distinguishedCustomer experience (CX) is expected to overtake price as a key product differentiator by 2020. However, businesses are already urged today to keep pace with customer experience innovation that can help gaining insight, scale and connect customer journey touch points, from the tested online experience to the monitored customer service experience, since CX has been growing exponentially over the past years.

With the Customer Journey, a new concept has found its way into digital marketing, providing customers at all touchpoints with a special experience. It’s a demanding project that requires not only efficient technology but, above all, a changed way of thinking.

  • Consistent experiences: In a more and more digitalized consumer world, it is important to offer not only products or services in all phases of the customer interaction but experiences as well. These can include faster and smoother service, personalized content and consistent information across multiple platforms. Regardless of whether customers communicate with the business via mobile app, the online shop, call center or in-store, offers and statements must be coordinated, which is systematized in the concept of the customer journey. It involves the touchpoints of a customer with a company: e.g. a sequence of reciprocal activities on the way from the first awareness about the specific interest to the final deal and service. Classically, the customer journey is a sequence of steps that can also be repeated several times and recursively.
  • Achieve Attention: In the fight for attention, the Internet plays a central role in attracting attention to products and services. Marketing must therefore prepare for the important first touchpoints to be digital: e.g. marketing campaigns aim for a top ranking in search engine queries. Online advertising is based directly on the behavior of web users, content marketing uses text, images, audio or video material to attract potential customers with personalized content; further impulses come from social media recommendations, such as Facebook or Instagram.
  • Consolidation of interest: In the digital age, interested parties can comprehensively inform themselves on the Web: product videos on YouTube, opinions and ratings from customers in portals, forums or on social networks, create unprecedented transparency and support the customer in the decision-making process. Businesses need to keep in mind that their sales and marketing messages are just one element among many - and most of the time, they're not the deciding factor anymore.
  • Carrying out the purchase: In times of online shops and e-commerce, customers expect to be able to immediately purchase items they have chosen. It is therefore crucial that the buying process works smoothly: transactions must be quick and easy. A direct connection between platforms and social networks on the respective e-commerce sites creates clear competitive advantages. Ideally, the online and offline worlds are seamlessly interconnected: if a customer does not want to buy a product online, it must be possible to continue shopping in a retail store. If this is networked with the online shop, the sellers know the history of the customer and can suggest tailor-made or additional service offers.
  • Integration of the service: A customer journey integrates the fulfillment processes downstream of the purchase into the process chain, because digitally oriented customers do not accept delivery delays. Self-services are again an important means of increasing customer loyalty while reducing costs. In the case of service inquiries, automated solutions can be used that can support customers around the clock based on Natural Language Processing (NLP), text analytics as well as predictive analytics. Of course, the personal interaction with a consultant by chat or phone must be possible and of course the complete customer history must be well-known via CRM system.

In every step of the customer journey, and at all touchpoints driven by it, a consistent "customer experience" must be provided, which means complete information that can be accessed channel independently and in real-time around the clock. The basis for this, as always in digital projects, is powerful hardware and infrastructure. In addition to performance and high availability, it is especially important that the essential components are not locked up in silos. Otherwise, it's difficult to keep the customer experience consistent across different channels, such as the call center, online store, and social media platforms.

Advanced customer journey solutions can leverage predictive analytics and artificial intelligence data to predict probable customer behavior. Because of such analysis systems, it is also possible to anticipate customer needs in real time and to offer the customer context-sensitive relevant suggestions. This ‘next-best-action’ marketing works both online via robots and supporting classic counseling sessions.

By Daniela La Marca