The age of the customer is now. With the explosion of online resources and mobile technology, customers have never had more access to information on the products and services they consume – and never have they been more discerning about how and where they spend their money. However, even with all of this information, product and service features are not what are winning (or losing) business from this highly informed group of customers.

More often than not, it’s the customer experiences tied to those products and services—like interactions with in-store employees, calls with contact center agents, and messages with social care teams—that are making a difference. And that’s where a seamless and personalized experience will always trump a clunky and generic one.

Many businesses realize they need the right customer experience to gain that elusive competitive edge, but the question always lies in how to truly deliver. In a recent webinar that I co-presented with Forrester Senior Analyst Tina Moffett, we discussed the phenomena of customer obsession, as well as what strategies businesses are employing to become even more customer-centric. Our research showed that those who are digging into and acting on their analytics -- particularly around the customer journey -- to uncover customer motivations are winning. Conversely, those who aren’t are quickly disappearing. What are journey analytics?

We know today’s customers go through countless touchpoints to research, engage with and, ultimately, buy a product or service. Be it in their email inboxes, through search or on their mobile phones, each of these channels offers a different point of contact between the customer and the business, known as the customer journey.

As customers perform their research, they expect businesses to know how to properly deliver the right content and service at every step. This expectation, and the ability to meet it, are creating massive opportunity for analytics.

When we combine analytics with customer journey data, the result is journey analytics—a new approach to acquiring, retaining, and serving customers across all stages of the purchasing journey. With journey analytics, businesses can understand how customers engage with their brand in pursuit of purchase. They can see where customers go, who they talk to when they’re there, and even what they say. Businesses can then generate insights based on all these interactions to streamline services and enhance their product or experience, ultimately having a positive impact on the bottom line. What are the benefits of applying analytics in this way?

On a macro level, businesses that employ journey analytics and embrace a customer obsessed mentality see increased revenue, customer retention and customer loyalty. But journey analytics also help teams across the organization:

1. Identify opportunities to enhance customer-facing strategies Journey analytics offer a bird’s eye view of the customer journey so businesses can quickly identify bottlenecks or drop-off points, such as slow website speed or long hold times, that may negatively impact the customer experience. From there, they can zoom in and focus on these problematic segments and test changes to determine how different modifications impact data coming out of these touch points.

2. Predict and optimize interactions By weaving together qualitative customer behavior and motivation data with the analytic insights of large journey analytics data sets, businesses can move beyond describing past customer interactions to predicting future ones. This allows them to get ahead of potential problems before they occur and keep customer experiences running smoothly, without incident.

3. Understand the lifetime value of customers Perhaps the most important benefit of applying journey analytics is understanding the lifetime value of customers through purchasing behavior analysis. This analysis allows businesses to focus on customer retention and identify opportunities to increase their spend at different points in the customer lifecycle. What is the future of this field?

The future of journey analytics is bright. According to Forrester’s latest Global Business Technographics Data and Analytics survey, 68 percent of businesses say they will be using big data analytics to optimize digital experiences across all touchpoints in the coming year, and one-third of brands will be investing more than $10 million to achieve this optimized experience.

While data scientists will play a key role in the expansion of the field, I also expect that behavioral experts, such as ethnographers or cognitive psychologists, will be needed to illuminate the roles that expectations, frustrations, and emotions play in customer decision making. This will usher in a new era of analytics from purely descriptive insights to more predictive ones, blending algorithms and human cognition to truly understand human decision making.

In this era, businesses will actually be able to model future performance improvements based on patterns in the information they’ve collected as their prospects and eventual customers make their journey toward purchase.

Though not there yet, many analytics providers are currently on their way to offering this type of technology. When they finally do, it will be a win for both businesses and customers alike.

(About the author: Brad Snedeker is director of innovation at Calabrio)

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