4 factors to consider when future-proofing your customer journey
Creating delightful, exciting, and smooth customer journeys is no longer a luxury, it's a necessity.
Try to recall the last really good customer experience you had. What made it excellent? Was it the smoothness of the transaction? The seamless shift from one level to the next in the process of considering, trying, and buying the product? The customer service from the vendor? Or a combination of all these factors?
The reason why we're asking you to remember great customer experiences is that these are all manifestations of great customer journeys. To craft a truly excellent and future-proof customer journey you need to take features such as these into consideration, as well as systematise and organise the knowledge you have from experiences that really delighted you and your team.
Without further ado, let's delve into the world of building exciting customer journeys for your customers and clients in the realm of digital marketing—and what four factors you should consider especially.
Create business value with the customer journey:
Rich web interfaces
A rich web interface is best described with an example: Imagine that you're in a restaurant devoid of a menu—it only serves meat loaf. The location is drab, the chairs are uncomfortable, and the food tastes bland. This is a poor gastronomic experience indeed. Now contrast this with a restaurant that offers a varied menu, with an assortment of meats and vegetables you can order via either the employees or a machine. The location is stylised and colourful with a jukebox playing soft music, the chairs come in different sizes and materials, and the food is tasty. The place even have a playroom for your kids.
The latter restaurant clearly offers a richer experience than the former, with more opportunities and more sensory delight. The same principle is true for digital experiences. You can have a bland website or a boring app, but you can also have rich websites and compelling apps, with tons of functionality, smooth transitions, and a natural progression of events.
Websites used to be static and fairly boring—at least function-wise, content-wise they are much the same now as back then. What has changed is that the technology, in the form of front-end frameworks like React, Angular, and Vue, enables more options and actions among the structure, design, behaviour, and animation of every element of your digital offering.
A customer expects more of your digital experiences now than just 5–10 years ago. Instead of a static brochure presenting your organisation, you should have a full suite of services and functions which enable your customers to solve their tasks. And this is done through rich web interfaces.
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Nobody likes to be told what to do, at least not all the time. We are geared toward freedom, and a customer journey should respect that fact: A customer journey should empower the customer to let him do everything he wants, when he wants to do it.
This empowerment can be achieved through full self-service. Let the customer deliberate, choose, and enact upon his choices in your systems, whether it is good old-fashioned shopping, ordering a taxi ride, or deciding which financing method to opt in for. In modern services like Airbnb and Uber everything is done through the app—searching, booking, payment, and rating.
Every touchpoint in a customer journey should be fully self-serviced, be it search results, online ads, blog posts, calls to action, forms, or emails. Let the customer take his needed time and decide on each step for himself (although you can of course include certain motivational factors, like a limited coupon time or an enticing button).
Remember that not everyone or every touchpoint is necessarily digital, which makes self-service a bit harder to achieve. A physical magazine cannot automatically lead your potential customer through a series of marketing automation steps, but it can nonetheless be a valuable entry point or side asset.
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Now that you have rich web experiences and have enabled your customers to be fully self-serviced, do you need anything else? Why, certainly: You need to be where your customers and potential customers are and will be in the future. Isn't it enough with a web page and a mobile app? Certainly not.
You might have heard of the term "omnichannel" in this regard. Whether it's called "omnichannel," "omnipresence," or anything other fancy, the fact is this: Today there are more devices and channels than ever before. In the early days of the web there was the stationary personal computer. Since the 90s we have seen the rise of devices like the laptop, the PDA, the feature phone, the smartphone, the tablet, the smartwatch, VR, AR, and countless appliances that goes under the umbrella term "Internet of Things," or IoT for short.
Believe it or not, but a traditional HTML website will not look or work very good on your wrist or on your toast machine. If you run a news organisation that promises to deliver push notifications whenever there's an important event in your community, or if you work in a financial institution that is supposed to deliver select stock info on the fly, your customers expect your digital experiences to work—whenever, wherever.
Now, you might not expect to see news or stock info on your toaster (though it's not a bad idea), but you expect to be notified and see the essentials on your wrist, and you expect the app on your phone to do the same, and that the website reveals even more details.
Being prepared for such a scenario and many others like it is a sign that you are or at least have started to future-proof your customer journey. The exact method to achieve this can vary, but you should consider a web platform that can create regular websites, together with the headless CMS approach where APIs are used to send select content to any channel.
While headless CMS is in the wind, you should also consider using a hybrid CMS instead. In this way, you please your web editors with a traditional CMS interface and your developers with headless solutions. Furthermore, enable your content to flourish in a omnichannel world with content strategies like atomic content design.
Learn more: 5 reasons to go headless with Enonic »
Even if you have the best car in the world, with the slickest maneuvering, fastest acceleration, and safest driving mechanisms—even if the car drives on the finest, most well-maintained roads in the world—it doesn't mean anything without the driver. And in the same vein, even if you have the richest web interface ever concocted, the smoothest self-service, and a presence in every channel imaginable—it doesn't matter if you don't have quality content.
Content is king and always will be. We humans search for meaning and purpose, and technology and platforms are ways to convey these two factors—i.e. content—in a more effective manner.
Whether your customer or lead is searching for the optimal industrial solution to installing staircases, are looking for the best-tasting coke, or are browsing for the most exotic holiday trip, the principle remains the same: A great customer journey, both past and future, is littered with exciting touchpoints and seamless experiences—which essentially means they are populated with great content, i.e. content aimed at exactly that customer's needs at that time.
There are several techniques and methods to fulfil the promise of a great and meaningful customer journey. One of the most well-known strategies today is inbound marketing, a holistic method including blog posts, SEO, landing pages, premium content, marketing automation, emails, and workflows—all geared at helping your customers in the best possible way.
There are no shortcuts to great content. Content production can however be made easier with a principle like content operations—ContentOps. This principle essentially treats content the same way as developing code, with the same respect and orderly processes. Either way you have to sit down with your colleagues, brainstorm topic ideas, interview and survey your current customers, map the customer journey, integrate touchpoints with your proposed content, and actually write, record, film, and create the content—as well as maintain it regularly. There is no escaping this fact if you want to future proof your customer journey.
First published 10 April 2019, updated 5 August 2020.