As marketers, it's our job to understand the journey that our customers take from discovery to purchase. How is that going?

Not very well, according to a recent Econsultancy report.

In our 2016 survey, Customer Experience Maturity in Australia and New Zealand, half of respondents (50%) said that there are a 'lot of missing parts' of the customer journey and only 5% have 'a coordinated approach across online and offline' parts of their business.

So only one marketer in 20 feels like they have connected the online and offline customer journey. Clearly there is a problem here.

But what is it? Why do marketers find mapping the customer journey so difficult? And what advice can the 5% give about succeeding where so many others are clearly failing?

To find out, Econsultancy held a roundtable event, 'Understanding the Customer Journey: Optimising Engagement Levels for Greater Customer Acquisition & Loyalty', in Sydney, Australia.

Dozens of client-side marketers came to discuss the trends, best practices, and issues they are facing with customer experience (CX).

The roundtables were moderated by subject matter experts from Econsultancy and our event sponsor IBM Marketing Cloud. Participants brought their own experiences, questions, and challenges to the table for open discussion.

Below are some of the problems marketers face when working out the customer journey and some advice about what can be done to help piece it together.

Problems

Figuring out a typical customer's path is from start to finish requires an enormous amount of data. For this reason, most of the problems that marketers faced in mapping the customer journey are linked to data.

1. Acquiring customer data

For some stages of the customer journey, participants noted, it can be difficult to acquire customer data at all.  

Retail environments are full of offline data, but brands often have to rely on stores to collect and report it.

B2B companies also have trouble getting customer data. For these firms, the problem is that they often sell through distributors and so direct customer data and feedback is often not available to them.

In both cases, data is available through the intermediaries but companies cannot rely on its accuracy to build models.

2. Accessing customer data

For those fortunate enough to have high-quality customer data, there can also be issues accessing it.

Businesses often have 'data silos' where one department claims ownership of part of the customer data and another department 'owns' another part.  

Participants noted that this can happen both across geographies as well as in a single office.

3. Using customer data (correctly)

For those who have all the data they need, using it can also be a challenge.

Attendees agreed that legacy technology holds marketers back from understanding their customers and their journeys.

The issue is most apparent with reporting. Multiple legacy technologies and tools have led to numerous dashboards and reports and so no single view of the customer exists within the organisation.

While having a centralised customer relationship management system (CRM) helps, the CRM usually won't capture offline data and so there will still be large gaps when mapping the customer journey.

The results

Many organisations have started to understand the customer journey, but all of these issues mean that many marketers are seeing little progress when trying to link online and offline components of the journey.

As a result, companies seem to have less appetite for investing in customer journey mapping and are slow at making the changes required.

This perhaps explains why so few companies have achieved the same success as the top 5% market leaders.

Solutions

Participants of the roundtable also had some ideas about how marketers can approach many of these problems faced when trying to map the customer journey.

1. Work to change the company culture

Participants noted that structural changes can help open up data silos, but cultural changes are needed as well.  

Companies who adhere to 'ownership' of data by department can impede the success of the customer journey mapping and customer experience (CX) improvement.

Making a cultural change is, of course, easier said than done.

One suggestion about where to start is by introducing 'risk management' for data. That is, establish an interdepartmental data safety protocol to assure data stewards that their data will be managed properly.  

The aim is to lower objections for sharing data widely within the organisation.

2. Review the suitability of IT solutions

All agreed that having high-quality IT solutions across the organisations was key to success when mapping the customer journey.

An up-to-date solution improves access to data, increases the potential for it to be used widely and, as a result, helps marketers to better understand the customer journey.

New technology should be included in the review as well. Technology that allows for facial recognition in a retail environment is available now.  

While it may seem 'creepy' at the moment, it could be acceptable or even expected in five years' time. 

Using innovations such as this are going to separate the customer experience leaders from the laggards.

3. Build up your company's analytics

Having accurate data and performing analysis on it is core to understanding the customer journey. 

To build up this capability, take the time to ensure that the basics of an analytics programme are in place.

Key performance indicators (KPIs) should be agreed across the organisation and marketers should be expected to back up all assertions with data.

That said, really understanding what is happening even online can be difficult. Most of the data we use is from sources, such as social media or ad buying platforms, which are known to be inaccurate.

One participant suggested that marketers should consider first-party data from CX systems like Tealeaf.  

Tealeaf takes a snapshot of the app screen on your customers' mobile phones to see where the breakage points are.

Also, another suggested that marketers can produce their own first-party customer data. 

Many are using Net Promoter Score (NPS) to get data online and offline activity.

4. Prove ROI to the business

All of these methods for improving the customer journey require investment. So, in order to get funding for customer journey mapping, marketers should show the return on investment (ROI) for such initiatives.

One way, suggested by attendees, is by using 'lead scoring'.  Lead scoring assigns a numeric value to each customer according to how close they are to making a purchase.  

Using customer journey data, marketers can identify those who are close to making a purchase and allow sales to know when someone is in the 'buying zone'.

Also, behavioral data gathered from customer journey touchpoints should be added to the CRM system.  

This means that customer data can be analysed both by using the hard data we gather about them as well as softer, behavioral data.   

In this way, marketers can help the organisation identify profitable customer personas beyond the demographics.  

Doing so will, ideally, improve sales and provide ROI for the customer journey mapping.

A word of thanks

Econsultancy would like to thank all of the client-side marketers who participated on the day and especially our table moderators for the Joining Up Online and Offline Channels Data table, Sarah Dunning, Chair NSW State Committee, Australian Marketing Institute.

We'd also like to thank our sponsor for the event, IBM Marketing Cloud, and we hope to see you all at future Sydney Econsultancy events!

Jeff Rajeck

Published 14 September, 2016 by Jeff Rajeck

Jeff Rajeck is the APAC Research Analyst for Econsultancy . You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.  

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