Altimeter Research Theme: The Dynamic Customer Journey

Connecting to customers is going to get more complicated, and brands (and their partners) must pay attention to the Dynamic Customer Journey.

We want to hear your point of view on the Dynamic Customer Journey (either in the comments below, or from your own blog) and we’ll cross-link to thoughtful discussions.

Introducing The Dynamic Customer Journey
We see this disruptive theme as consumers being able to use many sources, devices, and mediums at any given time, giving them more options and choices. The result? Consumers are enabled to have a unique path each time, making it harder to predict. This means the experience becomes increasingly fragmented for the brand, as they struggle to reach consumers across all these choices of sources, mediums, and channels.

What’s the opposite of a Dynamic Customer Journey? Back in the early mid-century, consumers had only a few TV channels and a few newspaper outlets to choose from. As a result, the experience was predictable, easy to target, and one-size-fitted-all. Today, this has drastically fragmented and is ever changing.

The metaphor I use, is when I’m in Times Square NY, and I’ve so many choices to look at logos, ads, and content across many screens, the real world, and people to talk to. We see a similar experience being present in front of consumers wherever they go, even in their living room with so many choices between TVs, laptops, tablets, mobile devices and soon-to-be Google Glass augmented reality.

The Factors that Impact the Dynamic Customer Journey Multiply Complexity
A corporation that’s seeking to connect to their customers must understand all of these forces that impact the journey. They must be able to quantify the following for every persona:

  • New sources of information: Aside from press, media, analysts they are also relying on the crowd, and their friends. Soon augmented reality will allow for new data forms we’ve not yet seen. (that’s about 5 factors)
  • New forms of media: The channels as we know them Paid Owned and Earned are starting to intermix, as a result a new form of media is impacting them. Social websites have social ads, making content and advertising a new form. (that’s about 3 factors)
  • New screens: Traditionally we’ve thought of TV, Laptop, and Mobile, but now we must factor in a tablet experience (which is different than the aforementioned) and with Google Glass augmented reality coming, that will be a fifth screen to build a strategy for. (that’s 5 factors)

To understand the complexity, this model suggests 5 X 3 X 5 which is 75 different permutations. Next, the brand must understand this for every single phase: awareness, consideration, intent, purchase, support, loyalty, advocacy, (that’s 7 steps, resulting in 525 permutations per persona) then multiple times every product group and then geography, the math is staggering on the complexity.

Call to Action: Share your Point of View
This theme is complicated, so in our Open Research model, we’re calling for the community to source and share ideas, so we can collectively learn together. Want to get involved? We’ve published more on our POV on the official Altimeter Blog, and if you wanted to share your perspective, we want to hear, and will link to the community discussion.

  • Technology innovators: What new devices, software, data do you see emerging that’s resulting in customers having more choices in their journey?
  • Agencies and Service providers: How will brands need to catch up in their go to market strategy? How should brands restructure their internal organization to accommodate this change?
  • Brands and Companies: What are you seeking from your solution partners to help bridge this gap? What do you need from technology and service providers to move forward?

Related Discussions
I’ll cross link to all thoughtful discussions

34 Replies to “Altimeter Research Theme: The Dynamic Customer Journey”

  1. Hey Jeremiah,  You have landed on a very fertile area of discussion.  If you Google “twitch point planning” you will land on a few posts that speak to the customer journey.  In short, Twitch Point Planning is a media planning approach that maps the customer journey through their typical media consumption routine.  A routine that has grown more complex with the advent of digital media, paired with a fast twitch media environment.  If marketers use social media to understand, map and manipulate consumers toward a sale, they will win in the marketplace.  

  2. I think this is _the_ topic of 2012.  Fascinated to see how the discussion plays out and where it takes us all. 
    Another thought – we’re now in a world where social technologies enable the customer journey to extend both ways: back into product innovation and forward into service.  This also has fundamental implications for organisational design and the skills required to support it.

  3. Many retailers have treated the dynamic customer journey like they have addressed the multichannel buyer problem; i.e. a supply chain issue. One challenge? Historically, supply chain initiatives are just so-so at delivering promised efficiencies. 

    When it comes to the Dynamic Customer Journey, I’m a big fan of the occasions-based marketing model used by Coca-Cola and other marketers. You find the most frequent usage occasions and identify opportunities to add value at those occasions. Seems like the discipline only gets stronger when you’re able to add value to off-premise executions in addition to on-premise.

  4. With so many permutations I have to wonder if the answer is similar what they do when writing/designing ICs. Since the engineering hours to write the lines of code needed to create an IC would exceed multiple human life times, they are forced to design at higher levels of abstractions, like the system level. I think you have identified the similar issue here (525 permutations per persona+). So, that begs the question: can an analogous meta-framework be created, and what would that look like?

  5. I guess a structural equation modeling would help to better understand the research problem.

  6. J – addressing the social media part of this equation, the chaos of channel overload is temporarily when mediums explode in popularity. However, brands quickly realize customers are more frustrated by noise and friction than charmed by overload of choices (in reference to your TV mention). Brands are seeking: tools that focus on social programming, moderation, filtering, and technologies that allow them to push content in the right context in real-time. Not to mention brands need tools to communicate in real-time with consumers around this content. Customers are seeking: An easier way to find experiences that they will love and fewer “dead-ends”. In general, brands are tweeting and FB posting with very little thoughts as to what they are promoting or where they are driving customers. Often brands drive to dead ends without understanding consumers may want to entrench themselves in an experience. Both sides are desperate for a new framework. Reminds me of ecommerce in the early days. All catalogs of products looked the same until brands realized how different customer groups can be. New technologies, particularly in social, need to respect the nuances of each community and sub-community. We are way past one-size fits all components. 

  7. “…that™s 7 steps, resulting in 525 permutations per persona) then multiple times every product group and then geography, the math is staggering on the complexity.”

    While I am a big fan of thinking about Customer/User Journey, my first reaction to anything this complex is ALWAYS to assume there’s a far simpler POV. Nothing associated with user happiness should EVER include phrases like, “the math is staggering on the complexity”. As a programmer, I would call this a “bad code smell”. Doesn’t implicitly make it *wrong*, but it’s a clear red flag. And it reminds me a little of when Six Sigma was first being applied to customer service “defects”. Far too many people became obsessed with the numbers and measurements and process, putting a strain on the scarce cognitive resources we all had for actually applying the one, true, NON-complex solution: just making our users lives and experiences *better*.

    Our ability to focus and act on a customer’s behalf is not unlimited. Effort and neurons spent on a complex process *steals resources* that could be better spent elsewhere. There is a far, far simpler solution.

  8. Jeremiah. I really like how you explain the truly “dynamic” nature of the customer journey. Luckily as brands, we don’t control all of the distribution and we could never create all the content needed. So yes, it’s complicated. At the least, this should serve to blow up traditional notions of linear marketing “programs.” Let’s start there and we’re more than half way to solving the problem.

  9. I’m a big fan of customer journey thinking but I have learned a few things in my 12 yr career in communications and marketing.

    1. Simplify & go! (on of the Nike maxims) It means: understand the complexity but go to the essence. And start doing stuff -that is always adding value whenever your brand comes into the picture. Save time, money, risk for your customer. Can be emotional value too, tapping into a certain kind of ‘identity’ (What would people like me do/buy? Or people like I want to be.)

    2. Be remarkable: if it’s too difficult and often too expensive to go out and find people during their media use or other journeys, make people want to come to you. Easier said than done, but that is the added value of the new marketeer: be relevant and meaningful (listening, storyteling, content creation, experience creation).

    Of course the question raises: what to do when you have only an average product for average people? Reimagine then: there are no margins in the middle of the market. Be cheaper or be better.

  10. Thanks Kathy.  I see technology companies like IBM and Google trying to make this code simple.  Agreed, simple is the end goal.  Great to hear from you, I’m a fan.

  11. And Relevancy Automation. 😉 Actually this is a perfect case to call in Artificial Intelligence.  The problem set forms a Cartesian Product that creates 525 unique situation sets and you’d program in rules and knowledge based on those individual situations.  But as you pointed out there is more to a situation than (Press, Earned, Mobile, Intent).  Still if you have a a system that stores knowledge of the other variables and modifies itself accordingly you can design a pretty good “virtual assistant” to help you plan and create your ideal customer interactions on this journey, based on situation-specific best practices.  

    So by identifying the different variables and their possible values, Jeremiah has actually greatly simplified the problem set! For the social media customer, they don’t have to worry about what’s under the hood, they just want the “what situation is this, and what should I do?” thus saving those neurons for what they are really good at.  

    This post reminds me of your previous presentation on the Community Ecosystem from a couple of years back that I found tremendously helpful.  I find it’s important to understand the many different channels of interaction as one big picture and seek out (or create) tools that help you manage this complex communication membrane in a coordinated and structured fashion.  

  12. In your mind is this the same thing that Macy is referring to as Omni-Channel or at Walmart we call Continuous Channel? I can tell you that we have had to drastically change our organization to map to our Continuous Channel Global vision. 

  13. Thanks for sharing this disruptive insight.  I’ve been advocating for a non-linear journey for years, and I feel validated now. Notice that the people who defend the linear funnel always reference how long they have done so. I think they are threatened by change, and the complexity of the new dynamic realities (ie. closed minded).  But your mathematical explanation helps confront obsolete mindsets.
    Have you found in your research that people may skip or combine stages? For example, if a friend recommends something low cost like an app, I may purchase it with very little awareness or consideration of it. When I act like this, have I skipped these stages or combined them? I’d love to see more research on this topic. Thanks

  14. There’s the real eye-opener. Thank you Richard! I was always taught the customer journey map is a tool to map behaviour. To tell in what way a consumer is interacting with our brand, product or service, either physically or mentally.

    If we use the customer journey map to understand the interactions of our customers with the product, we can then take these insights to enhance the experience.

    In other words, the map is not here to push communications, it’s here to pull insights and use them to make a better product.

  15. Jasper,

    It is a tool to map behaviour, but it is used to map generic behaviour in order to deliver generic insights and to shape generic, mass responses (product responses or communications responses).  It is not used to respond to the consumer as an individual on a personal journey – it is used to respond to the consumer as a segment on a conveyor belt, using a relatively restricted range of channels.

    It has been designed this way because it was never possible to respond to the consumer as an individual – the channels simply were not available.  Or rather, the channels were so expensive, we could not justify using them to respond to individuals.  Now the channels are free and, to a very large extent, are under the control of the consumer / audience themselves. 

    So we have switched from an environment where brands controlled the channels and consumers were the target to an environment where consumers control the channels and brands are the target.  Brands now have to provide the exact information consumers want, in the way (channel) that they wish to receive it and at the exact time that they want it. 

    Traditional marketing, the one-to-many approach, is not designed to do this, not can it be re-engineered to do this.  You need a whole new model.

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