Every morning, many of our employees at ActionIQ commute from New York’s boroughs into our headquarters here in the heart of Manhattan. Anyone who has ever navigated the streets of New York knows that the number of ways to travel from Points A to B in our city are seemingly infinite. Whether you are facing a delayed subway, taking a detour for that favorite breakfast sandwich, or looking to work off those calories with a walk over the Brooklyn Bridge, every day presents changes to our routine that require us to make real-time decisions. Those decisions, when traveling between two points, are made based on a broad and changing range of information, and are not dissimilar to a customer’s increasingly complex journey through a brand’s omnichannel experience.
When done right, customer journeys improve customer experience and increase loyalty to drive sustained business value. But providing an environment for these seamless and constantly changing journeys requires a nuanced understanding of the customer and the environment that they are navigating. The following steps can help create an environment that enhances the customer experience while driving positive marketing outcomes.
Know Your Customers
At the heart of a consistently effective customer journey is a deep understanding of every customer’s intentions, challenges, and desires. Just as a commuter has specific desires on their journey to work (Do I want to wait on a subway platform today? Do I want to take my car so I can pick up a coworker?), it is important for marketers to map out clear customer personas in order to anticipate expectations and intentions. While it is unrealistic to map out custom journeys for every customer, an understanding of personas helps inform marketers what actions are most likely, most valuable, and most detrimental on the path to success.
Start with Simplicity
It can be daunting to think about the seemingly infinite paths of a customer, so starting simply with flexibility in mind will ultimately allow one to effectively scale any journey. At the core of this simplicity is designing the journey from the top down and evaluating the most likely customer touchpoints. Once the most simple, linear journey can be clearly defined, articulated and validated, one can build out additional expected customer journeys based on testing and customer personas.
Balance Efficiency and Personalization
The number and complexity of different customer journeys can grow exponentially over time, making it nearly impossible to maintain and optimize these paths efficiently. On the flip side, by scaling down the numbers of journeys to be more operationally efficient, you risk forcing customers into journeys that may not apply to them or – even worse – do irreparable harm to their relationship with your brand. The trick is finding a balance in designing high-level customer stages to optimize customer intention, while leaving enough room for flexibility with each stage to manage the varied and inevitable additional touch points. No customer wants to face a brick wall that forces them to turn around in the middle of their journey – the key is adaptability that ultimately leads the customer to the best possible outcome.
Leverage Data at Every Stage
Data is the essential ingredient in designing and optimizing customer journeys. Most businesses tend to assume their customer’s path between two points because they lack an effective solution to organize and analyze customer data. The only way to know a customer’s path from start to finish, while striking this balance between efficiency and personalization, is to leverage data effectively and throughout the journey. Gathering data at every stage of the customer journey not only informs the marketer of intentions and incomplete paths, but also empowers marketers to build out more flexible and customizable journeys for evolving personas rather than funneling customers into one journey. Furthermore, this data must be centrally housed and evaluated to ensure a seamless management of the journey from one stage to the next.
For many of us here at ActionIQ, navigating between two points in New York City means taking a different path nearly every time while adapting in real-time to ensure efficiency and an overall positive experience. Through a similarly flexible, thoughtful, and data-driven approach, marketers can ensure that their customer’s journey and experience is seamless and successful every time, regardless of what path they may take or what their intentions may be.