Reimagining the Customer Journey to Understand Customer Lifetime Value

Companies have long thought about the customer journey in the context of touchpoints. The touchpoints are assigned a value, which then become the optics through which brands determine what matters to their customers, where to focus, and how to delegate efforts across strategic initiatives and experience enhancements. But when companies attempt to understand the customer experience through moment-in-time brand interactions and resultant behaviors, the narrowed focus paints a partial picture of the full story.

Through our deep experience working with hundreds of B2B and B2C brands across industries, we know customer journey and customer experience mapping are incredibly valuable tools to understand various interactions within a multichannel brand experience. But traditional customer journeys tend to focus on discrete moments in time as they relate to specific contexts and scenarios.

For example, let’s take a customer journey developed by standard definition, focused on a customer’s purchase path with a DTC online retailer. The journey outlines the entire process, emphasizing and evaluating all the necessary interactions that occur from need identification and brand discovery, through customer service, order placement, and post-purchase re-engagement. The journey is redefined across various personas, with each segment living in isolation from their customer counterparts.

The final product uncovers pain points and brings visibility to a brand’s experiential strong suits. From these findings, brands can create an initiative roadmap and prioritize efforts and investments to yield the highest business value – but the outcome feels more like a service-blueprint schematic than a true, comprehensive understanding of all the elements that make up an engaging, sustainable customer experience.

With traditional customer journeys, brands miss the opportunities that lie within the bigger picture: the customer relationship over time.

To drive meaningful customer engagement, it’s essential to think of CX as more than the cumulative interactions across singular touchpoints and siloed channels. We must flip the script from a narrowed focus on purchase to a deeper understanding of the motivations and behaviors that build ongoing relationships between people and brands.

What: Brand Offerings

To gain a broader understanding of customer experience and engagement, we must build up from the fundamentals. Start by categorically defining brand offerings. Summarizing the brand’s offerings, or the tangible value to customers, allows brands to build on what they have and what they’re known for while enabling customer experiences that both complement and deepen the value of each offering.

Where: Engagement Channels

Once we define brand value and offerings, determine where people engage with them to uncover opportunities that strengthen channel engagement.

Brands tend to design and optimize individual pieces of a customer experience, which leads to channel fragmentation, concentrated performance, and disparate experiences. So, while brands may have strong mobile app engagement, a high-converting website, or brick-and-mortar retail stores that consistently exceed sales targets – even when one channel is superior, the overall customer experience may be poor.

Be wary not to focus on channels as individual subdivisions of experience or touchpoints. Look to the overall experience. Frame brand channels as a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Each channel holds equal importance and must be designed to stand on its own. No channel should be dependent on, or redundant to, the next. In an optimal brand ecosystem, channels are connected, working in harmony to mutually strengthen the overall customer experience and support seamless omnichannel engagement.

Who: Customer Segmentation

Depart from traditional segmentation approaches that focus on qualitative attributes. To understand engagement over a lifetime, position personas in a context of growth. Growth may be personal or professional, meaning lifestyle changes for B2C customers or career advancements for B2B customers. More importantly, focus on the growth that people experience over time, which drives in their motivations and engagement behaviors.

Position growth as a renewable engagement lifecycle. For example, a young adult persona’s first brand interaction may be while shopping with their parents. Shape the journey that leads them through the increased engagement of each subsequent segment, ultimately to become the parent who passes the brand affinity onto their children while shopping together in an analog experience.

How: Engagement Behaviors

Connect channels to customer segments, and customers to engagement behaviors. Based on persona segments, take the engagement stage into account when mapping behaviors. The first-time customer may choose to engage with the same channel(s) as a lifelong brand champion, but the context and outcome of the engagement may be entirely unique to where each customer is in their relationship to the brand.

When: Engagement Over a Lifetime

Position brand offerings, channels and customer segments along key life experiences and events. Identify the external influences that motivate people to engage. Understand that as people grow and move through the engagement-based segments, their life experiences, and therefore their motivations to engage, also change.

This approach has helped dozens of our clients reframe their way of thinking, unlocking true omnichannel opportunities to build personal, ongoing relationships that grow with their customers. Every brand has the opportunity to be there in life’s important moments and milestones, and all the life that happens in between, to maximize Customer Lifetime Value.