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It wasn’t that long ago that the customer journey was relatively simple, there were only a few different channels through which customers would conduct research or make purchases. And there was little technology for tracking the evolution of a consumer from an early prospect to a confirmed purchaser, and, sometimes, to a repeat customer. Add to that, in the last few years, there’s been Facebook, Snapchat, text and a myriad of other communications methods added to the mix.

No doubt, the customer journey will continue to evolve over the next five years, so how do marketing experts expect the customer journey to change by the start of 2025?

More Smart Tools

“The biggest change driving the customer journey in the next five years is the utilization of smart tools that make the customer and agent’s life easier during the sales process,” said Jake Levant, Lightico vice president of marketing. “Right now, businesses and consumers have only gotten a taste of technology’s potential to streamline the customer experience. Front-end employees often end up bouncing customers around multiple channels to complete these tasks, slowing down service and negatively impacting a company’s bottom line.”

While some businesses might get away with this inconvenience now, that won’t be the case in five years, resulting in customers dropping out of sales, according to Levant. On top of that, expectations for instant and simple experiences will only increase from now on, and organizations who haven’t taken the time to address this change will fall behind in meeting customer needs. “Solutions like automation, mobile capabilities and real-time transactions offer the simple service consumers want,” Levant added. “I think we’ll see even more companies use this technology in the next five years to drive customer loyalty and achieve overall success for the business."

Related Article: Why Customer Journey Mapping + Journey Analytics = 5-Star Customer Experiences

Increased Focus on Journey Mapping

More emphasis will be placed on customer journey mapping — from the initial onboarding process, through to successful implementation/use of a product or service, to the point that the customer realizes the full value from the investment, according to Nancy Porte, Verint vice president of global customer experience. “It's vital to take a more strategic approach to journey mapping by focusing on the key touchpoints that drive the most value,” Porte explained. “With a true understanding of what delivers the highest return, the increased adoption of personalization strategies with the use of automation and artificial intelligence (AI) will assist in delivering better customer experiences.

Much of the focus of updated customer journey mapping will be on the front end, according to Porte. It’s critical to understand this subset of the journey, as buyers are spending more time researching and becoming knowledgeable about their options online and through social channels.

“Organizations will need to continually adjust their business models accordingly to accommodate this digital shift, and this is especially true for sales and marketing departments,” Porte said. “Personalization, automation and AI will help companies add value throughout the entire customer journey, improve loyalty and keep those customers coming back.”

Related Article: Can We Automate Customer Journey Mapping?

Stronger Emphasis on AI

“As AI technology advances it will have a positive impact on how consumers interact with brands, for example by utilizing data to understand where the customer is coming from, what they might be inquiring about and based on those insights personalize the engagement or even prevent the contact all together, because the brand can reach out proactively,” said Marina Kalika, Nuance Communications senior director of marketing.

In five years, channels won’t matter anymore, according to Kalika. Consumers will expect the same meaningful conversation anywhere, from stores, to the phone and digital channels, no matter if they engage with a virtual assistant or live agent. AI will also enable enterprises to verify that consumers are who they say they are based on their unique biometric print (voice, behavioral, etc.).

Kalika added that AI and human customer service agents will be seamlessly intertwined and working together — AI will be used by agents to receive recommendations and assist not only with informational cues, but emotional ones, for example telling the agent to change their tone when the consumer shows signs of being upset.

Better Personalization

“What will have the biggest impact on the customer journey in the next five years will be taking this understanding that purchasing is not a one-size-fits-all experience, and personalizing the online experience accordingly,” said Pete Hoelscher acting CEO at IEEE GlobalSpec.

Hoelscher pointed to IEEE GlobalSpec/TREW Marketing research that looked at the buying journeys of engineers and technical professionals, it found that 60% of the buying process is completed online before a prospect initiates contact with a vendor. “I expect that percentage to grow,” Hoelscher said. “And as customers conduct more of their own research online independently before engaging with companies directly, it’s imperative that the personalized experience that was traditionally initiated by an account executive is introduced earlier in the buying process, and happens online.”