A Marketer’s Guide to Navigating the Customer Journey
Nearly every day, consumers engage with brands, but how they engage, when they engage, and why they engage is unique to each person. Successful marketers know that having a great product and solution alone won’t bring you new business. To attract and retain customers, marketers must also focus on the customer experience, and today this means building a relationship with your audience through every stage of the customer journey.
The challenge is scale. You don’t just have one customer, you have several - hundreds, or even thousands - and your customers are always on the move. As a marketer, you are no longer in the driver’s seat, controlling the message and how customers receive that message. Customers now decide the journey and experience they want to have with a brand – in terms of what they want to consume, where they want to consume it and when – and they expect that each and every digital interaction be highly relevant and personalized for them.
As a marketer, you hope to pinpoint what your customers care about so you can start or join a conversation at the right time, and offer the best, most relevant information and experiences when customers are looking for it. While the concept of content and marketing personalization isn’t new, at scale, this best practice may still be daunting for most companies to undertake for a number of reasons. Here are just a few.
3 Roadblocks to the Customer Journey
- Marketers don’t know their customers’ journeys, not really. While you may know your customer, how well do you know each of your customers? Your customers are on individual journeys that cut across multiple digital and nondigital channels like web, social, commerce, IoT, call centers, and in-store. They are seeking various kinds of information across a multitude of topics at different points in time. They expect brands to easily provide them with the answers, content, or products they are looking for in real time via an experience that appeals to them on their preferred channel.
- Too many marketing channels, not enough resources. Marketers are nurturing many unique personas, who consume different types of content across various topics and multiple channels. People, budget, and time are limited. Often, marketers may rely on outdated information (not real time) or risk creating generic content for all of their audiences to consume due to lack of resource and an understanding of their customer journey. This content is then syndicated across every possible channel, which often bombards customers by not offering them the information they care most about. Some organizations feel forced to rip and replace their existing technologies or spend significant time and resources in integrating solutions to make the journey somewhat workable (although still very manual) – both options aren’t ideal and often create major headaches for IT and other teams involved.
- Data, channels, and systems are disconnected. Marketers are working with an abundance of channels, systems and data to deliver the customer experience today that cut across teams like marketing, customer service and advertising. While these tools work individually, they lack the ability to orchestrate data-driven customer journeys together. In many cases, these tools aren’t talking to each other, leaving customer data and content fragmented across systems i.e. (content marketing systems, marketing automation tools, or CRMs). This kind of siloed environment makes it difficult for marketers understand each customer's’ unique interests and behaviors across the journey, making it impossible to react to customers’ behaviors based on real time data.
Tips for Navigating the Journey
Marketers need an easy way to help them understand what stage each customer is at in their journey, what they care about and when, and a solution that surfaces the right content and experiences in real time while leveraging their existing investments.
In planning for your customer journey strategy, here are a few tips to make navigating the roadblocks a little easier.
- Understand your customers, unify customer data and content. Embrace that there are multiple customer interactions, and they aren’t just digital. For example, a customer who is in the market for a new car might visit a car company’s website, register to receive emails, find the brand on Twitter and ask a couple questions, and then finally visit a dealership. Building successful personalized customer journeys comes down to having the right customer data and connected systems. Without connected data, you won’t be able to reach customers’ with what they care about at the right moment. While each of the tools in your marketing stack are individually capable, they need to be brought together into a solution that can unify customer content and data. This will allow all of your tools to work in unison so data-driven personalized experiences can be built and delivered at each point in the journey.
- Get flexible with your content and distribution strategy. To get the most of your existing resources, make sure that your digital experience platform or CMS is flexible enough to deliver content across any channel – not just web – so it can support the journey, now and as new digital channels emerge. Maybe you can syndicate content to email or mobile today, but what about chatbots or devices like Amazon Echo? There’s no one channel that fits all customers. Leveraging a decoupled architecture in which your CMS is “API-first” (meaning it can separate content from presentation) will allow you to pull content from the back end that can be republished to multiple front-end experiences across channels, even future ones.
- Use a customer journey orchestration tool to personalize experiences through the journey. To make the customer journey possible across your personas at scale, consider a customer journey orchestration tool that lets you plan for journeys that are both digital and nondigital, one that can seamlessly connect to any API, database or queue. Your omni-channel journey tool should be able to map out customer journeys and touchpoints, connect them (and their data) and make real-time decisions based on customer data. It should work across any channel out of the box to present rich content and experiences that are personalized at the right place and time – keeping customers moving toward their individual goals, and freeing up your team’s time to focus on the experience.
As customers continue to sit in the driver’s seat and decide where they want to go, how they want to get there, and what the destination will be, Acquia can help marketers navigate the best path forward to delivering the right customer experience across the journey. Contact us to learn more.