The Dynamic Customer Journey – is it a channel problem or is it a behaviour problem?

The Altimeter Group is doing some research on what it is calling the Dynamic Customer Journey.  It is inviting people to contribute their thoughts.  Here are mine.

The basic premise, outlined here in a post by Jeremiah Owyang, is that reaching the customer has become more complicated.  The growth in information sources, channels and technolgies has, he has calculated, resulted in their now being 525 different permutations of channel for reaching an individual.  Complicated indeed.  However, could it be that this complication is created by the way we are defining the problem?  Perhaps we are making one of the classic mistakes that many are making when trying to enter the social digital space, namely restricting our ability to understand the new space by our desire to make it appear and behave like the old space we understood?

Here is what I mean.  The complexity of the problem stems from the fact that we are seeing it as a channel problem.  We are assuming that the challenge is to reach our customers and to therefore find the most effective channels to do this.  However, this is a traditional marketing way of undrestanding the situation and the one thing we are now starting to realise is that dragging traditional approaches into the social digital space very rarely works – because the social digital space works in a very different way. The interesting thing about the social digital space is that it is not really behaving like a series of channels.  99.99% of everything that is going on out there is not actually organisations reaching out to individuals, or even individuals reaching out to organisations – it is individuals making connections with each other. This is the activity that we should seek to understand in order to frame effective relationships with our customers, rather than focusing on the tiny part of the space that is available for organisations to use as a channel to reach people.

The critical thing about this activity is that it is driven by behaviours and context, not by channel.  It is therefore realistic to assume that the problem – and therefore solution – is not a channel one, it is a behaviour one.  Here is what I mean.  I am fond of saying that there are only 10 people who are critical to your business and social media can help you find them.  This is a promise that every traditional media / channel planner would love to be able to make, but can’t.  The catch is that these people are not defined by who they are (and therefore who can be identified and reached via a traditional channel based strategy) – they are defined by what they are doing at any given moment in time.  And, of course, as time moves on and the context changes, so some people will pass out of this group and more people will enter it.  Over a period of time a very considerable number of customers may pass into the space, but at any given time, it is only a small and therefore manageable number.

You identify these people by what they are doing, not be who they are, or by the channels you need to find them. This also has implications for the currently fashionable discussion on digital influence and digital influencers. As I posted a couple of days ago, digital influencers are not actually that important.

If you re-frame the problem of the Dynamic Customer Journey as being a behavior identification problem, not a channel identification problem – it suddenly becomes a whole lot easier to solve.  It is about digital spaces, not digital places or channels.  In essence it revolves around tuning into and dealing with what I see as the four key digital space: those spaces where people are

  • Saying something nice about your brand
  • Saying something nasty about your brand
  • Asking a question for which your brand is the answer
  • Making a suggestion as to how to make your brand better

In summary, the customer journey needs to be understood not by the route customers take (channel), but by what they do along the way (behaviour).

Anyone who wants to make their own contributions to the research can do so via this form.

10 comments

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