We are all acutely aware that for a brand to be successful it must deliver a compelling experience at every touchpoint with the customer. It is just as important to provide this great experience when a customer first hears about your brand, as it is when the individual is a loyal advocate. What this means is that every stage of the customer journey needs to be seamlessly integrated, from the consumer perspective, into an ongoing relationship. This is the foundation by which any brand can become successful.
The challenge for brands is that this requires various departments to work together from marketing to sales, to operations and customer support. It is only by achieving this that a brand can deliver a consistent customer experience every time. Addressing this challenge has given rise to the development of customer journey marketing.
“The customer journey is the complete sum of experiences that customers go through when interacting with your company and brand. Instead of looking at just a part of a transaction or experience, the customer journey documents the full experience of being a customer.”
Audra Sorman, SurveyMonkey
“We’re living in what Forrester calls the Age of the Customer and we see that as a 20 year business cycle where customers are really in control of their relationships with the brands with which they do business….that means that those customers get to decide when and where to interact…”
Rusty Warner, Forrester Research
When adopting a customer journey approach, the first step is usually to map out all of the different customer interaction points and then to define how the brand seeks to influence the customer, at every touch. This is very brand-centric and does not necessarily reflect the needs, expectations and aspirations of the customer as to how they imagine the relationship developing.
Perhaps, brands should no longer start with what they wish to convey and what they want to achieve. There may need to be a fundamental shift in thinking. Customers today seek to be in control and brands that recognise this may be able to achieve significant advantage in winning the hearts and minds of their customers. Delivering a great experience in itself is no longer enough. The focus must now be on providing a clear value exchange at every engagement. This can be achieved by ensuring even the experience is seen by the customer as being rewarding, whether it be informative, insightful, fun, shareable or offer-based.
So, even before most companies have adopted customer journey marketing, it seems that this strategy may already be missing the ability to deliver successful audience engagement. The idea that a brand can orchestrate all their potential interactions with a customer, based on their needs, and still satisfy the customer’s emotional needs is highly unlikely.
“The engagement journey defines how the value exchange between brands and their customers develops over time. It ensures that each touch point rewards the customer by delivering experiences that are recognised as being valuable by the customer, based on their interests, desires and aspirations.”
The engagement journey has four key stages
- Inviting engagement
- Developing a two-way conversation
- Enabling the customer to define how the journey unfolds
- An ongoing relationship defined by the customer’s emotional needs
It is no longer acceptable to ‘push’ communication to consumers, even though your advanced AI and insights tell you that your offer will be highly relevant. Consumers are tired of this constant barrage and this is reflected by the ever increasing opt-out rates and lower response rates to traditional email campaigns. Marketers need to adopt “Invitational Marketing” where consumers can decide when and if to engage based on their terms and current context.
“INVITATIONAL MARKETING is providing a non-disruptive invitation for the individual to engage in a rewarding experience, when it is convenient and relevant for them to do so, on their terms, both now and in the future.”
2.Developing a two-way conversation
An engagement that is one-way is not a conversation. Any successful engagement needs to motivate and reward a response from the customer. To achieve this every engagement needs to be contextually relevant, fun and most importantly rewarding, not only in terms of any potential offers but also in terms of the actual interaction itself.
3.Enabling the customer to define how the journey unfolds
Enabling a customer to define how their journey unfolds is critical to motivate ongoing participation. This is not about enabling the customer to set notification preferences for ‘push’ communications, far from it. This is about enabling the customer to define how the engagement unfolds, in terms of how they can initiate an engagement, defining what activities they would like to undertake, and in what sequence, and proposing the types of rewards that interest and motivate them.
4.A relationship defined by the customer’s emotional needs
A loyal relationship is where a customer has a strong emotional connection and affiliation to the brand. It is more than satisfaction. A customer can be satisfied that a brand has fulfilled their need to a satisfactory level, but this in itself may not engender a strong emotional bond between both parties. This is why successful engagement is so much more than a well-managed interaction or ‘experience’. Building exceptional relationships requires brands to enable customers to self-determine and guide how the relationship unfolds, based on a clear value exchange at every single engagement.
Establishing an engagement journey is the next logical step in developing a customer relationship, after a customer journey has been defined. An engagement journey focuses on how the experience is designed. It ensures that each and every interaction of itself is rewarding, irrespective of any offers that are being made, in order to build an emotional connection.
If you would like to learn more on how brands can use a customer engagement platform to establish journeys that win both the hearts and minds of your customers, please feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org