By Steve Offsey
More and more marketers and customer experience professionals are now looking for the best customer journey analytics platform to understand and engage with individual customers at a personal level, at scale. By analyzing millions of data points in real-time, customer journey analytics software can help you discover the most important customer journeys and prioritize those opportunities that significantly impact business goals like increasing revenue, reducing churn and improving customer experience.
To the surprise of many marketing and customer experience professionals, analyst firms such as Gartner and Forrester are largely in agreement on the definition of customer journey analytics. Forrester defines customer journey analytics is “an analytics practice that combines quantitative and qualitative data to analyze customer behaviors and motivations across touchpoints and over time to optimize customer interactions and predict future behavior.”
But, once you begin to look into customer journey analytics at a deeper level things become much less clear. This is because customer journey analytics is not a monolithic approach designed to address a single problem.
Since there are a variety of problems that customer journey analytics can be used to solve, even the best customer journey analytics platforms do not include identical sets of capabilities, nor do they prioritize the capabilities they do include in the same way. The key to avoid wasting your time comparing apples to oranges is to clearly understand and prioritize your business needs and then use them as a basis for determining the best customer journey analytics platform for you. This post is designed to help you do just that.
Three Primary Capabilities of the Best Customer Journey Analytics Platforms
Let’s start by breaking down the three primary capabilities of customer journey analytics platforms by the different business needs that they address.
1. Journey Discovery
- Understand and communicate your customers’ actual journeys
- Uncover behavioral segments
- Measure the impact of customer behavior on KPIs (e.g. revenue, customer lifetime value (CLV), churn, etc.)
Best Solution: Analyze customer behavior data across touchpoints and over time to uncover meaningful customer segments, the paths they take to achieve a specific goal and to quantify the impact on your KPIs.
As former Gartner analyst Jake Sorofman said, “What’s important to remember is that customer journeys aren’t created; they’re discovered. When we try to create journeys, we fall into one of these two traps: we either hallucinate customer needs or throw away the customer experience playbook altogether and focus on the needs we know intimately: our own.”
Journey discovery is a quantitative approach to customer journey analytics where customer behavior data is analyzed across touchpoints and over time to uncover meaningful behavioral segments and the paths they take to achieve a specific goal—what Forrester calls the ‘bottom up approach’ to customer journey analytics. Journey discovery is the best approach to reveal the numerous paths your customers actually take, as they engage with your company across channels and over time.
The first step to journey discovery is to integrate all your sources of customer data (digital, web and mobile analytics, CRM, call center, point of sale, voice of the customer, and others). Once your customer data is unified, then the separate pieces of data that have been collected on each individual customer must be associated through identity matching—a process that recognizes which data actually refers to the same customer.
With a platform that enables journey discovery, you can uncover and visualize frequent, costly, problematic, or promising customer journeys. You can determine how many customers participated in each step of a specific journey and were affected by a particular issue. This data helps you to visualize specific behaviors like drop-offs, skipped steps, repeat steps, duration, pain points, and channel switches.
A global travel company, for example, used journey discovery to focus on the journeys of 20,000 anonymous customers and connect their online and offline behaviors—incremental holiday bookings, email open rates and click-through rates—to create unified journeys. It engaged in more relevant, personalized conversations based on these findings and saw thousands of dollars worth of incremental bookings in just a few days.
Journey Discovery Creates a Bridge Between Customer Behaviors and Business Outcomes
Companies have traditionally looked to improve customer experience by focusing on particular touch points. This often leads to misleading results, as customers may rate an individual interaction highly yet be unhappy over the course of an entire journey.
Customer journeys are at the core of customer experience, as customers interact with companies across touchpoints, channels, and over time. Only by looking at a customer journey in its entirety across channels and over time can real pain points—and therefore opportunities for positive change—become visible.
Journey discovery can pinpoint the drivers of customer satisfaction in a way that traditional analytics can not. It can provide quantitative key performance indicators (KPIs) along the paths that your most satisfied customers take, as they interact with your company across channels and over time.
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2. Journey Mapping
- Transform an organization to become more customer-centric
- Ideate and communicate journeys for new products or processes
Best Solution: Create a visualization of your customer’s experience, including their actions and emotions, across touchpoints and over time, as they seek to achieve a specific goal.
Journey mapping is a way to visualize and communicate your customer’s experience across touchpoints and over time, as they seek to achieve a specific goal.
Journey mapping is the most widely practiced form of journey analytics and is a technique that has grown in popularity, not only with customer experience (CX) professionals, but also within marketing, customer service, user experience (UX), product management and IT. According to a recent Forrester survey, 88% of CX pros are doing customer journey mapping.
Customer journey maps are typically created to visualize a specific experience for a particular segment or persona. Next, qualitative data captured in employee notes, interview transcripts, and call center logs, as well as quantitative data from surveys and other databases and systems, is added to the journey.
Customer-centric organizations are using journey mapping to:
- Establish a holistic understanding across the organization of the customer’s current experience across touchpoints
- Identify the key “make or break it” moments in the overall journey
- Identify and prioritize opportunities to improve the customer experience
- Visualize a “future-state” customer experience to spur innovation
- Communicate and align the organization around a customer-centric model
- Serve as a CX change management and governance tool
Customer journey mapping is an effective approach for transformation initiatives aimed at creating a customer-centric culture. Here are a few ways that customer journey mapping can be used to spread a customer-centric culture across your organization:
- Make it a priority to involve key influencers and stakeholders across the organization throughout customer journey mapping efforts.
Engage leaders throughout the organization, across silos, as key stakeholders and collaborators to identify the most important customer journey(s) to model. This is an important first step for building collaboration across silos.
- Use a journey map to demonstrate the impact of customer emotions on business performance. This needs to be established in order for leaders to be open to understanding that the business metrics and scorecards typically used in these scenarios only tell part of the performance story.
- Prioritize the key CX opportunities identified in a high level customer journey map with leadership across organizational silos and use that as a starting point for creating a strategic roadmap for making changes.
- Partner with a specific business unit or other functional group with your organization to drill down on a specific stage or touchpoint in the overall journey. This way, you can better understand how the product or service they own is impacting the customer experience.
- Work with executive leadership to use your customer journey mapping framework as the starting points in leadership meetings, where business performance is being reviewed, evaluated, and acted upon. This is a foundational step to help your organization move from an inside-out culture to an outside-in culture.
Successful customer journey mapping projects don’t just happen by accident. They require careful planning and cross-functional collaboration and management. Successful customer journey mapping projects typically follow a robust approach:
- Define clear goals for your customer journey mapping project
- Identify and engage core stakeholders and partners
- Educate stakeholders on the essentials of journey mapping
- Create alignment with your stakeholders
- Create a sense of urgency and ownership
Avoid These Common Ways to Misuse Customer Journey Mapping
The most common complaint of the journey mapping process is that it is created in a meeting room by employees with an inward focus, in other words with minimal or (in some cases) no input from customers.
Many journey mappers think that involving various teams like finance, R&D and engineering—in addition to the obvious ones likes marketing and CX—will ensure their journey map reflects their customers’ actual experiences. But in reality, what they are really doing is documenting internal processes and calling it a customer journey map.
When customer-facing employees put themselves in their customer’s shoes and try to imagine their experiences, it typically results in an imaginary journey that fails to reflect the variety of real-world paths their customers actually take. Even if you conduct focus groups or interview a few dozen customers, you’re not even close to discovering the millions of real, unique journeys taken by your customers.
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3. Journey Orchestration
- Automate interactions at each step of the journey
- Coordinate interactions across channels
- Personalize engagement using information about the customer and where they are in their journey
Best Solution: Platforms that automate real-time, personalized interactions to improve the journey flow and drive desirable outcomes.
Your customers expect personalized experiences driven by their current preferences and recent interactions. According to Gartner’s Multichannel Marketing Effectiveness Survey, however, “nearly 40% of the marketing leaders we surveyed say that reaching audiences at the right moments using advanced techniques continues to be their top multichannel marketing challenge.”
Journey Orchestration is the component of customer journey analytics platforms that uses predictive and/or rules-based approaches to automate real-time interactions in order to improve journey flow and drive desirable outcomes.
Today’s Complex, Multi-Vendor Technology Stacks Need Orchestration
According to the latest Walker Sands State of Marketing Technology report, almost half of marketers (48%) have built best-of-breed marketing technology stacks made up of multipoint solutions, while only 21% use a single-vendor for everything they need.
Existing marketing, customer service and other customer touchpoint systems typically automate engagement for only one or at most a few channels, which cannot capture your customers’ real cross-channel journeys. Once you include call center systems, point-of-sale systems and other customer touchpoints beyond marketing, the only way to seamlessly engage with your customers is through journey orchestration.
Cross-Channel Campaign Management and Marketing Automation are Not Customer Focused
Both B2C-focused campaign management platforms and B2B-focused marketing automation systems are evolving from single-channel email applications to encompass web, SMS, mobile apps and more.
So, why do these approaches differ from journey orchestration? Both of these approaches are inherently marketer focused, rather than customer focused. As a result, they are geared towards optimizing the marketers ability to achieve their marketing goal, rather than improving your customer’s chance of achieving their own goal.
The interactions at customer touchpoints can be orchestrated by triggers that initiate an action via the touchpoint system or by providing touchpoint systems with real-time information about a customer on demand.
By embedding triggers at any event along the journey, you can automatically initiate next-best actions in real time across all of your touchpoints. For example, you could automatically communicate with a customer via their preferred communication channel (e.g. email, SMS, outbound call) when they reached a defined point in their journey.
Less than half of respondents (43%) in the 2017 Gartner survey characterize their current efforts as “mostly event-triggered.” While that’s up from 29% in Gartner’s 2015 Multichannel Marketing Survey, the reality is that these capabilities are still emerging in most organizations. Marketers are further along than they were two years ago, but they haven’t reached the levels they expected to be at by now. Looking two years down the road, they anticipate being in roughly the same place as they expected to be at today.
Real-time personalization is a way to automatically deliver tailored content to each customer based on demographic, firmographic and behavioral data. For example, you might set up your web site to recognize visitors from a particular industry and adjust images, text and content accordingly.
Many companies are now incorporating some degree of personalization in their websites. While 77 percent of marketers believe real-time personalization is crucial, sixty percent struggle to personalize content in real time. And for nearly 60% of marketers and executives, personalization still acts as a channel-specific solution that is integrated with only some elements of the tech stack.
To create a personalized experience requires real-time access to information that goes beyond basic demographics and purchase history.
Ski Retailer Black Diamond Uses Real-time Personalization to Increase Sales
Ski retailer Black Diamond realized the value of real-time personalized engagement long before its peers. Skiers often know exactly what equipment they need to stay safe and compete, such as avalanche airbags. Black Diamond predicts these needs and pushes the right items to website visitors, rather than waiting till they checkout to make suggestions.
Black Diamond uses sophisticated analytics to glean insights from a customer’s purchasing history, and combine it with weather conditions and other relevant data to make product recommendations in real time. This effort has reaped rewards for Black Diamond, increasing sales significantly and dropping cart abandonment rates.
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How to Maximize Your Journey Analytics ROI
Journey mapping, journey discovery and journey orchestration each address a number of important—but different—business needs. Next, I’ll take a look at three ways you can combine them to realize a more significant return on your investment.
Your Needs: Increase the rate and speed (i.e. conversion and velocity) at which customers complete their own unique journey to reach an objective.
Best Solution: A platform that lets you create and test hypotheses to learn how to interact most efficiently with each customer to achieve a goal, based on their unique journey.
When you use journey discovery to observe customers’ actual journeys, you’ll naturally start generating new hypotheses on how to improve these journeys and want to design experiments to test your ideas.
Journey optimization is a closed loop approach that combines journey discovery with journey orchestration. AI and machine learning are often employed to more rapidly evaluate alternatives and choose a method of interacting with each customer that maximizes the speed and probability that they will achieve a specific goal, based on their own unique journey.
Journey optimization is achieved by employing a test-and-learn approach that explores all of the contributing factors—touchpoints, people, training, process, communication, metrics, and technology—that can lead to opportunities to improve the journey. One advantage of journey optimization is that it enables you to validate (or invalidate) ideas faster and more accurately.
Why Optimizing Individual Touchpoint Interactions Isn’t Sufficient
Although you may already be optimizing individual touchpoint interactions such as website conversions, McKinsey research finds that customer journeys are significantly more strongly correlated with business outcomes than are touchpoints.
A recent McKinsey survey, for example, indicates customer satisfaction with health insurance is 73% more likely when journeys work well than when only touchpoints do. Similarly, customers of hotels that get the journey right may be 61 percent more willing to recommend than customers of hotels that merely focus on touchpoints.
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Your Needs: A deeper understanding of customers’ desires, motivations, behavior and emotions, as they seek to achieve a goal.
Best Solution: A journey dashboard that brings together qualitative and quantitative information to highlight those factors that have the greatest impact on the ability of customers to achieve (or not achieve) a goal.
Journey insights come from the synthesis of qualitative and quantitative information that builds your understanding of your customers and their behavior as they seek to achieve a specific goal. They provide a deeper understanding of customers’ desires, motivations, behavior and emotions, as they try to attain their objective.
There are two primary categories of journey insights: 1) insights about behavioral segments and the journey paths they take (who, what and when), and 2) insights about the experience customers have on a particular journey, including their feelings, emotions, thoughts (why and how).
Journey insights can help provide a link between marketing or customer experience to quantitative and qualitative metrics (such as customer acquisition, conversion and retention rates, customer sentiment, effectiveness of loyalty programs etc.).
There are several ways to obtain the information that informs journey insights:
- Journey discovery
- One-on-one interviews
- In-context observation, also referred to as ‘contextual inquiry’
- Surveys and questionnaires, including VoC, CSAT
Customer-centric companies are now mining journey insights. A top global airline, for example, combined quantitative and qualitative data to understand a segment it calls “uncomfortable corporate travelers,” whose firms’ travel policies require that they fly economy and who are costly to serve because they phone the call center in the hope of getting free upgrades and frequently file complaints. Deeper insights into these customers’ journeys helped the airline avoid their pain points and improve customer experience.
This level of monitoring, though, needs to be simple, visual and intuitive. A journey dashboard is a useful way to visualize journey insights, as well as monitor relevant real-time information within a journey-based context.
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Your Needs: Define a hypothetical path and automate the workflow for customers engaging with a new product or service or in a new way with an existing product or service.
Best Solution: A platform that enables you to create a sequence of steps a customer should take to achieve a goal and automate the interactions the organization will take at each step to encourage progress towards the goal.
Journey design lies at the crossroads between journey mapping and journey orchestration, incorporating elements of both. It is the process of defining a sequence of steps a customer takes to achieve a goal and the interactions the company will take at each step to promote progress towards the goal. It is your best hypothesis for the series of steps your customer will take with—or towards the purchase of—a new product or service.
Journey design is a powerful tool for enabling digital transformation. Journey design is best used for creating journeys that don’t yet exist and for re-imagining and re-engineering existing journeys.
For successful journey design, make sure you consider the following factors:
- Journey goal: Make sure the journey is a path to an explicit customer goal
- Progression: Does each step help your customer move a step closer to achieving their ultimate goal?
- Touchpoints: Through which touchpoints or channels will customers engage with you at each step of the journey?
Sungevity Designs a Compelling Customer Journey
Sungevity, an Oakland California solar panel installer, competes on its ability to create a compelling journey. At first glance, Sungevity looks like a typical residential solar panel provider. But the company understands that their business is more than the physical installation of solar panels. Sungevity’s “product” is a seamless, personalized digital customer journey, based on innovative management of data about the solar potential of each home or business.
Starting with its initial outreach and continuing to the installation and ongoing management of each customer’s panels, Sungevity customizes and automates each step of the journey, making it so simple and compelling to move from one step to the next. Sungevity makes this journey so compelling that customers who experience it typically don’t even evaluate competing solutions.
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How to Use This Framework to Evaluate Customer Journey Analytics Platforms
The most important criterion for evaluating any solution is how well it is aligned with the particular problems you need to solve for your organization. So, the proper evaluation of customer journey analytics platforms begins with a thorough analysis of your company’s needs and their relative priority.
Start by reading the descriptions of the three major flavors of customer journey analytics platforms (journey discovery, journey mapping and journey orchestration) and understanding the problems each is best suited to solve. Next, determine how these align with your own organization’s needs.
Now It’s Your Turn
Once you’ve established your own clear prioritization of these three approaches, then explore the three combinations, while paying particular attention to the one that represents the combination of your first and second priorities.
Now you’re ready to evaluate individual customer journey analytics platforms based on your unique set of priorities.