Customer Journey Management ‘Informs the Next Experience’

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The delivery of customer experiences that are connected, contextual, and personalized is the “new frontier” for customer journey management, said Adobe’s Suresh Vittal during his digital Adobe Summit 2020 keynote.

The challenge, says Vittal, who is VP of platform and products for Adobe Experience Cloud, is breaking through to customers “in a sea of seemingly personalized messages from every other brand.”

He illustrated his point by sharing his own story of scanning notifications on his mobile phone while his coffee was brewing.

“The home screen of my phone was lit up with hundreds of messages, offers, and notifications from my favorite brands and apps,” he said. “As I flipped through these messages, I was looking for anything that stood out, and I noticed that many of these messages were fairly generic. Some of them seemed to be personalized, but very few actually spoke to me like they understood me, like they were anticipating what I’d need at that moment in time.”

The end result? Vittal deleted most of his messages without reading them. His experience is representative of how customers, who “expect brands to treat them like they know them all their lives, even at first interaction,” will react as well, he said.

Vittal went on to contrast the traditional, four-step circular customer life cycle—discover-explore-buy-engage—with the modern-day digital life cycle, which drills down on the many interconnected interactions factoring into a customer’s purchasing decision. That includes watching product videos, reading reviews, and viewing ads via desktop and mobile.

This new process “is not on the brand’s terms, and loyalty is earned and lost in every interaction,” Vittal said. “Brands have to anticipate these micro-moments and engage in the most relevant way.”

Easier said than done. “It’s like trying to hit a bit of a moving target,” he said. And when personalization is necessary, it’s often not sufficient, he added. “You have to connect the various interactions the customer has with the brand to inform the next experience they can have,” Vittal said.

But doing so involves more than merely connecting additional touch points. Whether the customer is a lone consumer or a buying group within a larger organization, “It is about integrating the digital with the human to give the most relevant customer experience,” he said.

Vittal outlined the “important chapters” that belong in a brand’s “customer journey management playbook.” It begins with centralized customer profiles that are constantly kept up to date in order to truly understand customers and their relationships to the brand.

“You need the ability to listen and react to real-time signals and anticipate what matters to customers so as to orchestrate individualized journeys at the moment,” Vittal said. “But that doesn’t mean scheduled campaigns are going away.”

The ability to marry content and behavioral data is also crucial. “This drives intelligent decision-making to drive the best content or offer that is readily available for marketers or algorithms to use,” he said.

That might sound simple in theory, but in reality it’s quite complicated, especially at scale — “every hour of the day, millions and millions of times,” Vittal said. That’s where advanced technologies come into play.

“The only way to do this is by leveraging machine learning and artificial intelligence to drive automated decisions,” Vittal said.

Insight from AI/ML can inform the best time to send a message, predict customer churn, and choose the right content for a message. It’s also valuable for workers.

“This can help your customer-facing employees make decisions so they can deliver unique experiences for all customers,” Vittal said.