zig zagging road through the countryside at dusk
PHOTO: Samuel Ferrara

The customer journey has traveled a long and winding road throughout my career. I remember the first time I heard of the customer journey: it was during an online course. The teacher defined it as starting with awareness, moving on to consideration and then finally reaching the decision level. The description struck me as inadequate at the time and it still does. But thankfully, customer journeys have evolved since that time. 

Customer journeys come in many flavors. Consider the difference between B2C and B2B: If I buy a pair of socks and don't like them, I'm out $10. But if I buy the wrong software solution, it can cost me my job. The popularization and ease of direct to consumer selling (D2C) is introducing a new twist in the road. When I walk into a western store to buy a pair of boots, I don't put a lot of thought into the company that manufactures the boot. But when I buy my boots online, I make sure I'm doing business with a company I can trust, which requires some research, plus I need to find the right price point, which requires even more research.

The one constant thing in the martech world is change, and customer journeys are no exception to that rule. Here are three ways you can expect the customer journey to evolve in the coming year. 

D2C Gives Brands a More Important Voice

The direct to consumer model will continue to grow. I’ve spoken to two people recently, one a retired doctor and the other a recent college graduate, who had just returned from Shenzhen where their respective products are being manufactured. All of a sudden we live in a world where if you can think of it, you can make it — and for cheap. Combine that with the internet, with the near-ubiquitous access it provides, and you’ve opened up a market for everything. And, make no mistake, there is a market for everything. Now it’s easily accessible.

Brands selling online used to take cover with the likes of Amazon and eBay, which acted essentially as online wholesalers. Now mom and pop shops are selling directly through their own online shops, where they market, package and ship everything themselves. 

With the rise of D2C, customers will look to ensure they can trust a brand and their products before making an informed decision to finally purchase a product.

Related Article: Meet the Middle Man in the Modern Ecommerce Supply Chain: Content

Amazon Tries to Compete With the D2C Market

Amazon makes syndicating your products on its platform relatively easy. It’s part of its business model, after all. But as more start-ups go the D2C route, Amazon's  business will be impacted. While this will only represent a fraction of a percentage of its multi-billion dollar business, Amazon is still likely to take this D2C thing very seriously. 

I admit this is a fairly bold prediction, but I believe Amazon will (sooner rather than later) come up with a way to allow personalized packaging or use its vast personalization abilities to understand people’s taste in brands rather than just products to improve advertising, to entice D2C brands to use Amazon to sell their products. 

Related Article: Amazon Business Is Coming For You, Distributors

Closing the Gap Between Physical and Online Experiences  

Let’s be honest: when you walk into a Target, you are not only on a journey, but an epic one at that. Odysseus would find his trip to Ithaca easier than a jaunt through a present-day Target. Part of what makes a trip to a Target store such an adventure is the disconnect between the physical shopping experience and the online shopping experience. Target isn’t alone here. The gap between the physical and online space has been shrinking, but problems abound. Just think of the many physical locations that still won’t accept a return from an ecommerce purchase. The physical location is simply not connected to the online store and inventory can’t be tracked. 

No rational person would deny this is an issue, yet most people can also understand the dilemma of the actual store. 2020 will be the year much of this gets sorted out. Additionally, stores will start taking greater advantage of the tool they have access to while a person is shopping in their store: their mobile device.  

When we wake up bright and early on Jan. 1, 2020, we’ll be waking up in the future. But that shirt you’ve been eyeing online will be there just as it was the day before. Maybe your resolution should be to buy that shirt and consider that the customer journey you’ve just disembarked from will be a bit different when you wake up the next day.