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Customers will always be one step ahead of your business. The trick is setting yourself up so you can respond to change quickly PHOTO: anja

Gartner predicts 30 percent of web browsing sessions will be done without a screen by 2020. 

I’d be surprised if it takes that long. 

Your customers are on the move — consuming digital content, information and experiences in ways few could have predicted. Every brand and enterprise needs to move just as fast to keep up with them. For example, millions of people use Amazon Echo to interact via voice with information, data, commerce, music and more — no screen involved. Is your brand there? 

The days of equating digital experiences to standalone websites or mobile apps are long gone.

Making the Journey Easier, Every Step of the Way

Organizational leaders love to talk about their great digital strategies, yet many companies still fail to behave in a way that recognizes that digital is core to an overall customer journey, from the moment someone wakes up to the minute they hit the pillow at night. Reaching your customers at key moments throughout their day — wherever they are, whatever they’re doing — gains in urgency every day. 

Recently, I spoke with the digital leader of a national sports league. Her outlook and mindset about the critical importance of engaging with fans, each of whom she considers to be on a digital journey, is one to emulate.

“We want to turn our fan pain points into fan delight points across their journey,” she said. For example, think about every time a fan attends a game. From players and team statistics to where food options are located in the stadium to special merchandise offers in real time, fans want, and expect, access to this information from the comfort of their seats. Even if they don’t explicitly seek it out. 

“We are always asking ourselves: how do we make this easier to do?” In other words, her team wants to surprise and delight fans at every step of a trip to the game. The challenge is in the execution, using digital technology to make a consistent, personalized and relevant impact.

Customers Will Always Be One Step Ahead

Every day, your "fans” may be utilizing web browsers, mobile apps, smartwatches, voice interfaces and beyond. Their focus isn’t on the device or screen, but rather, on the experience you’re delivering to them at any given moment.

How can you guarantee that your organization is prepared to deliver those interactions?

It starts with a change in thinking. It’s not about you and your brand, it’s about them. 

In the last decade, we’ve witnessed customers move away from static websites to mobile experiences and more. While we may not know what digital interaction technology will emerge next, we know for certain your customers will be there, probably long before you are. To stay afloat, you’ll need to prioritize building experience-based journeys.

How to Get Into the Journey Business

Here’s how to think like a journey business, not a website business.

1. Build for humans, not devices

From Amazon Echo to Google Home, it’s easy for organizations to fall into the trap of building experiences for the latest buzzworthy technology. But centering your strategy around one invention is short-sighted. 

Instead, build through the lens of a typical human — someone who wakes up and checks the weather on their mobile phone, reads the news on their iPad and relies on an app to get them to the airport. There’s no one channel that fits all, and no one device that takes a person through their day. 

And there’s more than one place your content will flow. More on that in a minute.

2. Remember: not all interactions are digital

In fact, some of the most important digital experiences are delivered when your customers are “offline.” We may be living in a digital-first world, but we still ride the subway, visit brick-and-mortar stores and dine out. Ignoring these moments in your customer’s life is a big mistake, particularly for retail brands. 

Think about how to supplement these real-world experiences with digital interaction and information. For example, digital signage — from in-store product videos to real-time news and alerts in high-traffic locations — is not only engaging and eye-catching, but when done well, has the potential to inspire.

3. Get flexible with your content

Ensuring that your digital experience platform or content management system (CMS) supports flexible content for use beyond traditional browsers is perhaps the most important thing companies can do to prepare for the next generation of digital. 

Think of it this way: content needs to flow like a river, pouring into tributaries (channels and points on the journey) as necessary. Maybe the content supports your mobile site or app now, but can it be optimized for a chatbot? Start by choosing a CMS that can separate content from presentation, or in technical terms, is “API-first.” This ensures you can pull content from a secure back-end and push it to multiple front-end experiences, even if said interaction point hasn’t been invented yet.

It Starts With an Understanding of Your Customers

Of course, the most successful customer journeys are also rooted in data. Without key data insights, it’s impossible to effectively personalize each of your customers’ interactions with your brand—a costly mistake. Nearly three-fourths of online consumers get frustrated with sites when they’re served content or exposed to experiences irrelevant to their interests.

Unfortunately, it still happens all the time. 

The companies who will win won’t let important data go to waste. Instead, they’ll use it to better understand what makes each of their customers uniquely human — where they are, who they’re with and what they care about. Most importantly, they’ll deeply understand that all of these characteristics are in flux as new technology continues to reshape customer journeys faster than ever before.