by Chris Stone

3 ways the evolving customer journey will impact CIOs

Aug 07, 2017
IT Leadership

Orchestrating the customer journey from the inside out

From Facebook’s personalized newsfeed to Uber’s frictionless ride ordering service, supporting a modern customer experience means rethinking how companies create value. As new connected devices and virtual assistants hit the market, twists and turns in the customer journey become the new norm. To keep up with today’s consumers (and add value along the way) brands need all hands on deck to stay on track.

Augmented reality, location sensors and virtual assistants are all emerging components of a brand’s digital experience. As companies embrace new technology for their customers, CIOs need to orchestrate the customer journey like the conductor of a symphony — ensuring each and every digital property is synchronized and in tune.

To build the personalized and seamless customer experiences people now expect, brands need control over the ebb and flow of information throughout their digital ecosystem — a task easier said than done. As a result, CIOs can anticipate their IT strategy to shift along the following three pillars:

Emphasis on flexibility

Committing to a highly orchestrated customer journey is ambitious, particularly because it puts pressure on each and every department in the enterprise. In the past, there’s been a reliance on IT teams or third-party digital agencies to do the brunt of the work. But with new tools hitting the market, each team can be a player in a brand’s digital experience. For this to work in your company’s favor, minimizing the learning curve can go a long way.

As more people dip their toe into digital projects, the more important is it for software to be flexible and intuitive. Flexibility encourages broad adoption, and when entire teams can utilize new tools without disrupting workflows, the easier it is to support an evolving customer journey.

Luckily, software vendors are starting to migrate towards a flexible, API-first approach. This new model enables companies to pick and choose which microservices work best for their unique business goals. The ecommerce space is a perfect example of this transition. Companies looking to re-platform their ecommerce ecosystem have two options: all-encompassing solutions like Oracle ATG, IBM Websphere or SAP Hybris, or truly microservices-based engines like Reaction Commerce or Moltin Commerce — where mixing and matching services is API driven, easy and often encouraged. Over time, the flexibility of microservices will become particularly appealing, and prove to be an invaluable asset in supporting the customer journey.

Renewed focus on automation

As the customer journey evolves, automation shifts from being a piece of the puzzle to the mastermind that fits the puzzle together. Automating isolated tasks is no longer enough. Via connectors and APIs, teams need automatic access to information across backend services — which are only growing in number.

Back-end services like Marketo, CRM systems, billing, or translation software each hold crucial pieces of the customer journey. Automating the data flow among these services relieves the burden on the people behind the curtain, and is a key differentiator between high- and low-performing teams. For example, with enhanced automation capabilities, digital marketers without the technical knowledge to manually update content, renew security regulations or run campaigns can do so without bothering IT; CRM professionals can track the customer life cycle as easily as tracking their steps; and ultimately, CIOs will be able to mobilize their team to reinvent their digital experience the moment the customer journey takes a sudden turn.

Rethinking personalization

As consumers utilize emerging devices and search for new content, expectations for personalized experiences don’t waver. It won’t be long until you can get a notification on your smartwatch about a craft beer sale the moment you take the last bottle from the fridge or have new shoes delivered to your doorstep the day your sneakers reach maximum mileage. These highly anticipated, personalized experiences are right around the corner, but pulling it off will be a substantial undertaking.

For companies to stay up to speed, customer profiles need to be managed to a tee, and pull customer transaction data and product preference from across the brand’s digital ecosystem: mobile apps, websites, commerce engines, databases, virtual assistants, and beyond. As a result, brands will be able to deliver contextualized customer experiences across devices. Despite the unavoidable complexity ahead, enabling a customer-centric focus will be the key to successful digital initiatives now and into the future.

At the end of the day, customer journeys aren’t getting any simpler. The sooner brands can orchestrate the customer journey from the inside out  the easier it will be to deliver the personalized and highly impactful customer experiences that everyone has come to expect.