Customer Analytics

The Future of the Ecommerce Customer Journey

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I’ll say right up front, I’m fortunate to be apart of one of the coolest experiences in the world, being a Futurist for IBM. I get to observe companies doing extraordinary things in the ecommerce space and engaging with customers as they move through their journeys.

It’s obvious that marketing to consumers is becoming ever more complicated. Unlike years ago when there were very few touchpoints for engagement, today there are an extraordinary number, due to new technology and changes in the buying process. In most cases, the buying process is no longer linear and the sales funnel is a top-down model. There may be multiple intersection and reentry points that are accessed at different times. The various points need to be identified and ranked according to how critical they are. Then, the key is to focus in on those points and buying signals that have the greatest relevancy.

The starting point is effectively mapping the buyer’s journey. Given the complexity of the map, and the impact that it will have on an organization, it’s imperative that organizations do not work in singular, siloed groups but rather as truly cross-functional teams. There must be visibility across all channels with the intent of gaining a holistic view of the customer. Channels can no longer be looked at independently, as each interaction influences behavior over time and each has to be accounted for to be successful.

It’s important to note that a customer’s mindset is a huge part of this process. The mindset – where customers are in the conversion consideration stage – must be carefully analyzed as not every customer will follow along a particular path as expected. For instance, new customers to the brand may often exhibit longer times to purchase and have lower cart sizes, while long-time, loyal customers may be comfortable advocating and sharing content from your brand.

Customer Journey 101

I’m going to take you back to basics: mapping should not take place without a thorough, introspective look at the fundamentals of the business, namely the 4P’s of marketing (product, placement, price and promotion) and proper identification of the target customer and audience.

Without studying the business and ensuring that everything within an organization is properly aligned, the mapping exercise and strategy for addressing each point along the journey will be all for naught. All it takes is one bad experience to dissuade a customer from ever coming back. Ensuring that you have the basics covered will minimize the possibility of a bad experience at any juncture.

There are a number of tools available that can address this issue. These tools rely on data generated both inside and outside the organization with the ability to be enhanced with predictive analytics capabilities. One of these solutions, IBM Customer Experience Analytics, is shown below. What is unique about this tool is that it allows you to rank the relative importance of each stage of the journey. Remember the old 80/20 rule? It’s no different in the customer journey.

Top Paths of the Customer Journey

Top Paths Analysis

As you can see from this solution, journeys are often multi-event, multi-channel experiences. Share the insights derived from journey analysis across the organization to optimize engagement. Review offers and analyze how customers engage with your brand, and see which touchpoints were inspired by email offers, push notifications or real-time promotions. It is imperative that you have a clearly developed and articulated strategy regarding how you’re going to treat buyers at each stage of the journey.

To learn more about customer journey analysis, read the white paper, Five Best Practices for Understanding Customer Journeys.

Tip: The Creep Factor

Often overlooked in the overall journey analysis is the ‘creep’ factor. How much interaction is necessary and what levels of personalization should be used? What personalization limits will most consumers tolerate as far as “invasive” messaging is concerned? The acceptance of direct interactions appears to be a function of the age of consumers. I have found that the vast majority of millennials welcome personalized messages pretty much across the board while those who are older see such messaging as an invasion of privacy. It is incumbent upon marketers to respect consumers and to be careful how predictive analytics are utilized in addressing the various intersection points along the customer journey.

Author, B2B Sales & Marketing Professional

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