Kitewheel president Mark Smith
Kitewheel president Mark Smith has seen big changes in the customer journey orchestration space in the last two years, but says there are more changes to come

When B2C brands were asked in which way they would differentiate themselves from competitors, 47 percent chose customer experience.

That’s according to an Econsultancy report that also found 21 percent of both B2C and B2B brands were excited about the prospect of improving their customer experience — a percentage only bested by the excitement B2B brands feel for content marketing.

A Glance at the Customer Journey Orchestration

Customer journey orchestration is one of the more recent additions to the array of tools brands can use to improve the customer experience. 

Customer journey orchestration lives up to its name. It’s all about molding and optimizing the customer journey — from acquisition, to conversion and beyond.

Customer orchestration platforms, including the likes of Adobe, Pointillist and Oracle, all endeavor to serve up data-driven customer journey maps that indicate where digital customers come from, where they’re going and where they aren’t going. They integrate with marketing and sales technologies to piece journeys together across channels, delivering actionable insights in the process.

Boston-based Kitewheel is among those customer journey orchestration platforms, but according to Forrester’s latest Customer Journey Orchestration Wave report, Kitewheel isn’t just in the mix, it's leading the pack.

To uncover why Forrester named Kitewheel a “Leader,” CMSWire spoke to Mark Smith, Kitewheel’s president.

'Journey Orchestration Extends Personalization'

Mark Smith has been president of Kitewheel for almost five years. His career in the tech industry stretches back to 1995, during which he held positions such as president and SVP, general manager at Quadstone Inc. and Pitney Bowes Software respectively. 

CMSWire: What is customer journey orchestration, and how does it tie into the overall process of content personalization?

Smith: Customer journey orchestration is the management of customer journeys as automated processes, helping businesses deliver the best possible experiences to customers on all channels as the customer moves between them. This is directly connected to personalization because journey orchestration delivers messages, content and experiences that are tailored to individual customers based on data. 

Journey orchestration extends personalization to be independent of channel, and to adapt through time as the customer travels on their journey. To take a very basic example, if a customer signs up for a loyalty program with an online retailer, a customer journey orchestration platform will ensure ongoing email offers and/or website content are directly linked to web browsing behavior, social comments or calls to customer service.

CMSWire: We understand how a customer journey orchestration platform can nurture leads and convert (and keep converting) customers. But how does it help when it comes to acquiring new leads and customers?

Smith: Journey orchestration can work for unknown/anonymous prospects just as it can for customers. In the early stages of a journey, the prospect may only be identified by their web fingerprint, or a social handle, or an AdTech cookie. 

Companies can therefore build journeys that observe the behavior of these unknown prospects and engage them through several steps in order to turn them into a known lead.  While most marketers currently use journey orchestration to drive additional value from existing customers, acquiring new leads and customers is as much a function of a great experience as anything else.

CMSWire: How has the customer journey orchestration space changed over the last two years, and what path do you expect it to take over the next two? How is the IoT era (with devices like Amazon Echo making a splash) going to impact customer journey orchestration?

Smith: From our own data, the deployment of customer journeys has expanded rapidly over the past two years.   

At the same time, the number of players in the space has apparently skyrocketed, as almost all marketing technology wants to associate itself with such a popular new concept.  But for most brands their work with journey orchestration is only just beginning. We see this clearly from customer experience indices that consistently show a very small (often less than 1 percent) number of brands deliver a great experience.  

There is still lots of work to be done over the next two years, and beyond. Consumers are demanding a better cross-channel experience, which is why according to Gartner a top CMO request is the integration of marketing tools to make various systems work together.

Devices like Echo are transforming the customer journey because they create an omnipresent interface. Rather than pulling out a device and inputting a command via multiple taps, a consumer only has to speak to immediately interact with a variety of brands. This opens up a whole world of possibilities when it comes to customer engagements, and we're really only beginning to scratch the surface.

CMSWire: Why do you think Forrester has made Kitewheel the leader in the customer orchestration space? What is Kitewheel doing that others aren't?

Smith: Overall, what made Kitewheel stand out against the other vendors in the reports is our ability to work across the entire customer journey spectrum by allowing users to design, orchestrate and measure journeys in a completely channel-agnostic way. 

We're also able to collect data and act on it in real-time. In an age of vendor and ecosystem lock-in, it's difficult for bigger players like Adobe to excel given the flexibility that marketers want when it comes to the tools they use.