Time to burn the customer journey map

9th Mar 2017

A decade ago, I was privileged to be on the team that launched the first real customer journey builder user interface. It was one hell of a project and we realized we were introducing a new way to define a trigger-based campaign. It would change a market because many companies followed suit and it would become the standard for how email marketing tools jumped into the cross channel campaign management game.

That Was Then …

Back then, consumer behavior was much different. We did not have prolific use of smartphones or tablets, nor did we see much cross-channel behavior. The consumer journey was more predictable because, simply put, there were fewer choices for the consumer to interact. Email was read on a computer at that time, not a phone. So metrics like the open, click through and conversion came in linear spurts. We could literally see the consumer journey. Fast-forward a decade and the consumer journey map has become the standard for user interfaces for cross channel campaign management. It has been an effective mechanism for marketers to utilize triggers to send emails and take advantage of interactions with our customers. Our conversions increased and we saw greater ROI from trigger based-messages over batch. Everyone was happy.

Getting Lost With the Map

But the consumer is now outpacing our ability as marketers once again. Our customers hop channels during the purchase cycle faster than we can react. As marketers, we are stuck with systems that require us to set up personalization rules on a channel-by-channel basis. To keep up with consumers, we need to both design complex and broad user journeys or we need to move data faster than the consumer can move. The latter simply can’t happen and thus we live with an inferior customer experience. Consumers are chased around the internet with ads that hawk the product they just purchased. They have learned to abandon shopping carts because they know if they hold out they will get a huge discount. They game the system on us because they know that we cannot keep up with the consumer. And as marketers, our trigger-based programs have become so complex that we cannot possibly prioritize between them so consumers get multiple emails that run into each other.

Rethinking Customer Interactions

We need a new paradigm for real-time interaction management. The journey cannot get us there. It is time for a new version of campaign that can consider what we know about a customer and where they are in our ecosystem. Something that marries our vast customer databases with the real-time signal that our customer is performing an action on our website — whoops, I meant mobile site — nope, now they are at the call center. Don’t pretend that doesn’t happen in your infrastructure.

Channels Don’t Matter

So what is that new paradigm and how to we get there? First, we need to realize that channels no longer matter. I mean that in the sense that they can no longer predict customer behavior. A channel can only be a vehicle for the consumer to interact with a brand. There is no channel preference because the users determine it, based on their convenience. If the channel no longer matters, then personalization should no longer occur inside of the channel, but independently, based on a consolidated set of rules. In this model, we will start with the audience first, and then consider the business objective. If I have a group of high value customers who are likely to attrite, what customer experience do I want to provide when they interact with my brand? Let’s call this Profile 1.0. The decision engine should be able to touch any channel in less than 100 milliseconds to decide how to treat that customer, then update the profile with the result of that interaction before we move to profile 1.1. The next interaction occurs and we move to profile 1.2, so on and so forth until we can influence the customer to the desired outcome.

Adaptive Customer Experience

The key here is that we need to review how our systems make decisions, and centralize that offer decision to a single engine. In that way, the marketer can manage a consistent and coordinated customer experience across all channels. They can also prioritize based on the customer state, eliminating difficult decisions about conflicting programs and campaigns. This move does not require a wholesale change of existing systems. The email engine can still send the email, mobile can still send the push message and your CMS can still personalize the web experience. You need only to combine your decisions into a single engine. Opportunities lie at the intersection of what we know about a customer and the behavior they are exhibiting in our ecosystem. By moving to a centralized decisioning platform, a marketer can start to identify and optimize these opportunities across their systems. The goal? To create a highly adaptive customer experience that consistently delivers an extraordinary experience for the customer. This is the new paradigm for campaign management this decade; soon, customers won’t settle for less that the experience it can provide.

Jeff Hassemer is Chief Strategy Officer for Alterian, a campaign management and real-time marketing software company based in Bristol, UK. He's a global product marketing executive known for his thought leadership and product achievements in the areas of customer experience, marketing technology, and advertising technology solutions.


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