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The non-linear customer journey and what it means for marketers

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President, Brand Publis

The mad men days of marketing were remarkably simple compared to today’s complex processes. Marketers relied on intuition to determine if creative campaigns were working, and focus groups to understand how customers engaged with their brand. The exponential growth of channels on which the customer can interact with brands has meant not only the downfall of the linear customer journey, but the explosion of customer data informing on their brand engagement. The CMO of an Australian consumer products company says in IBM’s recent CMO study, “We need to become ‘math men’, not ‘mad men.’” In order to understand the modern multi-touch customer journey and create a customer experience that meets sophisticated consumer expectations, marketers need to put in place the skills, mindset and tools to derive actionable insights from customer data.

Customer engagement and design thinking

The customer engages with your brand, not individual departments within your company. With digital technology, direct communication with the customer across multiple internal teams is more prevalent. Because of this, internal department silos need to be overcome to present a consistent, authentic face to customers. Customer data needs to be shared and consistent across teams, for example between marketing, sales and customer support. In IBM’s CMO report, the CMO of a Chilean retailer noted that this “means being hyper-connected with every area of the business that interacts with the customer.”

Communication between internal teams also helps present a single unified experience to the customer by hiding internal complexity in favor of simple, positive customer experiences. This is one of the core tenets of design thinking, which focuses on customers’ emotional experiences. Design thinking starts from the premise that quality, efficiency and profitability are necessary, but not sufficient. It insists that all aspects of business, from product design to creative marketing to internal systems, be approached from the perspective of the customer. As companies try to understand the non-linear journey of their customers, the customer-centric principles of design thinking become all the more important. 

Using advanced analytics to shape marketing campaigns

Achieving this level of customer understanding requires advanced analytical capabilities. The value of deriving insights from customer data has never been clearer. A recent study from Sabre found that airlines that create a data-driven customer experience could see a $227 per-passenger in total customer worth. The IBM CMO study found that 60 percent of CMO’s want to use data-driven insights to shape their marketing campaigns in the next three to five years, up from 40 percent today. 

The question now is not whether or not to use data in marketing campaigns, but how to derive the most value from it. Many marketing teams are already using predictive and prescriptive analytics, but only a few early adopters have started to explore the value of cognitive systems. Traditional algorithm-based systems are limited by what they’ve been preprogrammed to do, whereas cognitive systems learn through experience and apply what they’ve learned to new inquiries or tasks. They can put content into context, provide confidence-weighted responses and identify subtle patterns or insights. Cognitive systems can help marketers navigate the deluge of data that is produced through non-linear customer journeys, and help leverage those data insights to craft a memorable and personalized customer experience that builds brand loyalty. 

On April 11 in New York City, marketing leaders will be meeting for a free, half-day event to discuss the importance and challenges of personalized customer engagement in marketing, and how cognitive systems can help. A breakout session will provide the opportunity to exchange success stories and best practices with your peers.

Register now