It’s time to forget about the “customer journey.” Sounds radical? Let me explain.
Today, consumers face a non-stop flood of content that is designed to get them to buy.
At any given point in time, all of us are interacting with numerous retailers and brands — new and familiar — through the ads we see, the emails we get, and the recommendations that appear on our screens.
Simply existing in a digital world means we are part of a continuous customer experience.
Retailers may still think of their relationships with customers as a linear timeline, but that’s not how customers perceive them.
Customers experience their interactions with retailers on an endless continuum.
In the digital era, and as mobile continues to expand how and when consumers interact with retailers, the concept of the customer journey has become obsolete.
Retailers that realize this and depart from the “customer journey” mindset will be positioned to foster long-term customer retention and expand their business.
How to shift out of your ‘customer journey’ mindset
The customer journey mindset is counterproductive to the primary goals retailers strive for, including customer loyalty, customer advocacy, and competitiveness.
The word “journey” itself suggests that there is an ending. Eventually, customers will reach their destination — they’ll either make a purchase, abandon their cart, or stop interacting with the retailer altogether.
Companies that want the benefits of lifelong relationships with shoppers will need to replace the traditional customer journey framework with something that better fits the digital customer continuum.
So, if you can’t base your marketing and customer experience strategies on the customer journey, how are you supposed to interact with consumers?
Here are two new strategies to focus on instead.
1. Use micro-moments to demonstrate value & promote long-term loyalty
In a traditional customer journey, you start by trying to attract someone’s attention and bring them to your site.
If a person doesn’t make a purchase right away, they will be funneled into a nurturing pathway that’s designed to nudge them toward buying. So, what’s wrong with this approach?
The typical customer journey doesn’t take individuals’ specific needs or intentions into account. It funnels generic content and ads to those who correspond to a predefined customer persona without really understanding what their intentions are.
It’s like trying to throw darts in the dark — if you hit the target, chance had a lot to do with it.
A better approach is to identify and seize micro-moments that allow you to satisfy a consumer’s exact need, deliver real value, and foster better connections.
How micro-moments shape your customer experience
A micro-moment is a time when a consumer has a specific need — they are searching for information, trying to perform an action, or looking to buy something.
The quality of the moment depends on whether the retailer is able to identify and satisfy this need. Those that can will have far more success delighting customers while increasing sales.
(Pro tip: negative micro-moments have the biggest, most long-lasting impact by far, for example, a customer stranded at a foreign airport after her flight was delayed by 18 hours)
Whether retailers act on them or not, consumers today evaluate their customer experiences based on the quality of micro-moments.
A consumer that is searching for a specific item on your site but can’t find it will exit the page feeling frustrated.
On the other hand, an online retailer that allows customers to simply upload a photo that features the product they are looking for or describe it to a chatbot that uses NLP will allow customers to find what they are looking for with the least possible effort.
Micro-moments often serve as the entry point to a new customer relationship but they occur in nearly every interaction.
When you can create consistently positive micro-moments, you’ll set the tone for higher customer satisfaction and long-term loyalty.
2. Increase personalization at every touchpoint
The quality of the customer experience you provide directly affects retention and revenue.
A high level of personalization is crucial to providing a consistently positive customer experience, which is why fulfilling each individual shopper’s intentions at the moment of need is so important.
Traditional personalization engines operate on statistical algorithms and data generated by thousands of other shoppers.
As a result, the recommendations that appear on a shopper’s page are not unique to them. Rather, they receive the same recommendations as everyone else who fits into the same customer persona.
As AI technology continues to develop, retailers that want to boost retention now have the opportunity to provide customer experiences that are actually tailored to the specific individual during every interaction.
Advanced AI capabilities such as Visual Experiences Platforms allow you to dramatically enhance the customer experience by making product discovery effortless and completely personalized.
How Visual Experience Platforms drive customer retention & growth
Visual Experience Platforms are powered by next-gen AI to steer each individual shopper to the products that best suit their specific traits, situational contexts, and intentions.
Shoppers interact with them via camera search, text, voice or by “shopping the look” featured in a specific image.
For example, a consumer who wants to buy the same dress as their favorite influencer can simply upload a photo to a camera search tool, which will automatically identify every item in the image.
The shopper can then click on one of the items—let’s say the dress—and view all of the most similar dresses the retailer offers.
From there, the shopper can easily “complete the look” with more products that correspond to their current actions and taste.
From the customers’ perspective, it just became 10x easier to find exactly what they’re looking for (and more). This creates a satisfactory and memorable customer experience and gets the shopper hooked.
Retailers benefit from converting that shopper, increasing future sales, and laying the groundwork for long-term customer loyalty.
On top of that, they receive massive amounts of new data that enable more accurate recommendations for each shopper, creating the potential for exponential growth.
In the customer continuum, every touchpoint is an opportunity
Providing a competitive customer experience requires more than having great products and fast shipping.
It’s about proving that you understand the customer’s world, their current context, and precise needs, and that you’re eager to provide them with true value.
By seizing micro-moments and enabling better personalization with AI, you will elevate the quality of your CX at every touchpoint.
Once you stop seeing your relationships with customers as a linear journey with a beginning, middle, and end, you will recognize countless opportunities for wowing customers and establishing long-term retention.