Marketers are quick to throw around the term “customer journey,” which has no doubt become the marketing buzzword for the digital age. But does it truly exist? And do we as marketers have any real influence over it? 

Cheetah Digital EVP of global marketing, Judd Marcello, thinks not. In his mind, saying that marketers have more influence over the buying journey than customers do themselves is downright inaccurate — especially in an era where consumers have more tools to research, access, and review products than ever before. 

As part of the Actionable Content Marketing podcast from CoSchedule, Judd recently shared his thoughts on: 

  • Why the customer journey is dead
  • How marketers can use data to provide a better customer experience
  • Why creating true emotional loyalty is about more than encouraging habitual transactions

Listen to the full podcast now 

The Customer Journey is Dead

Is it considered marketing blasphemy to say that the customer journey is dead? To Judd, there may not have been one to begin with. 

“[Can we] be so bold to say that we could actually predict the path that a consumer or customer will take...and design the experience for them?” said Judd. “Maybe that did exist at one point, but I really don’t think it does anymore. Consumers have more tools than they’ve ever had before to either research or access products or be influenced by other consumers. Consumers can dictate the journey...more than they ever have at any point in time.”

While the customer journey may not truly exist, there are still things marketers can do to be proactive in terms of using data. Marketers must focus on behavioral data to deliver the right message through the right channel at the right time. 

Data is the Real Priority

If a predetermined customer journey isn’t the correct formula for engaging with customers, then what is? What should marketers be focusing on instead? There’s no single answer. As Judd shared, marketers should be doing a collection of things:

  1. Create a very unique and compelling brand experience.
    As marketers, we’re obsessed with the channels that customers use to engage with our brands. But consumers don’t care what channel they’re in. They just turn to the device and platform that’s most convenient for them at the time. 

    “It’s about creating a consistent, but unique brand experience for that customer no matter where they are in their process [since] they look at the brand from just one point of view,” said Judd.
  2. Deliver the right message with personalization.
    Marketers have been trying to crack the code on “right message, right time, right place” for years. But the level of hyper-personalization you exhibit must be significant. This is where technology plays a crucial role, whether it’s through AI, machine learning, or just the ability to properly manage and segment data. But doing this thoroughly and effectively can be a massive chore, which is why investing in the right martech to automate and optimize these processes is crucial. 
  3. Build emotional loyalty. 
    Emotional loyalty connects the brand and customer beyond transactional or habitual purchases. It’s the reason why customers keep coming back, even if the brand makes a mistake or a particular product isn’t available when the consumer wants it. It’s what keeps them from switching to the competitor even when it might be easier or less costly. While this level of loyalty is considered the pinnacle of marketing success for today’s B2C marketers, it’s not impossible with the right strategy

Data In, Value Out

In Judd’s mind, it all comes down to data management. For marketers to achieve truly personalized experiences, they must create bidirectional relationships that use behavioral data to inform content and provide the most thoughtful brand experiences for deeper, more valuable customer relationships. 

“You can have all the channels, all the bells and whistles, and the most beautiful design, but it really comes down to data management.”

Hear about Judd’s career journey, the Cheetah Digital marketing team’s recent transformation, and more by listening to the full podcast

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