Let’s take a trip — a journey through your behavior as a consumer and an online persona.

How much do you spend? Where and why? How long does it take you to decide on a product? What causes you to hesitate? Why do you reject a brand or make a purchase? What issues do you feel are important enough to comment on when you’re reading an online blog or travel site?

You’re not alone on this journey. JOE is along for the ride — keeping a close watch on your actions and reactions, noting them all and standing ready to nudge you along the right path.

Meet JOE

Every time we shop at an online store, surf the Internet, search a term or comment on a blog, data is collected.

A journey orchestration engine (JOE) uses an array of tech tools to access real-time, individual consumer data to evaluate the unique, specific attitudes and activities of each customer (journey discovery). This discovery is then used as a prediction and adjustment tool for future behavior (journey decisioning).

Firms use this technology to move the customer from a “brand-centric” experience to one that is more “customer-centric.” Each journey is unique and created to help avoid negative experiences, address issues in the moment and encourage brand loyalty through real-time engagement and guidance aimed at fulfilling and exceeding customer expectations.

Principal Analyst for Futurum Research, Daniel Newman, said it’s about attaining a better understanding to achieve improved outcomes.

“Journey orchestration has become a catch-all for a lot of enterprise software, applications and data tools that have elements that enable a company to better understand customer behavior,” Newman said. “They then use this data to engage the customer with the intent of driving to a desired outcome.”

Related Article: Marketing Automation or Customer Journey Orchestration

Down the Funnel

In the past, the journey was a simple funnel. Consumers drop in at the top and spin around to see a vast array of brands. As they travel further down, certain goods and services are discarded, and marketing efforts guide them through fewer options. At the center of the funnel is the consumer’s selected purchase or brand.

But instead of grouping consumers together on similar paths, orchestration enterprises realized they need to look at each individual, each on their own unique journey.

Today, with a vast increase in the number of brands and channels, there are virtually unlimited choices. But establishing key touchpoints to guide each consumer through the maze requires the right tools and an alert navigator offering immediate decision-making, advice and assistance.

Enterprising Engines

Within the last ten years, innovative enterprises began offering independent journey orchestration that collects and analyzes data to create individualized customer journey maps and experiences. Seemingly realizing the value, established customer-based corporations soon began buying these solutions up.

In 2020, six of the most significant JOE providers (each delivering journey orchestration capabilities as a standalone offering) were singled out as “leaders of the pack” by Forrester in its Forrester Wave: Journey Visioning Platforms, Q2, 2020. By 2022, four of the six had been acquired by other companies.

Tony Byrne, founder and president of Real Story Group, has a theory about this wave of JOE acquisitions.

“Enterprises need to have a fairly high state of digital maturity and internal collaboration across silos to be successful here,” said Byrne. “At RSG we believe that is why, from a technology standpoint, the standalone ‘Journey Orchestration Engine’ marketplace has all but collapsed, with all major independent players getting sold off into legacy, mostly customer service-focused, suites.”

Related Article: Why Brands Need Customer Journey Orchestration

Data Dilemma

To take the first step in orchestrating a journey, an engine must have access to a substantial amount of real-time and historical data for context.

Software that successfully monitors, captures and organizes this data can then predict individual customer needs, what makes them uncomfortable (friction points), where the moment of truth occurs, what leads them to purchase a product and how they are likely to behave in the future.

But, said Byrne, this first step can be a real challenge for many organizations due to lacking or disorganized data.

“Most of us didn't have our customer data house in order, both with respect to listening for the right signals in the first place, and then having a coherent store of unified records to leverage after that,” Byrne said. “With better customer data management, I think the door opens wider to taking a more enterprise approach to omnichannel journey orchestration again.”

While the tools employed in different JOE platforms can vary, the goal is the same: to capture consumer actions and attitudes at numerous touchpoints across varied channels and provide real-time interactions that offer a more holistic customer experience.

“In many cases, these MarTech (Marketing/Technology) tools and apps require multiple solutions to manage the entire journey,” Newman said. “So, while journey orchestration has many parts, the required mix of tools can be equally as complex if the plan is to truly streamline the entire consumer journey.”

Learning Opportunities

JOE’s Toolbox

Let’s take a look at some of the tools journey orchestration engines use to get the job done:

  • Real-time interaction management (RTIM): Enables in-the-moment decisioning through machine learning and artificial intelligence.
  • Listening data: Social monitoring and omnichannel listening can detect when users mention a brand om social media or beyond, such as on blogs and forums. This information, when fathered by brands, can be used to improve products, address shortcomings and understand the strengths and weaknesses of competitors.
  • Adaptive Personality: Algorithms use data to “get to know” the likes, dislikes and habits of each consumer, allowing brands to personalize individual experiences and avoid negative moments.
  • Progressive profiling: A method of data collection that strategically gathers small amounts of information at a time, enabling the discovery of consumer goals and intent.

Other tools can include zone-based heat maps to indicate how customers interact with websites, exposure rates, activity by device and tech that allows brands to isolate the specific features of a site that generate sales.

If an issue arises, JOE can initiate the appropriate action in real-time from various departments within the company. This could include immediate assistance in the form of a text, email or service call. Communication across channels that would normally be siloed is enabled and the data obtained serve to fortify an already strong customer profile.

Related Article: Evolving CX Demands a Connected Customer Journey

The Never-Ending Story

Journey orchestration is a practice that tries to support and enable aspirational customer journey maps, which, Byrne said, differs from traditional (usually outbound) campaign management with a "listen and respond" approach.

“Unlike traditional campaign management and messaging approaches, it seeks to weave together both inbound and outbound touchpoints into a more coherent whole,” said Byrne. “In short, true omnichannel engagement.”

“To that extent,” he continued, “journey orchestration tends to require more complex decisioning, and there is consequently a lot of excitement, if still few implementations, around AI and ML here.”

In the traditional funnel method, once the consumer makes a purchase, the journey is over. But in journey orchestration, the trip is far from over. The past, present and future are all important.

A recent Gartner survey found that one essential key to exceeding customer experience expectations is “continuation of the customer journey after purchase.” According to a statement by Gartner VP and analyst Augie Ray, attention must be focused on retaining those customers and promoting brand loyalty.

“A journey map that focuses merely on the purchase funnel, and not the entire end-to-end customer journey, is not a CX journey map,” Ray said. “Those sorts of journey maps may assist with efforts to build awareness, inbound traffic and acquisition, but they cannot uncover the opportunities that influence customer satisfaction, loyalty and long-term advocacy.”

Looking Ahead

In the HubSpot Annual State of Service in 2022, a survey of customer-service professionals revealed customer satisfaction is still the most critical key performance indicator. Nearly 90% of respondents thought customer expectations were at an all-time high and that today’s customers were much more likely to share their experiences (both positive and negative) with others.

According to Byrne, it’s not clear what the future holds for the JOE. “We're seeing a resurgence among our subscribers in the concept of journey orchestration, accentuated a bit by the pandemic but accompanied by only modest tech investments.”

“As an interim step,” he added, “we see more enterprises putting their toes in the pool by leveraging lightweight orchestration services coupled with their customer data platform. This might not be a great long-term solution, but it seems that circa 2022, decisioning wants to reside close to customer data.”

Forrester VP and principal analyst, Joana De Quintanilha, believes the burst of JOE acquisitions is a sign that companies want to “get closer to the customer” and is driven by three trends: the need to deliver empathy by accessing richer emotional data, the need to create loyalty and trust by creating channel-wide cooperation and the need to combine data, science and emotion in order to achieve a more complete view of the customer experience.

As for what the future has in store for independent journey orchestration engines acquired by larger companies, Byrne is less optimistic.

“I think the sale of indie JOEs to larger vendors likely portends poorly for them and their customers based on past experience,” Byrne said. “They are likely to subsist and that's good, but probably not thrive.”