From Automation to Journeys — Key Tips

Most every marketer has a basic automated email in place, usually a welcome series. But the time has come for these automated programs to grow in maturity, to evolve from email automation to well thought out journeys. Why? One reason: customer experience.

Customer experience is the new competitive advantage

We’re entering a new age, one in which customer experience will be the key competitive differentiator by the year 2020. And brands have some work to do to master the customer experience, because they are falling short.

According to an article at Forbes.com, almost all companies (89%) say they are competing based on customer experience. But are they really when 80% think they are delivering super experiences but only 8% of customers agree?

Cross-channel touchpoints also come into play when considering customer experiences, deepening engagement and retention. The brands with strong omni-channel customer engagement strategies retain 89% of their customers on average.

Providing a great customer experience

The customer is now in charge, valuing experiences over actual product or service. That puts the onus on you to deliver what the customer wants. Knowing you must provide a great customer experience is not the same as knowing how to do so, however, and you face a challenge as you start out: You must know your customers and their journeys.

A straightforward example is the pregnant woman who has a predictable, linear customer buying path from expectant mom to mom of a newborn, mom of a toddler and so on. A less obvious example is a bell-curve path with pet owners who tend to spend more money on special foods when pets are very young and very old, but less money in between those life stages. To stick with the pet owner example, you might assume the owner of a big German Shepherd will spend more than the owner of a tiny Chihuahua simply due to size, but owners of tiny dogs tend to spend more on luxury items for their pets.

 

The right technology and tools can help

Maturing your email marketing program from the basics of automation to the sophistication of customer journeys is both a visual and a programming exercise. By building visual journeys, you can visualize a connected experience and look for ways to optimize sections of it as your insight into the customers evolves. And with modern tools and tips, even a novice email marketer can build customer journeys that drive long-tail customer engagement.

To accomplish this, three tools are critical:

  1. Data management: Without data, engagement is impossible.
  2. Orchestration: Visual orchestration of touchpoints is critical to visually and programmatically build experiences and optimize them.
  3. Logic-driven personalization: At the end of the day, what you send, say and show in your automated emails must be contextual to the customer. This is where personalization technology takes over.

All three combine to serve as the core of digital customer transformation.

How to move from automated to experience using journeys: 5 steps
Once your technology and tools are in place, it’s time to get started with these 5 first steps:

  1. You must first do the “necessary” things. You must trigger emails based on events, meaning customer interactions such as shopping, browsing and times when they show intent. You do this by setting up core triggers early in the lifecycle based on event data.
  2. You must lay out a connected experience. This helps you to visualize the experience in design mode because it includes the website, form, emails, mobile versions and autoresponders. Remember, a consistent experience across channels is required for a good customer experience.
  3. You must build in testing at key points, such as the subject line, images, links, calls to action and even any rich media options you might use.
  4. You must have robust audience level and category based real-time reporting.
  5. You must have a robust view of the customer and a commitment to data quality to sustain any program like this.

We used to say “content is king,” but now our mantra should probably be “customer is king (or queen)” because customers are now calling the shots. They expect—demand, even—seamless and rewarding customer experiences, and they will desert the brands that don’t offer such experiences. By building customer journeys that anticipate their needs at every touchpoint, your brand can deliver just what the customer wants.