Why Design Moments of Serendipity? A Customer’s View of the Customer Journey

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There are times when things align by chance to deliver a perfect moment; a moment of serendipity. Then there are moments that appear to happen by chance, but have actually been orchestrated.

As marketers, we try to orchestrate serendipitous moments every day. For example, the proverbial “perfect message at the perfect time and place.” We try to drive our customers to a mutually beneficial result that also instills a sense of satisfaction or even happiness. This is a noble effort as well as a very, very challenging one to execute. Challenging because customers now engage with a brand across many seemingly disparate channels, yet expect contextual relevancy and personalization at every touch point; be it via mobile app, website, call center, physical location, social media, etc.

Here are a few of my recent experiences with three leading brands—some good and some left with room for improvement:

Friday Blog 1

I recently bought a new home and am in the process of renovating much of it. Someone turned me onto the Houzz mobile app… and I’m hooked. I love it. My wife loves it. We use it all the time. You can look at any style of home to see the colors, textures, products, prices, professionals, and processes others have used to create their dream homes. It’s a fantastic app for inspiration and to communicate a vision to a contractor. Plus, they keep me engaged by sending a daily digest via mobile push and email.

However, these push messages aren’t differentiated between my wife and I*. We both get the same content even though we have different interests; and I’d venture to guess it’s the same content everyone gets. They blast their digest in both channels at different times, even if I’ve already reviewed the content in one channel. Spray and pray so to speak. I expect more from Houzz because their other functionality is so good… I expect them to understand me and engage.

Personalization is a beast that lives on content, and Houzz has great content. If they could just personalize things to me—maybe show me styles that I’ve shown interest in or that other people like me have purchased—then WOW, I’d be having deeper, more meaningful interactions and would likely purchase more regularly. And, it would allow them to determine the best channel by which to engage with me and the best time(s).

Friday Blog 2

Now that my wife and I had our inspiration, we made our way to IKEA to pick out some furniture. IKEA stores are laid out to take the customer on a defined path through every section. We spent a few hours meandering along the pathway with our sons. We sat in the POÄNG chairs, imagined ourselves washing dishes in the kitchen, ate the meatballs, drank the Lingonberry juice, and eventually picked up some items. However, it was only after checking out that we saw a display advertising the IKEA mobile app. It read, “Shopping at IKEA just got easier with our all-new IKEA Store app.” So I downloaded the app and found some useful info and convenient features; although, I wasn’t about to start my journey through the store again. I had already spent 20 minutes, twice, waiting to ask for help. IKEA had only made me aware of the complimentary digital experience after I had already completed my in-store experience. The app functionality would have made my in-store experience significantly better! The disconnect between physical and digital was a missed opportunity, likely a function of different siloed owners within IKEA. But customers don’t think in silos…

Friday Blog 3

On our way home we decided to stop for dinner rather than scramble to create the perfect at-home meal. I pulled up the Outback Steakhouse mobile website and noticed a feature I had never seen before: Click Thru Seating. I added our name to the waiting list. Then I called to confirm that my name had been added. AMAZING!

This feature is a lifesaver for parents with young and hungry children- or cranky in-laws. Who doesn’t love a Bloomin’ Onion?

We arrived, pulled the kids out of the car, walked past eight families, sat down immediately, and avoided a toddler meltdown in the waiting area. Outback added convenience to my life, allowed me to engage, and saved me 45 potentially miserable minutes. What a great customer experience!

Creating a customer journey like the one created by Outback is challenging. The minutiae and complexity of it all can cause the dreaded “analysis paralysis”—an endless cycle of analyzing and planning, and re-analyzing and re-planning. This vicious cycle can cause us to become so narrowly focused on just getting the new mobile app, web site, or campaign launched that we lose sight of the full experience we are trying to create.

One way to avoid analysis paralysis is to always keep your audience and their needs in mind. Remember, you are designing an experience for a person. You are not designing an experience that is limited to just a mobile app or an email or a website or a store. You are trying to connect with a person that is going about their day with their phone, in-hand, and near-limitless options all around them. They expect your brand to understand their needs, and to deliver an experience that is easy, personalized, and unified across every touch point.

Why design the customer journey? The answer is because a great customer experience is about moments of serendipity. A great customer experience builds loyalty, repeat business, and profitability. IBM Journey Designer enables marketers to design these moments of serendipity that customers long to experience. So, avoid analysis paralysis by keeping the entire experience in mind while taking small steps to engage your customers in new ways. Keep moving forward!


*These are my own experience and opinions and not reflective of IBM.

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