We can all agree that COVID-19 has changed the way we shop. Many consumers have been forced to adopt digital channels to shop online for essentials and a little more. Yet for some of us, the digital shopping affair started much earlier.
My mother believes it is thanks to technology that I not only shop more often but tend to spend more than I would normally. She (humorously) calls me the expert of all things online. In her words, ‘just say what you need and my girl will have it for you in a matter of seconds.’ Although that’s a bit of an exaggeration, she does have a point. Today, everyone is quick to grab their smartphones and iPads to either buy or research online before deciding to make a purchase. A whopping 63% of shopping occasions begin online and nearly 50% consumers shop on mobile more often than in-store. According to research, 62% of online buyers shop at least once a month, 26% shop once a week and 3% shop once a day. These trends are largely a result of companies using ecommerce as a way to create a delightful customer experience (CX) rather than just treating it as a transaction.
The Customer Experience (CX) Experts
Considering this, it’s no surprise that customer loyalty today depends more and more on the quality of customer experience rather than just the product and price. A customer may even pay more for great customer experience. However, with so many competitors trying to grab the customer’s attention, it’s not easy for a brand to stand out. Only brands that can create consistent, transparent and personalized customer experiences are likely to be successful.
In a recent study, the Aberdeen Group said, “It pays to consistently communicate with customers across retail or business-to-business channels.” They found that,
Companies with the strongest omnichannel customer engagement strategies retain an average of 89% of their customers, compared with 33% for companies with weak omnichannel strategies.
Nike is an example of the former. They do a great job of integrating offline experiences with products that feature digital applications to provide the customer with a holistic workout experience.
For me the brand with the most thrilling customer experience will always be Burberry. While Burberry’s transformation story is well-known (even an HBR case study), my experience at Burberry’s Regent Street store in London is firmly etched into my memory. With immersive multimedia content, motion sensors, interactive mirrors and a trench-coat customization room, Burberry’s flagship store brought Burberry.com to life. It almost made you feel like one of the models walking the ramp for Burberry!
Another experience I loved was when I used the Asian Paints wall painting services while renovating my house. For me, as a customer, wall painting is a fairly low differentiation service. Asian Paints does an amazing job of using technology to stand out from the competition. First, their agents use an iPad to take pictures of your house. Then they show you a range of colors and patterns you can choose from and once you’ve made your choice, they create a 3D-view of what it would actually look like on your walls. All this, within a 30-minute consulting session, in the comfort of your home!
What do Nike, Burberry, and Asian Paints have in common? – Customer Analytics
Customer Analytics to create experiences
Customer analytics is at the foundation of creating experiences that resonate with customers. It’s the art of using customer data to extract insight about the customer and improve experience. Uses of customer analytics typically fall in three buckets –
(a) Reducing Customer Retention & Churn: The application of analytics to predict which customers have a high propensity to churn and identify retention strategies
(b) Customer Segmentation: The use of clustering algorithms to identify relevant and actionable customer segments; this can help managers plan their marketing spend more effectively to improve customer engagement and acquisition
(c) Improving Customer Experience: The systematic capture of customer data and analysis of that data to gain actionable insights; for instance, brands are using customer satisfaction analysis to understand if their customers are getting what they expect from them or social media analytics to understand customer sentiments. Insights gained from this type of analysis can help brands improve customer satisfaction scores.
I believe there’s no better way to understand your customer than to put yourself in his/her shoes. One way to do this is by assuming the role of a mystery shopper and assessing your experience at each touchpoint. Identify what you liked or disliked through the purchase journey. Now, do a similar exercise with a competitor brand to see where you stand against them. In a way, what you would have done is to create a customer journey map for a single journey. However, this activity tends to get more complex as you try to map out journeys through multiple channels and touchpoints over a long period of time. It gets even more complex when you try to orchestrate these customer journey maps. That’s where customer journey analytics (CJA) comes into play.
A Journey of Journeys
A 2018 Gartner survey found that nearly half of IT and business leaders who invest in customer analytics see customer journey analysis as their top priority. It’s even more important in times of the pandemic, where customers begin their journeys again in altered contexts and existing customer journey maps will have to be re-drawn based on their changed behavior. Customer journey mapping and orchestration is a continuous process with both short-term and long-term benefits. It’s almost a strategic decision to change the way the company operates.
Because it’s a continuous process, I like to think of customer journey analysis as “a journey of journeys”.
Here are some things to remember before kicking-off a CJA program.
Drivers of Customer Journey Analytics (CJA) Success
- Customer journeys typically expand across multiple channels and would require collaboration between multiple departments and business units (e.g. Marketing, sales, customer service, finance, etc.). Therefore, a cross-department team is critical for the success of a CJA solution.
Data architecture and data model design:
- Most brands have access to cross-platform customer data, but stitching that data together for a full view of the customer experience requires expertise and focus.
- The ability to resolve, match, and stitch customer data across multiple systems is the first step to ensure a successful CJA solution.
Micro-journeys before mega-journeys:
- Don’t fall for the trap of trying to capture every customer journey. Being exhaustive is a fool’s errand. Finding the overlap in the most important and broken journeys may be more fruitful because then you know what to fix.
- A good place to start is to pick a micro-segment or a specific customer persona and try to understand its micro-journey.
- Identify and prioritize two or three channels that you would like to examine for a pilot build.
- Choose one customer journey to focus on and build a CJA solution that you can later expand to other channels/ touchpoints.
System integration, data capture and governance:
- Typically several customer-facing and back-office systems would need to be integrated for a CJA solution. Identify these systems (e.g. CRM, DMS, research partners, etc.) and address the integration requirements.
- Every potential engagement point, for both communication and purchase, should be captured. Only then can firms completely understand their customers and their journeys via analytics. Identify the data gaps, data sources and data collection mechanisms.
- The success of a CJA solution depends quite a bit on data quality. Bad quality data will only bring misleading insights. Set-up a data governance process early in the life of the program.
The role of authentication:
- You will be better able to consider the customer across sessions and devices if they authenticate.
- Are your customers willing to authenticate or otherwise make themselves known to you in significant numbers? If not, are you giving them enough of a reason to be a repeat customer?
- Does your technology and UX make it easy to authenticate? Look for ways to reduce authentication friction to near zero. Security is critical, but getting in should be as simple as possible. Think Face ID and Touch ID in an app – from the customer’s perspective, it just works.
A truly integrated view of the customer is one that considers customer behavior at every brand touchpoint from the time the alarm rings in the morning until they go to bed in the evening.
Creating this 360° view of the journey will allow brands to enhance customer experience at each step of the purchase journey from awareness to post-purchase. It can help deliver the right service at the right time and improve chances of sales. It can enable them to personalize their approach towards a customer based on their past preferences and improve customer retention. Delivering compelling marketing content or predicting future customer behavior will allow you to uncover up-sell and cross-sell opportunities. The possibilities are endless!
What has been your experience with customer journey analysis? Feel free to comment and share your thoughts in the comments section.
1. Thinkwithgoogle, 2018: https://www.oberlo.com/blog/online-shopping-statistics
2. Episerver, 2019: https://www.oberlo.com/blog/online-shopping-statistics
3. Companies that excel in engaging customers across channels—including web, mobile, social media and in-store—retain more than twice as many customers as companies without effective cross-channel customer care strategies, a new study says..: https://www.digitalcommerce360.com/2013/12/31/why-omnichannel-strategy-matters/