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Why brands need to evolve the Customer Journey in 2016

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evolutionI recently co-hosted a peer discussion with Lee Garfield, Senior Commercial Manager AMP at the Future Marketing Innovation and CX event. Our discussion title was “Evolving the Customer Journey” and it resonated with the senior marketing professionals who attended the event. What exactly does evolving the customer journey mean and why do brands need to do it?

Creating a brand experience

It’s no longer enough that brands personalise a linear customer journey. Neither that they enable “channel of choice”. While these are still important they have become givens in many industries. Consumers expect more. What Lee and I spoke about is evolving the customer journey from a linear model to a dynamic brand experience that is as individual as each customer; because the experience is driven by the customer behaviour. Brands need to empower their customers to shape their own experience.

It all sounds great in theory, right? What marketers are struggling with is with the logistical road blocks they face in trying to make this a reality for their customers. The peer discussion was a great learning experience for myself and Lee, hearing first hand, from seasoned marketing professionals, what some of these road blocks are.

The challenges

  1. Drowning in data – brands have excessive, sometimes ridiculous amounts of customer data. They face the mammoth task of deciphering vast quantities of data some of which can be messy and incomplete. The job of cleaning up the data, consolidating it from different sources and using it to glean intelligent insights about their customers is all too much.
  2. Automation – assuming that marketers have succeeded in cleaning and consolidating their customer data the question of automation then comes into play. How do you measure customer behaviour and automate an intuitive, highly relevant experience driven by their data?
  3. Security – brands have an obligation to keep their customer data secure and protected. Cleaning up and consolidating data as per the first point, opens up a business to security risks. Sometimes brands, in the best interest of their customers, are so risk averse that this gets firmly placed in the too hard basket.
  4. Privacy – it’s one thing using your customer’s data to drive a unique and rewarding brand experience. It’s entirely another to over-step the mark and use your customer data in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable, like you know too much about them. It’s a fine line and a minefield with marketers, regulatory and legal teams and consumers themselves all holding varying positions on what is acceptable. Plus, of course this depends very much on the industry you’re in and the data you’re dealing with.

I don’t have all of the answers to these issues or at least I couldn’t articulate them in a blog. In my experience, they are complex and vary drastically across organisations and industries. Interesting though, although these are the kind of challenges we often hear our clients talk about, one of the biggest challenges in my opinion, is an internal business issue. When we talk about the customer journey this largely sits in the marketing department. Customer journeys are about recognising the different stages in the customer lifecycle, from acquisition and on-boarding to propensity to churn and tailoring the marketing message accordingly to maximize customer lifetime value. In the evolution from this, a linear customer journey, to a brand experience comes a shift in responsibility that does not sit so squarely on the marketing department’s desks. Customer experience is about every single interaction that a customer has with your brand. It encompasses call centres, customer care, risk teams, online teams, sales, the list goes on. So a big challenge for brands is getting all of these departments working better together and towards the common goal of giving each and every customer the best possible experience with their brand.

Ultimately, a positive customer experience means one thing – loyal customers. One brand living and breathing this and my “go to” example (despite not being at all their target consumer) is Sephora. The brand experience of global beauty brand Sephora is tailored to each customer at every touch point so that the customer feels understood, valued and the reward for Sephora is their loyalty. The level of personalisation they deliver to each customer extends far beyond traditional marketing. Sephora use digital technology smarts to create a personalised beauty profile for each customer. They demonstrate understanding of the customer’s individual beauty requirements right down to the shade of lipstick they should be wearing. Speak to a Sephora consumer and you will likely find a very loyal customer.

Not so long ago, I may have speculated whether customer experience was a passing marketing buzz term. At the end of 2015, I am entirely convinced that CX is here to stay. And the brands that live and breathe it are the brands that will flourish in 2016 and beyond.

 

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