Demystifying the customer journey

Guillaume Roques, Salesforce's vice president of marketing, EMEA, shares his thoughts on what is likely to be one of the defining narratives of Dmexco 2016: the customer journey, and how mapping this out is increasingly key to the overall customer experience.

Dmexco is now upon us and I’ve noticed that many planning to attend are sharing social posts and comments about the customer journey. It looks set to be one of the hottest topics at the show this year, but based on these posts, it seems that many CEOs and CMOs are unsure about the concept.

However, with 89 per cent of companies saying they will compete on customer experience, it’s vital that these top execs understand it. Simply put, the customer journey is made up of many experiences – I tend to picture it as a flowchart that outlines the steps customers and prospects take when interacting with a brand.

The concept of the customer journey has gained attention not just because companies are competing on customer experience, but also because it’s a proven approach that delivers results: companies creating multi-layer journeys for their customers find a strong correlation with increased loyalty and sales. In fact, our research from earlier this year shows high-performing marketing teams are 8.8-times more likely than underperformers to place customer journeys at the centre of their overall business strategy.

So what is customer journey mapping, and how can I get started?

In order to have a customer journey strategy, you first need to map out that journey. In essence a customer journey map is a diagram that outlines all of the steps a customer – or prospect – takes when engaging with your company, across product, online, in-store and customer service experiences.

And just because the marketing department is usually responsible for the overall customer experience, it doesn’t mean that the journey map is rigid or that it’s designed on a marketer’s terms. Quite the opposite.

Customer journey mapping is a strategy that’s becoming more popular, not only with marketing professionals, but also with customer service, user experience (UX), product management and IT. Maps therefore need to be flexible and adapt to the customer’s needs, as well as reflecting the fact that the customer journey touches all parts of the organisation.

Designing a customer journey map may sound overwhelming but it doesn’t have to be. My advice is to start by defining a few key moments in your customer lifecycle, whether that’s onboarding new customers, re-engaging dormant relationships, or communicating with loyal customers.

How does customer data inform smarter journeys?

Your customers are interacting with you across many channels – from Twitter and Facebook, to emails, apps, and your website. And with each interaction, you’re collecting valuable information about them, and building extensive customer profiles with preferences, purchase history, and even personal details like birthdays or anniversaries. By simply capturing your customer information, you’ve already done the heavy lifting. If you haven’t already, taken the time to undergo a customer data audit and identify all of the places where your company is collecting and storing customer data. This data can provide vital insight as to when on your mapped-out journey it would be most effective to reach out to a particular customer and with what information.

For example, Commerzbank – a German retail bank speaking at Dmexco this year – is rolling out a mobile app with the aim of offering potential customers tailored content and true added value, so that at a later date, when facing a financial decision, they remember the bank in a positive light and become customers. The potential customers the app is targeted at, as well as the choice of content shared with them, is based on consolidated data from all lead-generation sources.

Data means a personalised customer journey

Using customer data, businesses can personalise every single customer interaction. This ability to consistently offer one-to-one experiences has become critical for building long-term relationships.

Why? Because it shows your customers that you understand, and care about, their interests and needs. At the same time, it allows you as a marketer to take back control of the customer journey. Based on how a customer is engaging with you, you have the opportunity to guide them to decision points or events that you have planned that they’re most likely to be interested in. What’s more, based on your understanding of a customer, you can build future plans on how to continue to engage with them, and you can personalise every message to their specific interests or needs.

For instance, Secret Escapes, a UK-based travel club offering discounted rates on luxury hotels and holidays around the world is doing just this with stunning results. The company keeps customers and prospects engaged by sending them the right curated content, at the right time. Using cloud-based technology to collect and analyse customer data and then engage with customers via automation tools, Secret Escapes has created a programme that enables it to deliver targeted customer journeys at scale.

The role of technology delivering a seamless customer journey

Let’s face it – managing the customer journey across all channels, digital and physical is not always easy.

But it’s even more difficult if an organisation is managing each channel separately. Without a “customer hub” that can analyse customer data and deliver actionable, timely insights across business divisions, it’s pretty much impossible to deliver the personalised journeys customers expect.

For instance Aegon has embarked on an initiative to achieve greater customer intelligence and sharper marketing content, as part of an overall drive to improve the customer experience. Aegon is now engaging with customers across various digital channels, and tracks/stores all customer interactions including social conversations and key industry themes. Based on this information Aegon is able to carefully match customer communications to a customer’s specific circumstances and get messages out to market faster.

As consumers continue to evolve, thanks to the hyper-connected world we live in, customer expectations are continuing to skyrocket. It’s no wonder then the one-to-one, personal customer journey is top of the agenda at Dmexco this year - and I’m looking forward to helping drive that conversation.

Guillaume Roques is vice president of marketing, EMEA, at Salesforce

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