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How intent unlocks customer-driven journeys

13th Nov 2019
CMO Thunderhead
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Recently, Amazon announced it is testing a new badge to label products in an effort to help customers decide what to buy. This is just the latest example of how the retail giant is setting the precedence for innovative customer experiences, in this case, driving trust with customers and endorsement with respected partners.

What is most notable today is increased customer expectations. In fact, up to 75% of customers believe that their expectations have increased in recent years. In today’s competitive retail ecosystem, this means businesses are under ever-increasing pressure to deliver seamless customer journeys whether that be a sales or service destination. Those unable to meet, or exceed these expectations, risk losing trust and long-term relationships.

These heightened expectations, driven by many factors including the D2C and digitally native brands, has resulted in a shift in attention within businesses. With customer satisfaction a key component to brand success, brands are now shifting focus, budget and resources to the needs of the customer with more vigour than ever before. Over 50% of organisations are redirecting investments to customer experience innovations to ensure they stand out and stay competitive.

What may once have been overlooked is certainly moving ever-closer to the centre of the business agenda with spotlight and investment: the customer-driven journey.

Getting to the bottom of the customer-driven journey

Understanding this elusive customer-driven journey may seem daunting for many brands and marketers. Where do you start? And how does this fit in with other recommended focus areas in the industry - ‘customer-centricity’, ‘customer-focused’, ‘customer first’, to name a few.

However, it is pretty clear that brands and marketers need to understand, harness and deliver customer-driven journeys at scale with 94% of customers claiming they continue to be frustrated by disjointed experiences and poor journeys.

Once, brands behaved as though journeys were premeditated but thinking and technology has evolved to understand customer journeys are unique to each individual. If marketers fail to understand this thinking and foundational technologies, they cannot truly focus on the needs of the customer, in turn, risk damaging trust and long term customer relationships.

So… the question is: how exactly can marketers unlock this potential and deliver customer-driven journeys? The simple answer lies with customer intent.

Intent is the firepower

Let’s take a step back first and understand the meaning of customer intent.

Intent is the beating heart behind a customer journey. Intent is made up of behaviour, signals and actions that form insight. Intent informs future journeys, providing brands with the means to create a personal, relevant and desirable experience. It allows brands to understand “what’s the driving force behind an individual’s behaviour?”

It shouldn’t be confused with micro level moments that show in-the-moment behavioural attributes, mobilising data from similar journeys to assist conversion at scale. Although certainly an important component in the customer journey, marketers need to shift their mind-set from this conversion-based approach in order to truly understand the customer goal underlying these behaviours.

This is not to imply that this product focused approach can have short term benefits for brands including sales often linked to short term KPIs. However, by failing to utilise the insight available to them, brands risk delivering poor experiences consistently and subsequently, are at risk of damaging long term engagement.

By going beyond the micro-level and understanding context and intent, marketers will be able to establish that one journey doesn’t fit all. Customer behaviour is complex, and is shaped by individual decisions – one customer may prefer to browse, while another may prefer a quicker purchasing experience.

The key to this approach is knowledge and data. Brands need to collect real-time data throughout the customer journey, spanning all touchpoints at all times. It is only by utilising this existing holistic data that marketers will understand not only what a customer is doing, but more importantly, why they are doing it. And then they will be able to respond (also in real-time) appropriately to the individual journey in its entirety, rather than merely based on the customer’s most recent click and really provide the most relevant, contextual and tailored content for them.

Let the customer take the wheel

Allowing customers to manage their own journey may seem counter-productive but by adopting a customer-centric approach, businesses can ensure the needs of the customer are held at the centre of their individual journey.

A final thought on this. To provide a seamless customer journey that meets expectations, marketers must understand the individual and their goal, and have the ability to take action to get them where they need to be in any of their journeys with you.

This ability is not a far-fetched idea. Brands who are working to unify silos and unlock the data they hold leverage rich insights into intent, gaining the ability to optimise experiences and engagement with their customers. Deciphering customer intent really is the catalyst for success and the game changer for brands who want a powerful competitive edge.

 

 

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