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The new competitive advantage has evolved from benefits, like quality and price, into an all encompassing experience now known as the customer journey.

When it comes to customer journeys there are two schools of thought:

1.

The traditional follower-model of reacting to customers, trying to anticipate their next moves and positioning yourself in shoppers’ paths as they navigate the decision journey from consideration to purchase.

2.

The new leader-model where companies are shaping their customer’s paths, leading rather than following. Marketers are increasingly managing and designing journeys from a holistic view. Customer journeys are becoming central to the customer’s experience of a brand—and provides an ever evolving competitive advantage.

The lines between department functionality continue to be blurred as customers no longer experience just a product, their entire experience with a company is the product.

If you think your clients are just buying your services or products, chances are your marketing efforts are follower-based and incongruent.

From development to design to marketing to sales to service to accounting; your customer journey must be so compelling that once a customer encounters it, they may never consider a competitor again. This level of commitment, aka “stickiness”, is what growth-driven companies aim for daily.

What type of impact do you think that will have on a company’s top and bottom line?

Building the architecture of an effective customer journey requires an understanding of four key elements:

Strategy

Strategy is a carefully crafted and detailed plan focused on achieving the ultimate position you would like to reach in the market. All tactics must feed into this core strategic objective. All marketing campaigns should also serve multiple goals in order to efficiently maximize the resources dedicated to each campaign.

Without designing a strategy, efforts are sporadic, data is vague, and conversion insights are elusive.

Technology

Digital automation involves the streamlining of steps in the customer journey that use to be executed manually. It efficiently centralizes data to provide for quick and easy processes to take place, whether by support staff or the customer themselves.

Although the backend setup of automation requires technical sophistication, it’s truly an art to restructure complexity into a simple, easy to use, enjoyable experience for customers. Automation allows for the tracking and analytics of data to reveal big insights into the behaviors of every customer on a highly personalized level.

Personalization

Personalization used to be an expensive service to provide for most businesses. Technology has made this argument nearly irrelevant. Customizing a customer’s experience is no longer a guessing game if automation is a part of the customer’s journey.

Recalling customer preferences is just the beginning; personalization is about learning an individual behavior and presenting next steps that further engage their attention. Show customers more of what they already like and upgrades that compliment their current interests.

Another component to personalization is contextual interaction. Knowing where a customer is their journey allows companies develop highly targeted engagements to a specific segment of their audience. One-size-fits-all email blasts and campaigns are ineffective ways to nurture an already inattentive audience.

Knowing the behavioral location of visitors, prospects and clients provide you with a golden opportunity to connect in real-time with the right message.

Customer Experience Optimization

The customer journey is akin to real life, ever evolving and refining itself. Ongoing experimentations, A/B comparison testing, expanding services and eliminating unnecessary steps all culminate into identifying new sources of value for customers and companies.

Optimizing the customer experience requires a holistic integration of company operations. If it affects the customer, it should be reviewed for its ability to strengthen or weaken customer ties.

There’s also the idea of brand extension. How can a brand become a natural extension of a customer’s life? For many of us, Amazon Prime has naturally extended itself into our lives through its ability to make our needs and wants, from a shopping perspective, easy to achieve.

Whether it’s an app, subscription service, or moment of surprise when the realtor remembers it’s your schnauzer’s birthday; connecting and enriching a customer’s life further enhances the mutual value gained by both parties.

In today’s market, thriving companies credit their success not only to quality and value but to consistently refining of the customer journeys they design.