Application to the retail business marketing world

Customer Journeys are a way of making sense out of all kinds of (possible) interactions your company can and will have with prospects and customers. Furthermore, Customer Journeys in combination with the informed experimental design approach will give you the feedback to continual improvement on the marketing and sales KPI's of your company. And Customer Journeys help different departments within your company align better with each other to serve the customer better, leading to more sales and referrals.

Can any company make use of the Customer Journey way of marketing? Well, probably yes. But to really enjoy the advantages of the approach, there are some conditions that need to be met at the very least. The basic prerequisites for your business being eligible for the Customer Journey marketing approach are:

  • Does your company offer a beneficial product or service to retail and/or small business customers?

    There's no need for Customer Journey marketing if your company offers a lousy product or services or doesn't target people that can make buying decisions on their own and with their own budgets. Your company should first work on the basic product and/or service to be offered, so that it fulfills some useful need for the target audience of retail or small business customers. If your company wants to service this marketing segment anyway…

  • Does your company (want to) run marketing campaigns in order to attract more new customers and keep more existing happy customers on repeated purchases?

    There's no need to get involved with Customer Journey marketing if your organization is doing fine, customers already find their way to your products or services, and there is no intrinsic inspiration to get more out of your business on the customer side. Your company may have other goals than increasing commerce, or your company may benefit from some unique competitive advantage or a particular exclusive target market where sales are doing fine anyhow according to the management or business owner(s).

  • Does your company have some Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, sales process and marketing team in place to keep track of customers and as a source to analyze for improvements?

    There's no need to start with Customer Journey marketing if you have no clue about who your customer is, what your customers has ordered and purchased thus far, and your company has no resources (systems and people) to make better use of. Your organization first needs to start using some kind of customer administration system, put some kind of sales force process into place and hire a marketing specialist / set up a marketing team.

  • Does your company have multiple interactions over various channels with customers during the acquisition phase, the product usage stage and termination of the customer relationship?

    You don't have to set up a complex Customer Journey marketing process for products and services that are sold very quickly and effortlessly, and used infrequently or shortly, and don't involve a lot of customer interaction. Your organization can already meet its marketing targets with regular branding efforts, advertising campaigns and satisfactory product delivery.

Although whole Customer Journey experience marketing departments may be found in large corporations, who have a very large retail and/or small business customer base (as in thousands up to millions of customers), the approach I'll cover can be applied to small and medium size enterprises (SME's) too with less total customers and smaller teams. We'll discover that this primarily means that the customer interactions swift more and more to a personal 1-on-1 live contact channel.

So what kind of companies then do use Customer Journeys in their marketing efforts? Well, here in The Netherlands, which is my professional working area, I've seen companies from these branches make use of (or want to make use of) Customer Journeys:

  • Big retail grocery chains

  • Consumer and small business product stores (including 'web'-shops)

  • Energy, communications and utility firms

  • Financial corporations like banks and insurers

  • Health care, medical professionals and hospitals

  • Transport of persons

  • Governmental organizations like tax authority, state offices, municipalities

  • Politics

  • Advisory and consultancy formulas

Notice that these are all firms and institutions that need to 'convince' retail consumers and small business owners to start and keep buying their product and/or service. And, as closing new large key accounts for consultancy firms involves people too, many aspects of Customer Journeys can be applied to that sector too, be it on a smaller scale.

Examples of business where I've helped with or have started up Customer Journey projects are:

  • A Dutch dating-advice-for-men company

  • An independent consumer mortgage advice chain

  • Retail bank/insurance

  • Some small business owners who marketing to consumers

And through a national non-profit advocating Customer Relationship Management (CRM) I'm sharing and exchanging the insights gained about Customer Journeys with other Dutch marketing professionals.

Although I find that most of these companies transition to a more online focused channel usage, it is not required to have digital marketing channels available for your company. I would recommend to also include the offline channels to your Customer Journey marketing approach, thereby creating an omnichannel brand experience for your customers. A recent development we see is that companies that started out as 'digital-only', now are opening up 'brick-and-mortar' stores as an additional channel to reach and interact with their customers.

As an exercise, look up some companies on the internet and search for personal names of their marketing department team members. You'll probably find some professionals who mention Customer Journey or Customer Experience in their public profile on public resume sites like LinkedIn.