Think back to your most recent online shopping experience, did you find everything you were looking for? Did you buy things you weren’t originally planning to? Or maybe you were just thinking about possibilities for a future purchase. Today’s consumers are active across multiple channels and changing their minds in real time. There are so many paths to take in our digital world, brands need to go where their customers are. According to Gartner, 67% of marketers agree that managing customer journeys is more complex and difficult than it was a few years ago. The customer journey is only going to get more complicated over time. Brands need to abandon the concept of a few prescriptive, linear paths; instead, they need to be ready to respond to any customer need immediately, in a contextually appropriate way – and even proactively anticipate needs.
Let the customers drive their own journeys
Knowing that a customer has a complex journey is just one piece of the puzzle. You need to be able to nurture your relationship and activate the right types of content at the right time. Zoe Kazmierski, Senior Director of Digital Marketing at Pega lives and breathes customer journeys.
“The previous approach was thinking about a singular journey for the customer,” said Kazmierski. “That one-size-fits-all, rules-based approach does not cut it anymore. A linear, prescriptive customer journey is just not realistic. Peoples’ behaviors change, and you need to meet people in their moment of need.”
So how do you do that? Focus on intent at each step of the interaction to provide a truly personalized experience. Are customers looking to purchase something? Or perhaps they’re just in the research phase. Understanding that intent helps inform the content they are provided — whether that’s a discount offer, something that will educate them on a particular service, or perhaps no marketing action at all. It is of the utmost importance to serve up relevant content when the customer is engaged and receptive.
Propensity-driven decision making
Based on the content prospects and customers are engaging with, you can understand the signals they are showing and work toward propensity-driven decision making. Pay attention to behaviors. Are customers navigating to different resources on your homepage? Are they looking at pricing pages or demos? This might be signaling deeper levels of intent, and even propensity to buy. An artificial intelligence (AI) engine synthesizes all of the inputs in order to better understand what people are engaging with, while providing insights and decisioning tools that help you learn more about your audiences. Real-time decisioning allows brands to quickly act on their customers’ behaviors by calculating intent and presenting the best offer on the appropriate channel.
“To achieve always-on buyer enablement, you need to think about the full customer experience,” said Kazmierski. “Have content that provides value in those moments of need, whether it’s answering a key question or offering a service or solution. AI eliminates the guesswork; it helps you be smarter about what content you’re serving up and when.”
Prepare with customer journey mapping
Now, how do you put all of this into practice? There are many tools that help with customer journey mapping so you can thematically organize your library of content, map out different potential actions, and prepare for countless variations of those actions. But as important as planning is, it is equally important to check your hypotheses against actual customer behavior.
“How are people engaging in your channels? ”said Kazmierski. “Do you have different content to address different needs, across different channels? People switch between their mobile devices and laptops in real time. Whether it’s email, web or chatbot, context matters and you need to be prepared with the next best content. And be ready to pivot on a dime.”
How to crack the always-on customer journey
Brands need to be able to understand customers’ moments of need and intercept them. “You can’t think about it as one linear journey,” said Kazmierski. “You have to read the digital signals, know where someone is and what their propensity to buy is.” Companies in the best position are leveraging first-party data and analyzing the behaviors their customers are exhibiting – in real time – to orchestrate the optimal customer journey.
At a macro business level, it’s important that departmental silos do not interfere. If different channels are relegated to different business units, the experience can be disjointed for the end user. Businesses need to invest in cross-channel journey building to create an environment where the customer experience will flourish. That allows you to connect the dots with data and insights from multiple channels informing the full journey.
“For both B2B and B2C companies, nailing the always-on customer journey is vital,” said Kazmierski. “In B2B, there are countless touchpoints, opportunities to be of service, and areas of consideration. Organizations need a strong marketing strategy that addresses their target audience and understands the best channels to reach them. Customer journeys in B2C tend to be simpler, but it is still important to stay on your customers’ good side and make sure you’re truly delivering a valuable experience. B2C customers can – and will – easily jump ship if they have a bad experience.”
What should marketers do to be successful?
Ultimately, you need to keep the customer at the center of any engagement. Think about how your brand can be helpful and anticipate the questions people might have in their buying journey. What type of content could fill the gap. Today’s customer journey is complex and anything but linear. You need to create the right content, make it findable, and incorporate a personalization strategy at every step of the journey. Focus on the foundation – the customer.
Pega’s Next Best Action uses machine learning and AI to identify unique customer needs, analyze the context of the situation, and determine the best experience for that individual. Each time a customer interacts with your brand, you are getting more data to deepen your relationships.