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Identify The Customer, and Make The Journey Worth It

AcxiomDecember 02, 2016

If you were in the vacation travel business, you’d get to know your customers before sending them on a journey to Argentina. Some would want urbane Buenos Aires, others wild Patagonia or the ski slopes of Bariloche, and others with the time and money might want a bit of each.

Minor detail: you’d also want to know they reached their destinations.

Knowing the consumer and watching the routes he or she takes is just as smart for marketers creating customer journeys. Here’s some good news: privacy-compliant identity resolution now enables a better journey for consumers and brands alike.

More companies are mapping customer journeys.

Marketing strategists have fallen in love with the customer journey. According to recent Forrester research, 63 percent of companies are doing journey mapping. With desired outcomes in mind, they map a customer’s interactions from beginning to end, with a focus on key touch points both online and offline.

The idea, of course, is to be relevant and rewarding at each step. It pays off when you achieve your goal: a lead, a sale, an upsell or a helpful support experience.

But another study, by Millward Brown Digital, raises a red flag. The study reveals that 55 percent of senior marketers aren’t confident in their company’s understanding of customer journeys.

Here’s where resolving identities to individuals makes a big difference. You can draw a map, add as many touch points as you like, and curate your marketing message until it sings like Adele. However, without accurate identity resolution, it’s hard to know if all that solid strategy is working.

Identity resolution makes the journey smoother.

A second Forrester report, The Strategic Role of Identity Resolution, notes: “Recognizing customers across the full customer journey reduces waste by eliminating duplicate contacts, enhances experiences by enabling interactions in the right channel at the right time, and makes basic customer tasks such as registration and logging in more efficient.”

Let’s break that down. Eliminating duplicate contacts not only reduces waste, it also annoys customers less. Letting customers engage where and when they want keeps them on the path to some type of conversion. Ditto for simplifying touch points like registration and login.

These are just some of the benefits ID resolution yields. It also lets you view the customer journey as a whole, so you can connect interactions online, offline and in-store and analyze the experience to make improvements. Besides smoothing out different phases of the journey, you can create a better journey itself — or design an entirely new one.

Pretty nice advantages in a world where Gartner says, “Over 90 percent of marketers struggle to connect more than three channels on the buyer journey.”

Touch points and whole maps: resolving identities helps both.

Recently, some marketers have argued that the customer journey is on its way to extinction. Instead, marketers should train their attention more on touch point experiences, what Google dubbed “micro-moments.” After all, with so many ways to engage with brands 24/7, consumers often seem to move asymmetrically, on no clear path.

David Edelman, McKinsey global co-leader of digital sales and marketing practices, said in a Google interview: “Because people have a computer in their hands at any given second, the individual moment they’re in is now the most important part of the customer journey.”

His remark splits the difference. The moment is what matters, but so does the next moment and the one after that. When marketers prioritize outcomes, along with the steps to reach them (the moments that tend to matter to customers considering actions), they can have it both ways. They can win the moment and steer customers in the right direction, toward the outcome that gives buyers and sellers alike something of value.

Once more, with feeling: identity resolution is the key to making this happen.

Edelman underscored this with a personal example. He received a personalized piece of mail from a solar power company, pointing him to a URL where he saw Google Maps images of his home, complete with super-imposed solar panels and savings calculations. After leaving and then returning to the site, it remembered where he was in his journey so he didn’t break stride. Across channels, he enjoyed a seamless and customized experience.

Make a good thing better.

Again, the majority of marketers are sold on journey mapping. Research by Aberdeen Group reveals some of the reasons why. Companies that map customer journeys have faster average sales cycles, 55 percent higher cross-sell and up-sell revenue and, best of all, a 50 percent lift in ROI on marketing investments.

While the study didn’t note the role of identity resolution, it’s reasonable to say that some of the world’s best marketers are mapping their journeys with it — testing, learning and tweaking as they explore the possibilities. Whether or not your business is doing this, the take-away is the same. Journey mapping works. With resolved identities, it shines.