Katie Lawson

Jul 13, 2017

Experience is built on micro-journeys: Takeaways from BloomReach Connect London

Why do you go online?

That was the question of the day at this years BloomReach Connect London. As Raj De Datta, BloomReach co-founder and CEO, discussed the reasons behind brand interaction and loyalty he stated an un-controversial fact - no one goes online to solely look at advertisements.

Yet billions are being spent on advertising each year, investing in re-acquiring customers again and again. This investment simply didn’t match up with the audience answers on why they chose brands.  Brand choice was fostered by a favorable view of the brand. A view that’s shaped by the values and activities the consumer cares about along with how frictionless the consumer experience is. As De Datta stated, “The key to loyalty isn’t price or product. It’s experience.”

So what kind of experience gets your customers to stay? One that rivals every online experience they’ve seen. Customer expectations are at an all time high, said Stephen Mains, Digital Optimisation and Insight Manager at B&Q, as every customer is so accustomed to Google that they expect every brand to act just as extraordinary. Along with this expectation of ease of use, consumers are more and more looking to brands to provide entertaining and informative content. The digital space can no longer just be showroom, stated Siobhan Fitzpatrick, Marketing & Multi-Channel Director at Maplin, the entire experience needs to bring value to consumers. Brands can use content to better help customers understand the problems they have and the questions the need to ask to solve them.

Of course, figuring out the driving problems of your consumer is a daunting task. Preemptively understanding needs and providing the right information at the right time requires real time understanding of large amounts of data, and that’s what today’s technologies are poised to do.

Businesses can conquer real time customer engagement with three core platforms, stated De Datta:

  1. A marketing platform -  to bring customers in the door

  2. A commerce platform - to handle inventory and transactions

  3. A digital experience platform - to determine and show customers the right experience every time the walk through the door.

DXP means speed

A digital experience platform determines and delivers the right experience, at scale, through a combination of machine and human intelligence. Having machine learning at the core of the experience is crucial to provide real time decision making. It was an issue that came up among many of the days speakers, the biggest issue brands have is leveraging data. When companies offer 40,000+ products all in different sizes and colors, trying to manually track and control them is an impossible task.  “We’ve approached the limits of rules based systems.” stated De Datta, as they simply will not scale.

Not only will keeping personalization technologies siloed limit scalability, separate technologies simply work too slowly. Having separate tools for each stage (analysis, A/B test, iterate, implement) often means that workflow must start and stop along the way. By combining the data from all tools in a central platform workflow speeds up, as demonstrated by Uppington on stage when he set up an A/B iteration in 2 minutes and 51 seconds.

The quick experimentation this speed enables is critical. When discussing cultural changes in a digitally transforming business, Daniel Kugler of Weleda said that biggest shift was learning to use quick testing to fail faster and try again. Isebel van Gemert of ANWB Online seconded this, “You can’t improve yourself by only being successful.”

Adding the power of machine learning to your own unique industry insights is how value is created across the experience.  You create a hypothesis, allow machine learning to test and optimize while you sleep, and use the results to create a new hypothesis in a continuous cycle of improvement. As stated by Upppington, “If you’re not constantly optimizing and learning, you’re going to be at a competitive disadvantage in the future.”

Micro-journeys are the key to customer engagement

Technology is poised to enable customer engagement, keeping you from costly re-acquisitions, but companies need to know how to leverage new tools, along with the solutions already invested in, to get the most value.

The speed and scalability machine learning offers is what allows businesses to flourish beyond a rules based system. The problem with rules based systems, explained Mains, is that the context is always changing. You’re customers’ needs are alway changing and you can’t know where they want to go from moment to moment.

This is where micro-journeys come into play. Even with the highest level of segmentation, mapping out an entire static journey from A to Z is impossible. Customer intentions and needs change from moment to moment, straying from the planned path you’ve laid out. Instead of trying to coral customers down one path, focusing on the micro-journeys (going from one product to the next, logging into a portal, using site search) allows you to understand the context of the moment and quickly pivot the experience accordingly.

These micro-journeys, of course, require that 3rd party data sources can talk to each other to create a real-time, holistic view of customer intention. This brings us back to the importance of an open central platform that brings tools together in a modular way. Having the ability to easily connect business tools in and out of the experience ensures you don’t lose the value of the investments you’ve already made, and lets you clearly see the impact they have on each micro-journey as well as the wider picture.

Ultimately, there is no silver bullet in customer experience. It’s all about intention in the moment. It’s a big task, and an exciting road forward for personalization. By adding your unique business insights to the power of machines you can bring loyalty-building value to your customers by adapting to changing intention and helping them get where they want to go. As perfectly summed up by van Gemert, “You can make all the plans you want, but the customer decides what you do.”

Read more about the future of digital experience with a recap of New York Connect and join us this December 5-6 at BloomReach Connect Amsterdam.

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