Customer journey analytics: helping marketers find the right path to desired outcomes

There are more ways for customers to interact with brands than ever before. But trying to keep track of their journeys is increasingly challenging. Customer journey analytics offers a potential solution for businesses and their marketers looking to improve the customer experience.

Isn’t choice great?

For buyers, whether you’re a consumer or a business, more choice means more chance of finding what you want, in the way you want it, at a price that you feel is good value. For sellers, more choice means a potentially bigger audience and more ways to sell to that audience.

The omnichannel opportunity

Yet, choice also brings complexity. To reach those larger audiences, sellers offer multiple channels, both online and offline, while buyers expect the same experience irrespective of where they interact with brands. In-person, over the phone, on social media, on the web, or via chat – today’s buyer will research on one, question on another, and buy on a third. Or perhaps they won’t complete, or they’ll suddenly appear out of nowhere, make a purchase, and disappear.

B2B customers now regularly use ten or more channels to interact with suppliers (up from just five in 2016), while more than half of B2C customers engage with three to five channels each time they purchase or resolve a request.

Getting it right can deliver significant results: omnichannel customers shop 1.7 times more than shoppers who use a single channel.

The complexity of the customer journey

But getting it right is hard. For marketers trying to connect with these audiences, it’s a minefield. Despite the proliferation of MarTech, designed to help brands measure interactions and gather insights into customer intention, having a joined-up view of the entire customer journey is challenging.

Marketers know what happens in their channels. They can see how each performs individually and where customers go following interactions. They don’t have a view of where they were before or what they’ve done after leaving that specific channel. They struggle to understand what has prompted certain behaviors beyond broad-brush metrics (for instance, if e-commerce sees a spike after an online-only promotion launches) and, as such, are really only estimating the potential success of certain strategies.

There are so many questions they don’t have answers to. Why are people calling or using chat when the information is available online? What is triggering an increase in interactions but not a corresponding conversion boost? What’s causing drop-offs or left baskets in certain channels but not others?

This is both a cost and an experience issue. Some channels are more expensive to operate than others, so keeping those for more detailed, complex, and ultimately valuable interactions makes sense. Yet if the experience in the other channels doesn’t stop people from seeking out those involving humans, for instance, the cost per interaction will increase, hurting margin.

Do analytics hold the answer?

Customer journey analytics offers a potential solution. It’s the science of understanding customer behavior across all channels to measure the impact of the customer experience. Drawing on data from various sources, including owned digital and non-digital channels, journey analytics can help businesses analyze how their customers buy and identify what performs well. More importantly, it can determine what’s not working properly.

This root cause analysis can identify journey friction points and break down what’s not working and why.

For marketers, journey analytics helps them understand how and when customers should be engaged. Rather than look at specific campaign or channel results, it focuses on what the customer goes through to achieve their goal. In this way, marketers can use the insights gathered from journey analytics to better align their strategies and tactics to the overall customer experience and business results.

How customer journey analytics differ

This is a step change from other tools marketers deploy, such as marketing campaign analysis and reporting. To be clear, this isn’t saying that journey analytics can or should replace the rest of the MarTech stack; right now, much of what journey analytics can do well is badly covered by other tools and approaches.

So, for example, a marketing team might feel that the way they analyze campaign success covers the same ground, but they’re looking at outbound performance: gathering prospective buyers to come to the brand’s properties to buy. What journey analytics focuses on is inbound activity – once the prospect has landed, what are they doing, and why are they doing it?

Imagine, for example, that you’re an insurance company. Increasing competition, driven by a proliferation of both aggregators and direct-to-customer business models, is making it harder for providers to stand out while making it easier for customers to shop around. That means providers must make it as easy as possible for prospects to navigate choices, receive tailored information, and buy. Any friction could well see a drop-off, with the customer simply trying a different provider.

Milestones on the customer journey include visiting a website, learning about new products, completing forms, receiving quotes, and buying a policy. Journey analytics will analyze each milestone and produce signals covering channel traffic, customers moving from web to voice, requests for more information, resubmitted forms, and the volume of abandoned steps. These insights can then be used to inform changes.

So, for instance, a provider might see a large increase in website visits and form completions following a marketing partnership with a complementary brand. Yet a higher-than-normal proportion of these visits might not progress beyond a quote. Using the information from the forms and the source of those visits, the provider could see that while the campaign achieved volume marketing KPIs (such as open rates and click-throughs), the audience attracted by the partnership was not right for its services.

The path to desired outcomes

Delivering exceptional experiences across the customer journey is not just the preserve of marketing; it is the responsibility of a wide range of functions, from CX and contact center teams to business intelligence, product management, and IT. What journey analytics offer is a way to align the entire organization with customer-centric goals. Rather than operate in silos, focusing on metrics that are only of interest to themselves, it allows different teams to communicate in a common language, working towards achieving overarching objectives.

As customers expect more ways to interact, which in turn requires businesses to master more channels, journey analytics offer a way to simplify how marketers support buyers to achieve their desired outcomes.

Yves Van Den Brande
Yves Van Den Brande

In my engagements, I leverage 20 years of experience on digital ecosystems, customer engagement and AI, IoT and advanced analytics. Keys to success include improving customer experiences, improving processes and organizations, defining winning KPI’s and unlocking customer insights. I am a member of the Business & Decision Europe Regional Board and Lead for Customer Engagement at Business & Decision Europe.