What Digital Customer Journey Mapping Looks Like In The IoT Era

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With the number connected devices in the average household rising there are so many points of interaction between brands, products, and consumers that the traditional approach to mapping a customer’s journey does not work anymore. Or does it?

Long gone are the days when brick-and-mortar stores were the only place where we could buy a product. Today eCommerce drives 10.1% of the global retail sales. Shopping apps’ usage grew by 54% last year. The average US household now has 13 connected devices; 50% of Americans who own voice-enabled IoT gadgets have used them to buy something online at least once. All in all, there are so many points of interaction between brands, products, and consumers that the traditional approach to mapping a customer’s journey does not work anymore. Or does it?

What’s wrong with customer experience journey mapping as we know it?

Companies create buyer journey maps in order to visualize customer experience, identify possible barriers preventing consumers from making a purchase and – hopefully! – overcome them. Such maps illustrate a customer’s journey from point to point through the engagement process, including research, consideration, purchase and post-purchase services. A happy customer is more likely to return to your company and refer your business to a friend – and that’s why a whopping 72% of firms consider customer experience their top priority.

In a way, journey mapping is similar to designing buyer personas: as a business owner, you’re bound to know who your target customers are, what problems they encounter and what steps they take to solve them.

While mapping digital customer journey, however, you should focus on those steps rather than “pain points” which drive buyers’ behavior initially.

Suppose you run an international hotel chain. The popular approach to customer journey mapping is based on the assumption that your ideal customer (Tomas, 24 y/o, student, monthly income < $ 2k, travels light) will book a room through your website or mobile app – if you’ve taken the trouble to build one, of course. If your marketers are savvy enough, they’ll also consider TripAdvisor, Booking.com and social networks as possible customer acquisition channels.

Tomas is traveling to Amsterdam for the weekend. He goes online, compares prices and accommodation conditions, reads reviews and reaches out to a friend for advice (in fact, 81% of consumers do so); then he might contact your customer support team via phone, email or Facebook to clarify some details. If he’s satisfied with the service and your pricing policy, he may book the room and make a pre-payment; otherwise, he’ll go back to Booking.com/search results and start the hunt all over again. Based on this data, you design your website and mobile app UX exclusively for Tomas; same goes for the data you provide on third-party platforms.

What’s wrong with that?

For one thing, you should part ways with your old dusty buyer persona: in 2018 and beyond, you can no longer afford to design buying experience for the ideal customer only and leave out all the rest.

For another, your current customer experience strategy falls behind technology progress. Does your journey mapping template leave room for IoT gadgets like Amazon Dash which allow consumers to re-order products in one click? What about Amazon Alexa and Google Home’s Assistant which can get you a ride with Uber, order pizza or recommend a product you haven’t purchased before? Speaking of virtual assistants, 70% of Americans would rather exchange a few messages with a chatbot than hang on the line for hours. And yes, in just two years 30% of all search queries will be screen-less.

Digital Customer Journey Mapping in IoT Era

The Digital Transformation we’ve all been talking about is finally here; how come we’re not reaping the benefits yet?

Mapping Digital Customer Journey In The IoT Era & What It Really Means

User research and data analysis lie at the heart of the customer journey mapping process.

Thanks to sensors, IoT gadgets are capable of collecting tons of data (2.5+ quintillions of data are created every day) on equipment performance and consumer behavior; now businesses can finally learn what exactly their customers want and how they want it!

The question is, how could you possibly analyze the data and put it to work?

Here’s where Artificial Intelligence – and machine learning in particular! – comes in handy. Today’s well-trained artificial neural networks can boil sensor data down to meaningful insights and make predictions like “a customer who posts kittens on Instagram is more likely to download this or that kind of app” on the fly. With AI-powered analytics solutions, you can also reduce operating costs and boost productivity; a well-known example of Artificial Intelligence applications in business is Google’s smart data center cooling system which helped the company reduce overall energy consumption by 15%.

But we’re getting off the subject here; will the growing adoption of smart gadgets and software put an end to customer journey mapping as we know it and eventually replace marketers?

By no means! Instead, tech-savvy brands should use IoT gadgets and the data they collect to continuously enhance the customer experience – and improve their products and services based on what they learn!

Digital Customer Journey Mapping in IoT Era

Here’s an example:

  • Your customer (let it be our good old Tomas) is one of 39 million Americans who own a smart speaker, so you decide to optimize your website for voice search;
  • Tomas asks his Amazon Echo to find some decent hotels in Amsterdam and ends up on your website. He’s browsing on his smartphone, but your website is, of course, mobile-optimized;
  • After he booked the room, you kindly ask him to download your mobile app so that he could use the self-check-in when he arrives (you don’t need a doorman available 24/7, do you?);
  • You have beacons installed all over your Amsterdam location, so Tomas can easily navigate his way around the hotel without a human assistant (again, he needs your mobile IoT application for that);
  • Tomas prefers to pay with his smartwatch or mobile wallet – and you do accept both;
  • Using your mobile app, Tomas can also open smart locks to his room, kitchen, common room, etc.;
  • There’s an AI bot running inside your mobile application. The smart assistant can answer 80% of questions your typical customer might have; in case it runs out of answers, it will connect Tomas to a human specialist.

At the end of the day, it’s not “traditional customer experience mapping techniques vs. technology”; instead, we all should leverage the newest tech for better customer experience!

Right now we’re in the midst of the global Digital Transformation. Brands experiment with IoT, Artificial Intelligence, wearable tech and Augmented or Virtual Reality to engage customers and create memorable experiences. Companies that were the first to jump on the high tech wagon (Amazon says “hi”) now use every channel they can lay hands on including voice assistants and connected devices to gather more user data – and they start getting tangible results already! Besides technology, however, surviving in IoT era also requires a digital mindset. Provided you learn to think like your tech-savvy customers who own a dozen gadgets and hop from one device to another all the time and make timely changes to your digital strategy, you’re doomed to success.




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