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Darren Guarnaccia Posted by Darren Guarnaccia March 13, 2019

3 ways to overcome fragmented customer journeys

This blog post originally appeared on MarTech Series

In today's hyper-connected world, it's common for consumers to move between channels and devices daily, creating a challenge for marketers looking to connect the dots on the customer journey.

According to Forrester, 95% of consumers use three or more channels in a single customer service interaction, with 62% of them using multiple devices. When shopping online, almost half of consumers start their research on a smartphone or tablet but move to desktop when placing orders. This behaviour will become more pronounced as advances in new tech, smart home devices, and 5G connectivity bring greater accessibility and convenience. By 2020, 31 billion internet-of-things devices are expected to be in use worldwide.

With numerous innovative ways to reach and interact with audiences, mastering the customer journey is a daunting undertaking because consumers no longer take a singular route. With so many channels and devices, the combination of steps a customer might take are infinite. So, trying to plan for an unpredictable sequence of events is illogical.

Although there is still value in understanding the process customers go through to discover, research, evaluate, choose your product, and decide whether to renew or buy again from you, it is important to unlock some of the budget and resources you've allocated to figuring out an unsolvable puzzle, and pour them into delivering unified customer experiences.

Future-proof your ability to compete

The difference between brands that succeed and fail is based on their proficiency at adapting and using technology to market their products and services to audiences. With the digital landscape rapidly evolving, only those capable of pivoting quickly to new channels and platforms will survive. Similarly, martech stack augmentation and interoperability will play a critical role in establishing which brands gain market share and which ones falter.

So, how can a brand position itself to compete now and in the coming years? I believe that a future-proof foundation must be built now, which - if implemented correctly - will set the stage for unrivalled power and agility later.

#1 Do away with siloed marketing

With new channels emerging and customer expectations at an all-time high, marketers must produce quality content and deploy digital experiences post-haste to remain competitive. This mounting pressure is felt by marketers across the enterprise, who have responded by designing and optimising the individual aspects of the customer experience they control, rather than looking at the experience holistically.

This approach has created siloes where different teams work to achieve their own goals and lose sight of the big picture, which ultimately leads to experiences that are inconsistent across channels. For example, departments in need of a website for a new product or sub-brand, often create a site using a consumer-grade solution - like Wordpress - as a short-term solution. While they may think they've gained control as a department, it transpires to a loss of control in the long-term. Siloes like these can be hard to resolve, especially once engrained in the culture of your organization.

To rectify this, build bridges between operational siloes and move towards multidisciplinary teams that can work horizontally across the organisation. To achieve success, there are three areas that must be taken into account: people, process, and technology.

An executive employee in your organization could sponsor the initiative and continuously reinforce its value. Working from the top down, leaders should emphasize the importance of paying attention to more than a single aspect of the digital experience, and encourage a broader perspective that considers all components that comprise the customer experience.

To facilitate this, quarterly cross-departmental meetings should be held to inspire sharing, collaboration, and foster a sense of connectedness. Every team member should understand first, the motive of the customer and their role in serving that motive, and second, how that piece fits into the greater context of the company's mission. The larger and more distributed the organization is, the more difficult this becomes. In some cases, it may require a small dedicated team that builds a process and continually manages and evaluates its effectiveness.

Well-meaning initiatives stall if they don't become part of your company culture, so company values should explicitly communicate the importance of the one-for-all concept; each person contributing to the whole.

Finally, look for technology that can be used across the organization by different teams but also includes workflows and tools for corporate oversight. By standardizing technology, building processes becomes easier, and managing them more efficient.

#2 Centralize control of your digital experiences

"Change is the only constant" has never been more true, and being able to accommodate real-time change will depend on gaining control across the enterprise. To do so, marketers need a central hub that can anchor all their digital experiences across divisions and regions, such as an enterprise-grade Digital Experience Management platform offering the ability to streamline the delivery of integrated and cohesive experiences across channels.

Whether it's your website, a secure customer portal, mobile app, customer support site, or other touchpoint, customers will expect the same look and feel throughout their interaction with your brand. As channels continue to multiply, marketers will benefit from a single platform to create content and publish variations to different channels via defined APIs.

Opt for a Software as a Service (SaaS) platform that does content management and omni-channel delivery well, instead of all-in-one offerings. You are better off picking and choosing those separately to build a best-of-breed stack that can be adapted, rather than being locked into a suite of solutions that don't meet your needs or quickly become outdated.

Because SaaS platforms are continually updated by the vendor, you'll always have the latest version without the cost of in-house development. Cloud solutions are often still on-premise, meaning you'll be responsible for the headache and resources required to keep it up-to-date.

Make sure the solution you choose is integration-friendly. Today's solutions will likely be surpassed by others with more innovative features by next year and with over 6,829 marketing technology solutions available in 2018, you could be shaking up your tech stack frequently. And, you don't want to wait for available resources to get it up and running every time there's a shiny new tool.

#3 Implement digital governance

It's all well and good to insist on brand, messaging, and overall user experience consistency, but without governance, it's a fruitless endeavour with negative consequences. While good experiences are an engine for growth, bad ones can cause sales and brand equity to deteriorate over time.

According to Forrester , "best-in-class brands average 17 emotionally positive experiences for every negative experience, while the lowest-performing brands provided only two emotionally positive experiences for each negative one."

But you can only create positive experiences across channels by developing standards, communicating, and enforcing them.

While the range of devices and channels available for engaging with customers will continue to diversify and cause further fragmentation of the customer journey, there's still time for marketers to take a proactive approach. By investing in a purposeful foundation designed to accommodate a litany of unforeseen new technology, companies will plant themselves firmly in the driver's seat on what's guaranteed to be a perilous road into the future of martech.