CustomerJourneyTouchpointsWith the customer journey, a new concept found its way into digital marketing, namely providing customers with a special experience at all touchpoints. A demanding project that not only requires high-performance technology, but a changed mindset.

In an increasingly digitized consumer world, it is important for companies to offer customers not only products or services, but also experiences in all phases of interaction. This includes fast and smooth service, personalized content and consistent information, even on different platforms. Regardless of whether customers communicate with the company via the mobile app, the online shop, the call center or on site, offers and statements must be coordinated with one another. And this approach is systematized in the concept of the customer journey with a sequence of reciprocal activities on the way from the first awareness to the concrete interest to the finished deal and service.

In general, the customer journey is a sequence of steps that can run repeatedly and recursively:

Getting attention: in the past, customers were primarily drawn to products and services through advertisements in print media, TV advertising or posters, but today the web plays a central role in the battle for attention. Marketing is adjusting to the fact that the first important touchpoints are now digital. Marketing campaigns aim to achieve a top ranking for inquiries in search engines. Online advertising is based directly on the behavior of web users; content marketing uses texts, images, audio or video material to win potential customers with personalized content. Further impulses come from recommendations from social networks.

Consolidation of interest: In the past, customers had to go to a store or use the mail order catalog if they were interested in a product. In the digital age, interested parties can obtain comprehensive information on the web: product videos on YouTube, opinions and reviews from customers in portals, forums or in social networks create a previously unknown level of transparency and support customers in their decision-making. Businesses need to consider that their sales and marketing messages are just one element among many – and in most cases not the crucial one.

Making the purchase: in times of online shops and e-commerce, customers expect to be able to buy items they have decided on immediately. It is therefore crucial that the buying process works smoothly and that transactions can be done quickly and easily. 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 linked: 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 salespeople know the customer's history and can suggest customized, additional, or service offers.

Integration of the service: a customer journey integrates the downstream fulfillment processes into the process chain, because digitally oriented customers do not accept delivery delays. Self-services are again an important means of increasing customer loyalty and reducing costs at the same time. For service requests, automated solutions can be used that can support customers around the clock based on natural language processing (NLP), text analytics and predictive analytics. Of course, face-to-face interaction with a consultant via chat or telephone must also be possible but this person must certainly know the complete customer history via the CRM system.

In every process step of the customer journey and at all touchpoints, there must be control, a consistent "customer experience" must be provided, for instance, uniform and complete information that can be accessed around the clock, independent of the channel and in real-time. As always in digital projects, the basis for this is high-performance hardware and infrastructure.

In addition to performance and high availability, it is particularly important that the essential components are not locked in silos. Otherwise, it will be difficult to keep the customer experience consistent across different channels – for example for call centers, online shops and social media.

Advanced solutions for the customer journey can evaluate the resulting data with predictive analytics and artificial intelligence in such a way that they can predict the customer behavior. Because of such analysis systems, it is also possible to anticipate customer needs in real-time and to offer context-sensitive relevant suggestions for the customer.

By Daniela La Marca