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PHOTO: awsloley

Let’s start off with the good news: On the whole, we are getting better at customer journeys.

Over the last 10 years, buyer journeys have undergone a complete metamorphosis — consumers have moved to purchasing plane tickets online, doing their banking tasks almost exclusively virtually, and they are definitely not setting foot in a mobile phone store (if they  can help it).

Check out any report on the customer journey, though, and the stats will indicate that customers aren’t yet fully satisfied. They want and expect a more concise, more personalized journey than they had yesterday. So what are we missing? What is keeping companies from cracking the code and perfecting the full customer experience (CX)?

Organizational Complexity Is Slowing Down CX Growth

The customer journey impacts every individual in a company. You have to move up the ranks to address it because it’s such a strategic topic. Overcoming organizational complexity has proven to be quite a hurdle for marketers and CX experts aiming to improve the customer journey. Their organizations are simply too massive and intricate to stitch together the full journey across departments without senior management making it an organizational priority — and helping to facilitate.

If you want proof, just look at the flow between your digital channels and your service center. In most companies, there are still hiccups here. We're all doing our best to embrace omnichannel, but we often forget (or don't know how) to stitch in the offline portion of the customer journey. Disjointed call center service is a huge pain point for customers (and businesses), and is one that must be solved before we can say that we've solved the customer journey conundrum.

This belongs under organizational complexity because, unfortunately, management and information systems are too often disconnected. A store employee simply doesn't know what happened online, which leads to customer and employee frustration. Connecting your strategies — and your systems — is one way to tackle this challenge.

Related Article: Why Truly Customer-Centric Organizations Can't Do It Alone

Customer Journey Use Cases Only Just Reaching Maturity

Ten years ago, companies were beginning to think harder about customer journeys because they knew digitization was increasing the complexity of the buying process for customers.

Today, there are hundreds of use cases out there showing how “I solved this small part of the customer journey and it yielded X in conversions.” The use cases are proving the value of this work. This has put customer journey orchestration past the pilot stage in many cases. Where you might have had 10 companies with impact at scale 10 years ago, today you have 10,000. The maturity and proof of use cases has grown tremendously.

  • Customers are being offered ancillary products and services based on their exact personal needs.
  • Leads are being retargeted dynamically and automatically across channels.
  • Homepages, ads and full cross-channel campaigns are entirely personalized.
  • Users are automatically included/excluded in tools and campaigns based on their online activity.
  • Ad spend is automatically adjusted depending on a person's product eligibility and potential to buy.

Use cases like these are becoming the norm in many industries — and that's the right trend. Up until now, the lack of maturity in customer journey use cases was keeping journey orchestration from becoming the strategic pillar it ought to be. But this is changing drastically as companies are proving the true positive impact of these use cases, and I don't expect use case immaturity to be a barrier for much longer.

Related Article: Customer Journey Management in an Era of Disjointed Journeys

Digital Maturity Across Industries

Some sectors are simply further along than others when it comes to customer journey orchestration. Travel, utilities, telco, finance — these industries all have access to huge amounts of customer data that can be leveraged across longer buyer journeys. You could say these kinds of companies were ripe for journey orchestration.

In the last couple of years, however, I have noticed a growing number of fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) and retail businesses getting their feet wet with journey orchestration. Because of the nature of their buyer journeys, which are short and happen largely offline, these businesses didn’t start out with the first-party data advantage.

As omnichannel has become the standard for consumers and businesses alike, however, these companies are making the move to collect and leverage online and offline data more aggressively. They see the opportunity to transform the conversations they’re having with their customers, and the most future-forward businesses are already acting on this by investing in technology and rolling out data unification and activation strategies.

Related Article: Customer Journey Orchestration Isn't Just for B2C Anymore

The Customer Journey Tech Space Is Taking Off

Finally, we’ve been seeing massive strides in journey orchestration technology. This space has only started to take off in the last few years, and as it develops, so will the ability of brands to orchestrate 1-to-1 journeys across channels to extreme precision.

Just recently we're witnessing the explosive growth of the CDP space, for example. It’s a confusing space that businesses and vendors alike are struggling to grasp — and standardize. Developments like this show what a huge need there is for companies to leverage their customer data with the goal of improving their customer journeys.

AI is also going to be important here — there are a lot of extremely interesting use cases being developed, and AI is the key to differentiating them on a personal level in real-time. A few companies are already doing this, but it’s early days.

Other important emerging trends to keep an eye out for include the ability to align and integrate customer data, the ability to manage the customer journey across a variety of online and offline channels, and the ability to personalize individual customer journeys at scale.

Related Article: What You Need to Know About Customer Journey Orchestration Software

How to Get Ahead in Customer Journey Orchestration Today

Companies looking to make a splash with their customer journeys are already investing in the technology and the people who will help them get there. The biggest piece of advice I can give is to ask for help. There are already so many proven approaches and best practices out there — this space is developing incredibly rapidly, and you don’t have time to reinvent the wheel if you want to get out in front of the competition.

Companies should be focused on ideating scalable, production-ready use cases. Make your efforts in this area business-led and impact-driven and see it as another opportunity to shape your business strategy around the most important part of your organization: your customers.