Customer journey analytics software shouldn’t be viewed merely as yet another digital marketing resource in your martech stack that outlines your buyers’ and prospects’ interactions with your brand.
Rather, it’s a critical piece of technology that can reveal actionable insights about intricate customer touch points and behavioral patterns you can use to develop real-time, data-driven initiatives.
Your mission as a modern marketer (well, a primary one) is to connect data points across your martech to best understand customers’ journeys and implement programs to improve customer experience.
The use of one or more traditional analytics solutions that can gather data from multiple channels (along with other marketing technologies that offers journey-related details, if you have them) can certainly provide worthwhile insights about specific customers and segments in your various databases as well as inform your brand’s defined customer journey stages and mapping efforts.
But there’s actually one type of martech that can support your existing customer analytics tools or, if you don’t have any in your stack, supplant them altogether: the customer data platform (CDP).
Using customer journey analytics and maps as your compass
Before we offer advice on how you can best leverage customer journey analytics, let’s take a step back to relay exactly how your company’s defined customer journey map fits into the equation.
First off, the phrase “creating a customer journey” is one you need to eliminate from your marketing vocabulary. Why? Because you can’t create such a journey — only your customers can.
What you are capable of accomplishing in your role as a digital marketing professional is:
- Mapping the customer journey: Constructing a visual representation of the typical path your niche customers (i.e., buyer personas) take through your marketing and sales funnel.
- Orchestrating the customer lifecycle: Developing campaigns and messaging around your contacts’ respective (and wholly singular) journeys based on related customer analytics.
“Customer journey maps clarify what customers are trying to do, what barriers they face, and how they feel during each interaction with your product or service,” Financial Engines Group Product Manager Adam Richardson wrote for Harvard Business Review.
Meanwhile, customer journey analytics, when used in conjunction with a map, “enables companies to track and analyze customer interactions, making it easier for enterprises to identify and act on complex [CX] issues across the customer journey,” marketing expert Adam Rubin wrote for CMSWire.
Here’s the basic breakdown for the journey-related activities and where marketers like you come in:
- Mapping is the act of outlining the typical journey your customers take and touch points they have with your organization online and offline (a.k.a. “events”). There are customer journey map templates and tools to help marketers conceptualize the paths buyers take. Some brands’ maps will feature only a dozen or so steps a buyer will take from “start” (first recognized) to “finish” (buying one-off or subscribing long term). Other brands’ maps will feature dozens of distinct steps, in which multiple teams throughout the business will at one point interact with the customer in some way.
- Analytics are the concrete data points that pertain to the actual touch points throughout each journey stage your customers take. These insights show the distinct paths specific individuals and buyer segments took to ultimately purchase. Some paths will align closely to pre-conceived maps developed by marketing. Other paths will be far different than what the business typically sees from its average buyer. Depending on your acquisition velocity, your customer journey analytics platform could feature data for hundreds or even thousands of events.
As you can see, the two customer-centric approaches certainly go hand in hand: developing maps (and revising them over time, as the average journey changes) and using those maps in tandem with customer data to scheme the most successful lifecycle orchestration strategies for your audience.
One thing to keep in mind, though, is there are other “ingredients” in your lifecycle marketing recipe. BlueConic COO Cory Munchbach elaborates on this point in her guest piece for CMSWire:
- “The unspoken truth is that even in the most customer-obsessed companies, the customer’s journey isn’t the only factor marketers have to respond to, particularly not at scale. Inventory and merchandising, current events, weather, organizational capacity, content, data and more. It all has an impact.”
The more you take into account these ever-changing, out-of-your-control factors in your lifecycle mix and incorporate them into your real-time marketing decision-making, the more capably you’ll connect with your customers with personalized and individualized conversion-oriented messaging.
Integrating customer journey analytics into a unified system
The beauty of the customer data platform is you can connect any other martech — from legacy solutions to emerging software and everything in between — to the platform and leverage the data from those disparate systems to develop far more efficient and fruitful cross-channel marketing.
And that includes your customer journey analytics tools.
Take Decibel, for example. The renowned customer experience platform (in essence, one flavor of customer analytics software) integrates seamlessly with BlueConic’s CDP.
The valuable martech offers BlueConic customers access to its Digital Experience Score and helps marketers such as yourself “reduce barriers along customers’ decision journeys” to quantify the customer experience for those high-value individuals.
Customer relationship management (CRM) software, data management platforms (DMPs), adtech solutions, and other popular technologies that can connect with the CDP also have invaluable data that can capably (and quickly) inform your customer lifecycle marketing, of course.
But data from your customer journey analytics platforms arguably have the greatest influence on how, when, and where you orchestrate your lifecycle marketing and to which individuals or segments.
If you’re a B2B marketer with an account-based prospecting strategy, for instance, you’ll want to implement individualization that continue to nurture leads throughout your marketing and sales cycle:
- Let’s say you work for an auto parts manufacturer. Your goal is to keep tabs on leads (chief decision-makers at automakers) as they transition from one inbound marketing funnel stage to the next so you can deliver the most suitable one-to-one messaging (on-site, in-app, via email, etc.) — something you can do with unified customer journey analytics.
- As they go from unknown, first-time visitor to known, full-fledged prospect with a robust customer profile in your CDP, where you can see every micro touch point since that first site session (auto part product pages viewed, targeted ads clicked, etc.), you’re able to ensure they only see promotional messaging that’s applicable to them based on this data.
- Prospects you convert into first-time customers can later be retargeted based on data like your brands’ sales cycle (how long it takes for past customers to buy again). Meanwhile, repeat buyers can receive different lifecycle messaging, like more frequent emails for products they’ve purchased previously or similar items for upsell and cross-sell opportunities.
Smart Insights offers an incredibly detailed lifecycle marketing example for ecommerce and retail brands that spans from the awareness stage all the way to purchasing decision:
No company’s model will look exactly the same as another brand’s. In fact, many organizations will define these customer journey stages quite differently based on their unique business models.
What’s more, no customer’s journey will go directly from A (introduced to your business and starts interacting with one or more channels) to Z (purchasing or subscribing). It’s just never that simple.
Each person in your database has unique needs, timelines, budgets, and other unknown circumstances and situations that influence their overall engagement with your marketing and brand at large.
All you can do is use the known first-party data at your disposal — from your customer journey analytics platforms and other crucial martech in your stack — to map out your lifecycle marketing and do your best to reach prospects at the ideal moment in time and location.
Relying on a CDP as your main customer analytics software
Chances are you have at least one traditional customer journey analytics solution in your stack. And you’d be right to use one, given they help you track the aforementioned “micro moments” in your audience’s paths to purchase: from anonymous visitor investigating products to first-time buyer.
But the tool, as valuable as it is, isn’t in and of itself critical for your overall marketing success, technically speaking — at least not when you have a proper CDP in place that dynamically updates your customers’ profiles with help from data synced with the aforementioned, non-analytics martech.
You don’t need explicit customer analytics software in your stack to get the data necessary to inform your lifecycle orchestration. Simply connecting all of your core customer databases — including and especially your adtech, CRM, and ESP — into your CDP can give you all the analytics you need to “meet” your customer at the perfect points in their distinctive journeys and with the perfect message.
In other words? The CDP enables you to orchestrate lifecycle marketing with insights gleaned in the platform from all of your database integrations, not just traditional customer journey analytics tools.
Take BlueConic’s customer data platform, for instance. Our solution creates persistent profiles for every individual in our customers’ databases by dynamically updating the dozens of built-in profile properties every time a person in their database takes a new action with one of their channels.
This real-time progressive profiling offers the up-to-the-minute, accurate view of one’s audience needed to orchestrate the most fitting marketing messaging based on their most recent engagement.
Sure, having a platform that specializes in tracking every microscopic activity undertaken by prospects and buyers is certainly a big plus for you and your marketing team. But it’s arguably more important to have a single source of truth that syncs with all of your martech, including said analytics systems, to create a unified, centralized, single customer view to guide all of your marketing efforts.
The alternative is to simply continue to let your customer data live in silos — something that has proven to deter marketing success for organizations of all industries and focuses today.
Putting your journey data at the center of your marketing
Knowledge of how your customers’ interact with your business, on your digital presence and in the real world and at the moment of each engagement, is your most critical marketing asset today.
With customer journey analytics fused with a CDP, you can ensure your contacts get the most relevant lifecycle messaging through the most appropriate channels and, at the end of the day, receive a high-quality customer experience — a CX that can help you continually grow your marketing ROI.