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The customer sales funnel is a tenet of marketing. It allows a company to capture the activity of its customers through the purchasing process, helping an organisation focus on attracting potential customers (at the top of the funnel), nurturing these prospects (in the middle of the funnel), and converting these prospects into paying customers (at the bottom of the funnel).
But life is rarely that simple. A customer isn’t a chess piece that’s restricted to monodirectional movement. In reality, the customer sales funnel can turn into more of a customer sales crazy-straw, with false-starts, rethinks and sideways movements all very much par for the course.
Marketers have recognised this, and in recent years have been favouring the idea of a ‘customer journey’ to describe the sales process. But technology has been somewhat lagging behind this shift in thinking, with analytics software and business systems persistently pushing the sales funnel approach on those who seek to initiate change.
Until now, that is.
The Rise of Customer Journey Orchestration Engines
Developers have heard the marketers cry, and many are now working studiously to offer them a product that fits with this new customer journey paradigm. Scott King, co-founder of Australia’s leading customer experience agency, Accordant, has seen this first hand. “All of the key vendors are investing heavily in technologies that allow marketers to determine the next best path for a consumer”, he says, “and they’re doing so across a wide range of channels”.
One example of this new breed of software comes in the form of Pointillist, a platform that has been incubating within the four walls of FinTech vendor Altisource since 2014. Pointillist offers a glimpse into what we can expect from the shift to a journey focus, as well as the tech that will make this shift not just possible, but successful.
In the simplest of terms, platforms like Pointillist use big data to analyse customer behaviour. In Pointillist’s case, this analysis is able to be performed via a perfectly simple UI that displays the data as a visual. A user can pick any manner of events within the purchasing process, drag them into a display space, and sequence them in whichever order they choose. The platform then scans the data to find exactly how many customers had an instance of each event, and forms lines between events that vary in thickness to indicate exactly how many customers made the leap from one event another. A journey map is created, and by playing around with this sort of system you’ll soon be treated to all manner of insights.
Catching up with the Future
But in reality, the manual prodding of datasets is perhaps the most basic potential function of this sort of tech. While still in its early stages, vendors are working on developing machine learning that will allow platforms to make discoveries of their own accord. This is already the case to some degree with Pointillist, which can discover the most important customer journey pathways of its own volition.
As Accordant’s King points out, the end goal is to get to the point where “these journeys are situationally aware, factoring in a multitude of variables such as a consumer’s state of mind, be it researching, converting, advocating or a churn risk”. The more investment put in, and the further the partner technologies of machine learning and AI progress, the greater the effectiveness of these customer journey engines will be.
The challenge of designing a customer orchestration engine are many and varied. You need to manage extremely complicated customer journey data, and condense it down to a point where it is actionable for marketers. You need it to be able to handle what could well be millions of customer journeys at once, and you need to be able to process this data in real time.
But if the challenges are met, the benefits of such a system are self-evident. By getting a clear idea of your customer’s journey you’ll be perfectly placed to enhance it. You’ll be able to identify where potential customers lose interest, and improve the pathway to purchase. You’ll also be able to identify common traits of loyal customers, and work to apply the very same journey to all of your leads.
Customer journey orchestration. It’s not a funnel, nor is it a crazy straw. If anything, it’s a choose your own adventure.