The development of the customer journey plays a decisive role in sustainable customer retention. This requires a lot of data. But the more of it available, the more complex the approach becomes. Reevaluating the customer journey in the age of abundance shows it is important to collect and use data in the most targeted way possible.
The basis of every customer journey is formed by the customer data available to the company. When the data wasn’t in abundance, their use led to allegedly clear facts and action models. But the more comprehensive the data situation becomes, the more difficult its handling becomes. Nowadays, the “connected customer” leaves behind information, which varies more and more, at every point of contact. Apparently contradictory information on the customers are now more often the norm rather than the exception. During their journey, the user permanently switches between different devices, browsers, channels, and even identities. It is therefore necessary to observe the process of data collection and usage under these altered indicators in much more detail than before.
In the customer journey, data takes effect in two respects: as input and output parameters. The input side refers to all information on the user collected and evaluated during the journey. This concerns questions such as:
Which touch points will be passed?
What motivates or impedes the customer when using these touch points?
What does their behavior reveal about them?
Which moments determine whether they buy or not?
The output side contains all data that can used for personalizing communication. Important points:
How can data be used in real time to address the customer?
How can the right customers be addressed with the right topics?
How does a company accomplish a seamless, omni-channel experience?
When collecting customer data, different sources can be used: Direct surveying of customers and the use of behavioral data play the biggest roles here. Other important resources can feature alongside all forms of market research (such as online surveys, individual interviews or user experience labs) as well as social and digital monitoring (for example click stream analysis or social listening) and third party data. The latter materialize through cooperation with other companies, who make available their first party data. Increasingly, other sources have also come into focus. For example, where information is generated via voice control (Alexa), music lists (Spotify), photo collections (Instagram), or wearables. Here, it is becoming increasingly important to replace rigid forms of collection with playful variants.
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Targeted and profitable use of customer data can be achieved nowadays in many different areas:
The variety of data in combination with innovative technology facilitates a new understanding of the target group. The result is a more flexible view of the customers, with whom the company would like to communicate. People do not form a permanent target-group segment, but can be assigned to different groups for different topics within the customer journey.
By constantly learning more about the users and their requirements, a greater-customized user experience can be created at the touch points. This also includes very specific information, for example about the customer’s current location: Take, for example, a product such as a refreshing drink – the weather at the time can play a decisive role in the incentive to purchase it. It’s all about finding the optimal triggers.
Nurturing is the targeted further development of customers along the purchase decision-making process. Firstly, an analysis is undertaken into which typical patterns in the customer journey are recognizable and which information requirements the users have during the process. In addition, content formats and matters (such as webinars, function descriptions, or personal advice) are defined, which are so valuable for the user that, when confronted with them, they happily leave their data behind. Through this feedback, meaningful indicators arise, which indicate the current status of the user within the customer journey.
Here, various promising developments can be found such as personalized travel recommendations using facial recognition software, gamification approaches (playful interactions with the brand in real time), or the automated use of data via AI-based systems such as chatbots and much more.
Signposts in the data jungle
From a company’s point of view, the aim of the customer journey is ultimately to develop and maintain a sustainable, long-term relationship with the customer. Increasingly bigger masses of data offer seemingly limitless possibilities for this. In order to not get lost in the expanding jungle of information, it will be increasingly important in the future to identify, evaluate, and strategically use all approaches towards data collection and use. This way, the customer journey remains a real experience for all involved.
For more information, see: Henriette Cadonau, Logic & Magic: Customer Journey unter neuen Blickwinkeln. (Customer Journey in a New Light.) In: Frank Keuper, Marc Schomann and Linda Isabell Sikora (ed.), “Homo Connectus: Insights into the Post-Solo Era of the Customer” (pp. 87-99). Springer Fachmedien, Wiesbaden 2018, 472 pages, 49.99 euro.