Nowadays, customer journey is crafted in hundred of ways. It’s a complex and complicated path that leads the customer to his purchase. We’re bombarded with stimuli, temptations, products.
Every step your customers make they produce data. From subscribing to the newsletter, to searching for reviews, visiting the store with the coupon you gave them, to end (really?) with the purchase. Every single piece of this path is precious to understand your customers better, give them a custom experience and making them happy, faithful customers.
Here new technologies based on Artificial Intelligence are able to help us to improve the customer journey. The tons of messy data are going to be clear actionable points towards our and our customers’ happiness.
In this article we will show you how.
The concept of the customer journey has completely changed during the last few years. Once, especially before the dawn on the web, it used to be a linear path. Communication goes direct or through the mass media were expensive and time-framed.
People can watch TV or read the newspaper in their spare time, more keen to reserve attention. After that, the new prospect used to go to the store, live there his customer experience and, eventually, buy.
Since the Internet has exploded, everything has changed. The customer searches for pieces of information about the product everywhere, to understand if it fits him or not.
We’re surrounded by social media, tools that brands love because they can spread their message virtually anywhere. If once we saw a product and we decided to buy it (well, less or more), nowadays we find informations about it, we read reviews, we look for tutorials. The result is a longer and more intense journey, but a lot more informed one.
Almost every single business sector and brand has its own, personalized customer journey, tailored for its customers and internal procedures.
Have a look at this picture! Searching for “customer journey” keywords you can find so many fields to relate to.
Customer Journey: A Complex Trip
Let’s begin with a distinction: there is a crucial difference between customer experience and customer journey.
Customer journey is “the end to end set of activities and processes that a customer completes while acquiring a company’s products or services”, while Customer experience is “how you feel about the whole process.”
A customer journey is the journey a prospect takes from knowing to purchasing a product. Understanding customer journey and how people experience it is a great way to improve your business’ efficacy.
The traditional customer journey has five distinct steps:
- Awareness: the customer has a specific need and starts to look for a product to fill it. At this stage, he considers a set of brands. His selection is based on the perception of the brands and exposure at them. He does some research and has some option to choose.
- Consideration: in this stage, the prospect is looking for an excellent selection of brands that can solve his problem. Furthermore, he’s searching for more pieces of information for each one of them. During this phase, people likely try to contact you, for example, to ask you for more details.
- Decision: this is a critical stage. It’s the moment of selection. The customer will pick the brand among a narrow list of possibilities. The potential buyer has done all the possible researches, and he’s reading reviews about your brand. Here you have to answer to a (not so) simple question: why he should choose you.
- Retention: You’ve done it! We have a new client that bought our product! It’s true, but don’t go too far. This is a very delicate stage of the journey: you have to follow up to be sure that the new buyer becomes a loyal client. You have to build trust by taking care of him after the purchase. He has to know you think his opinion is valuable.
- Advocacy: if a first buyer becomes a regular customer, congratulations! But there’s one step further. Your customer must not only be a client but someone so enthusiast of your brand that he becomes an active advocate for your company. How? By nurturing him, making him feel valuable and respected.
Let’s have an example: our prospect heard about our brand on TV.
The first time he doesn’t care, but he grows interested after a few weeks. So he asks his friends and acquaintances if they know it, too. If they recommend it to him, he steps into the store, finds it’s the best product ever (at least for now) and becomes a loyal customer of the brand. There wasn’t, though, a lot of ways to collect other people’s opinions and having a real relationship with the brand after the purchase.
On the other hand, the brand could only manage what it said to people. It hadn’t a lot of chances to understand what people said about it, and sells are almost the only way to see if everything was going well for the company.
Web and social media have disrupted this journey. What was once an entirely predictable and smooth path has now become complicated and hard to predict. First of all, now people have a lot more information about the products of their dreams, to begin. It’s the so-called “Zero moments of truth”. It’s when a prospect finds and collects as more pieces of information as possible: reviews, product details, price, way of using…
It’s a complex and omnichannel real journey between the online and offline world. Think about the click-and-collect solutions or that time we fall in love with a piece of clothing on the website, but we bought it at the store.
The purpose is to involve and engage the customer at every stage that leads to the purchase. The aim is building a stable relationship with the customer to allow a more satisfying experience that the customer wants to repeat..
AI can play a very crucial role for your team.
All the touchpoints can, now, overload us with pieces of information. And there is where AI can be useful.
AI adoption is key to improving the customer experience
Of course, for every step of the customer journey, there’s something AI can do to engage our customers. Don’t forget, anyway, that this process is now extremely more intricate compared with the past.
Different phases come and go, sometimes one of them is skipped, sometimes our customer decides to come back to a previous stage.
AI can help customer journey by following and understanding every step in it, embracing the needs of many different audiences.
Here five customer journey touchpoints where Artificial Intelligence exciting change the game:
- Map the customer journey: First of all, it can be an excellent help for predictions. Predictive analysis allows you to collect and analyse your customers’ data and understand something more about them. Based on other customers behaviours, you can have a glance at what may be the next step and prepare your strategy. In this way, you can define the actions you want to make and identify touchpoints.
You can determine at which time they’re more likely to open emails, which touchpoint is the most efficient for your target and improve omnichannel communication. You can use all the data you have about your customers – demographics, behaviours, habits, previous actions – to make sure to offer a personalised and exciting experience. A great adventure will lead them where you’d like them to be.
As Userguiding suggests,
“A good Customer Journey map takes each step the user takes along this path into consideration, making sure that there are no pitfalls. However, the original Customer Journey map may look very different from what users actually experience after launch.”
- Personalise the experience: Today, the key to success is to build a personalised experience. Data and AI can help us to craft it at best. Also, the average attendance rate is shallow, so we have to keep high the interest of our customer. For example, we could send a personalised newsletter with custom suggestions, or create A/B tests to find the most appealing landing page.
- Listen to your customer needs: remember that you have to know what your customers need and want, so you’ll be able to give it to them at best. An excellent way to achieve this goal is by using social listening e monitoring tools.
In this way, you could know what people think about your brand, your strengths or weaknesses. If there’s a crisis in action or if they’d want some product you can help. Even better a segmentation tool, like our GhostwriterAI Profiler that allows you to go even deeper and understand what they love and what they are interested.
- Assist in smoothing the purchasing process: Who wouldn’t like a caring and efficient assistant when is going to buy something? AI can help your brand on this, thanks to AI technology.
Let’s take, for example, chatbot and virtual assistants. Siri can tell us where to find the nearest store. Chatbot services on Facebook help us make a reservation or find whatever we’re looking. You can even buy from the app.
- Support the post-selling: let’s not forget that post-selling is one of the most critical elements of the customer journey. If your customers need any support, you can install a chatbot system all over your website and social pages. In this way, you provide them with a 24/7 entrance to solve their issues.
Do not forget taking care of reviews! These are what our customers are saying about us. This may have a massive impact on our future relationships. That’s where sentiment analysis tools become useful. Algorithms can analyse people’s online conversation, understanding topics and sentiment. So, you can provide timely replies.
Not so many companies use AI in their customer experience (only 20% of Italian ones do this, according to Italian Artificial Intelligence Marketing Observatory). When they do it, it’s usually limited to applications like chatbots.
You can take advantage to stay ahead from your competitors! m
- Customer journey is the path that leads the customer to know your brand ad, hopefully, buy your product. It’s become more and more involved during the years. In the past, it was quite simple. The customer had a need. It founded a brand that could be helpful, looked for information, bought the product and became a loyal customer.
- Nowadays, it’s more complicated and unpredictable. Customers have a lot more pieces of data to skim through, and they’re being overwhelmed by reviews, stimuli and temptations every minute.
- AI can be useful in every step of the customer journey. It can help to automate processes, find out more information about the customers and make every step more comfortable and more user-friendly.