There are some terms in the retail marketing tech world that get tossed around and around, and everyone is sure they’re important, but not everyone agrees on what they actually mean. Today’s the day we start swatting buzzwords.
First up, what’s behind the hype of Customer Journeys?
What it is:
- A helpful way to get you to think about each phase of the customer’s interactions with your brand
- A story that provides insights on what it’s like to shop with your brand so you can improve the experience
What it’s not:
- An auto-magic tech solution where you feed a bunch of data into a model and it maps out a definitive pattern of how your customers will interact with your brand
- A precise, prescriptive sequence that shapes how people interact with your brand
What it sounds like:
- A magical quest your customer takes to vanquish evil by purchasing your products
- A life-changing experience of personal growth wherein you finally become a customer
The big distinction that needs to be made is between Customer Journey as concept vs. Customer Journey as tech feature.
Customer Journeys make sense as a thought experiment, a mindset that lets you imagine the different ways that people experience your brand so that you can try to make each of those touchpoints as smooth and user-friendly as possible.
It’s a kind of role play: put yourself in the customer’s shoes and game out the different ways that they might arrive at a purchase. For example, they might find you on Facebook, then check out your website, then subscribe to your newsletter, then wait for that discount code you promised, then they’ll...etc.
But they also might find you on Instagram, then see a targeted ad on Facebook, then stop into a store. Or they hear about your brand from a friend, check reviews online, and then shop when they get a personalized ad. Or they might — or else they might — or maybe they might —
You can see that there are lots of different permutations of how someone could find their way to a first purchase (and even more variations when you extend their relationship beyond the first purchase).
That’s why Customer Journey features on tech platforms don’t make much sense; while it may seem like a good idea to map out the different paths a customer can take to a purchase and the different actions you need to take in response, the reality is that there are too many channels and too many combinations to account for. More than that, every shopper out there is an individual, and there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all or even a one-size-fits-many customer journey.
What you can do is take the idea of a customer journey — that is, thinking through the different points of your customer experience from the customer’s point of view — and use that as a guide to reduce friction at every step.
Make the most of customer data to get all your channels primed and ready to know who that customer is so that you can maintain a smooth, personalized, relevant experience no matter where they are connecting with your brand.
That way you can provide top-notch customer engagement, quick response rates, and smooth interactions at every step, regardless of what order they do it in.
If Customer Journey means thinking about how your customers are experiencing your brand so you can make it easy, pleasant, and relevant for them at every step, that’s good. If it means a quick-fix tech solution trying to account for every combination of interactions with a static plan for each one, then you’re getting stung by a buzzword.