Why the customer journey is replacing traditional sales funnels

5th Sep 2016

A clever ad campaign is no longer enough. Nor is one channel enough to deliver a great customer experience. You have to deliver that experience across all channels.

That means it’s up to your company to deliver an engaging customer journey across every device, every touchpoint, and every screen your customers choose to use, in a consistent way. At each stage of that journey, you’ll be dealing with different types and sources of data, different screens, and different messages.

Customers increasingly expect—and demand—to engage with your brand where they want, when they want, and how they want. If you can’t give that to them, your competitors will. And while a perfect customer journey can secure one loyal customer, a single bad journey can cost you thousands of them.

In this first of a series of articles on the customer journey, I’ll explain why that journey is so important—and how it differs, on a practical level, from the old sales funnel model. Let’s start by talking about why it matters.

Why the customer journey?

Customer experience is becoming more and more important—not only in the financial services industry (FSI), but in every field of business. According to our research, 31 percent of FSI executives believe that customer experience provides their top opportunity to drive customer engagement, retention, and acquisition in 2016.

Why do these executives think that? Because they’ve realised they’re playing catch-up.

In the past, customers had a difficult time switching banks or bank accounts; it involved a mountain of paperwork and a whole series of approvals. But new regulations have enabled consumers to move their accounts from one bank to another in a much more user-friendly way. The emergence of digital disruptors (fintech) have also allowed new, more nimble competitors to enter the landscape. These companies, like Nutmeg and Atom Bank, have disrupted the old playing field from the ground up.

These new companies aren’t the dependable financial titans that customers trusted in decades past—they’re fast, agile service providers. Instead of hundreds of years of tradition and legacy systems, they have cutting-edge analytics and digital at the heart of their businesses.

And they’ve forced the old financial institutions to compete on their terms.

From funnel to journey

This sea change isn’t just happening in FSI, of course—it’s already famously transformed the fields of transportation, hospitality, shopping, film and TV, and many other industries in which customers now set the terms, and companies scramble to deliver personalised experiences.

In all these industries, the old model of the sales funnel is being replaced by the model of the customer journey.

The old sales funnel model was fairly rigid—and it was channel-centric. It was only optimized around one single channel. The company chose where and when a customer would see each advertising message, and then used those messages to move the customer toward a final sale.

In the customer journey model, on the other hand, customers choose each touchpoint. They might first meet the brand on their mobile device, then perform a search about it on their laptop; or they might see it on TV, then come visit a local branch to find out more.

The customer doesn’t care about marketing budgets, or about the medium. All they’re interested in is a consistent journey across all channels. They expect the preferences they enter on one channel to be automatically available on all other channels, in real time. They don’t care about the complexity it takes to achieve this. They expect us to connect the dots.

If you can find ways to leverage all that information into a sequential and consequential, personalised story, in which each stage of the narrative follows logically from the one before, you’ll be rewarded with a lasting relationship with the customer—who will take delight in your brand, and become an advocate on your behalf. Make a misstep or strike a false note, and you’ll lose that customer—along with thousands more, potentially, through word-of-mouth—to a competitor who offers a better journey.

Let’s take the journey

More than ever, today’s customers are moving targets—which is why it’s crucial to understand not only the concept of the customer journey, but also how it unfolds at every step, from start to finish. That’s why this article is the first of a series in which we’ll be examining each stage of the customer journey in detail—digging into how each stage works, why it matters, and how it leads to the next.

Here are the five stages we’re going to cover in this series:

  1. Awareness & Consideration
  2. Acquisition
  3. Multichannel Account Enrolment
  4. Onboarding & Next Best Offer
  5. Resolution, Advocacy & Retention

Follow this series of articles, and you’ll learn how to fit those experiences together in ways that grab your customers’ interest, keep them moving toward a purchase, and secure their long-term loyalty to your brand.

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