achieving this holy grail will be challenging, and it may introduce risk and complexity to your business. But there is no choice. If brands can’t communicate with their customers and prospects this way to engage effectively online, drive brand trust and build loyalty in the “post-digital era,” they are putting their businesses at risk.
Delivering a self-directed customer journey cannot be accomplished with the traditional, monolithic architectures of the past that create silos of content, data and experience. To deliver this vision of a better customer experience, organizations must take an open, agile approach to:
- Data: enabling it to flow freely across systems (both bought and built); stitching it together from multiple sources to provide a single view of the customer; and making sense of it via pre-built machine learning models that can predict customer preferences and interactions based on past behavior.
- Content: creating composable, structured content, so it can be created once and presented on any display, device or channel; and low-code tools that allow for both developers and marketers to create and update content to satiate the consumer requirement for more and more content.
- Architecture/Experience: supporting any framework or API to integrate existing technology to provide a single, unified experience for the end user.
In case that sounds too high level or like too much tech speak, let’s add some color to that with an example of a self-directed customer journey I had recently.
With everyone spending much more time at home lately, we’ve all picked up different hobbies. For me, it’s been cooking and trying to put some healthy spins on classic dishes. One Monday night, I was thinking about what I should make for dinner the next night. I wanted to make something delicious without browsing through dozens of search results on my phone that forced me to skim through six paragraphs of introduction before getting to the actual recipe.
So I asked my trusty Amazon Alexa to suggest a healthy chicken carbonara recipe — and in an instant, Alexa offered a simple, tasty recipe that I could access on the mobile app that’s linked to my smart fridge. With the ingredients in front of me, I created a grocery list on my smartphone and then used a grocery delivery app to have essential items automatically sent to me each week.
The next night, I cooked my chicken carbonara and enjoyed the recipe so much I signed up for new updates from that same cooking site, so I can regularly get new food ideas to experiment with. In this self-directed customer journey, technology provided the convenience I needed; in turn, I rewarded the brand with continued loyalty by subscribing to their future content. Over time, I expect my relationship with this brand to grow as I cook more of their recipes, leave my reviews, and order specific ingredients. These interactions provide the brand with insight into my own preferences that I expect them to utilize when generating future recommendations.
With an open approach to technology and with data and content at the foundation of the digital experience, brands will be prepared to meet the rising demand for great digital experiences by optimizing all their customer interactions, no matter the path customers take.
At the same time, few brands are truly delivering a self-directed journey today. A self-directed customer journey is the goalpost for providing a compelling digital experience, and as the only Open DXP on the market today, Acquia is committed to helping you get there. Learn more in our e-book “The DXP Vision: Open Content and Unified Data.”